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Joshua Young

from This is the Way to Rule

dear survivors,

we’ve stopped marveling at the wreckage’s backdrop, even when the sky is golden and bruised, silhouetting the wounded cities, even when the roads crack and sweat and crumble, laying out jagged hunks of metal and stone.

            but we marvel at this:

it’s as if someone has gathered all the dead soldiers in the area and arranged their bodies side by side along the shoulder, toward the horizon. there’s a trail through the center of bodies—hundreds—and as we move, bodies keep appearing on the horizon. when the pitch of night drapes over us, we can feel the limbs brushing our ankles and feet.



pry yourself from the wall’s touch and give your name when asked.

see, the scene got royal in its sorrow, turning sharp-toothed and confetti-wet, till our leaders were
            kneeling, hands clasped, pleading.

after the flags came down, the sky-line went bare and the tops of buildings, still. in white rooms,
            they piled in, making demands about what they should be raised to wave for.

and here, in the strangled light of the alley behind the bar, evening has hit its brakes, and we’re all
            howling and sober, and out at the edges of towns, the wind kicks up, stripping trees bare,
            and tomorrow the sky will be revelation-gray, the roads will be slabs dipped in bleach, and
            the insides of the buildings will empty out. you’re still resisting.

Joshua Young
is the author (with Chas Hoppe) of The Diegesis (Gold Wake Press), To the Chapel of Light (Mud Luscious Press/Nephew), and When the Wolves Quit: A Play-in-Verse (Gold Wake Press). He teaches writing and serves as an editor for the Columbia Poetry Review. He lives in Chicago with his wife, their son, and their dog.