Near Biržai, in the Astrava Forest, 8/8/41 by Ben Sloan

I have removed my shirt and am kneeling in a pit
looking up at a man pointing a rifle down at me.
Quiet, everything is eerily quiet now, the morning’s
hissed commands and scrape of shovels long gone.
Why will he shoot me? He will shoot me because
he has learned he eats better if he does
what he is told. He has learned when he drives
to the assigned work site and sees along the way
twelve vultures competing to rip apart a deer corpse,
in the afternoon when he returns he will see there
is nothing left but a skull, ribcage, some hair,
the birds nowhere in sight. He has learned murder
calls out not because it wants to cause him any harm,
but to sing him a lullaby and rock him to sleep.

Ben Sloan
From rural southeast Missouri, Ben Sloan has a MFA from Brooklyn College and a PhD from the CUNY Graduate Center. The Road Home, a chapbook-size collection of his poems, is available from the Thirty West Publishing House (2017) with more recent poems appearing (or forthcoming) in Pembroke Magazine, The Tishman Review, Right Hand Pointing, and the Northampton Poetry Review. Living in Charlottesville VA, he teaches at Piedmont Virginia Community College, the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women, and the Buckingham Correctional Center.

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