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
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.