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POETRY: Mikhail Kalashnikov, or, How to Honor the AK-47

Nicholas Powers Dec 27, 2013

Born a peasant, the Lt. General knew hunger and how bluish hands

turned frozen soil, once he found a child’s skull, holed by a bullet

in a field under a darkening sky. Kneeling beside it, he tried to hear

the last word death utters as shadows cast by clouds passed over 

him, blacking the land like the boot prints of soldiers. 

 

As a boy he wrote poetry and hunted, aimed across the silent snow

his reflection walking the horizon, until it opened the front door

of his first home. He woke up aching. A child without a map, 

leaving for a memory, he hitchhiked a nation, sore with revolution

at the edge of war, always, a dream to be defended, so he learned

the way of weapons. After traveling so far, he left again, a fighter

to the front. 

 

War is a man crawling without legs in a hurricane of metal. War is

stepping on faces like stones in a pond of blood. Mikhail awakens, 

wounded to hear his men complain of guns, jamming as the enemy

burns a town, burns its people, how ash and snow are both too cold

to touch. 

 

Out of love, he rewrote the math of death, created a submachine gun 

so light, so fierce it’s like a small hunting dog in your arms. Factories

produced thousands, arming sons of the motherland, who held AK-47’s

and cheered a new weapon to guard the gates, between us and them

a vision of freedom blurred by fear until it became easier to answer 

questions of loyalty with gunfire. 

 

Young men aim the AK-47, rattling in their hands, at the police inside

their towns, lives of blinding smoke as flags are set on fire, beneath feet

stomping foreign names from the land. The submachine gun is a tongue

that speaks 600 bullets a minute, faster than any diplomat, more believed 

than any peace. 

 

He became a war hero, Mikhail, a face the Soviet people held close

like ice to a bruise. Poverty followed pride. In empire’s aftermath

the guards, had nothing to keep safe and quietly sold their weapons

to strangers of the dream, nothing to defend but who ate today, who 

starved while hauling diamonds unto a president’s desk. When asked, 

if hands freeze when turning soil they do not own and his AK-47 is why

their skulls are, years later, exposed by the rain, he said, “I designed 

the rifle to protect the borders of my homeland.” 

 

There is a boy on the road, reciting poetry in the night, who never arrives

at the place he remembers. 

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