The Impossible Distance

On the TV I watched them marching toward the border
row upon row of them in the hot bright sun
they marched without guns
without tanks and missiles
although some
like the shepherd boy David
did pick up a few rocks to hurl into the impossible distance

I watched them stream down the green hill toward the heaps of dirt and wire
I saw them
old and young
walk toward the occupied land
I saw them come closer
close enough for the heavily-armed occupying force to have them in range

From a distance
behind the barbed wire
with the occupiers
where the cameras that showed the scene were set
I heard the dull pops and parps of the guns as they fired

I saw the marchers kept streaming down the hill
although the first wave was now breaking in disarray
I heard the guns again
I saw some marchers fall
others scramble back
and still more coming down

Pop Pop Parp
The dull sounds
intermittent – careful
The bullets whizzed across the distance
the impossible distance
which no stone could traverse

The bullets threw up clouds of dirt
they struck flesh
I saw bodies twisting and going down
the march became a rescue party
the dead and wounded were lifted onto sheets and stretchers
as the bullets kept coming
dull – intermittent – careful
Pop Pop Parp

Finally
as many lay dead
as many lay bleeding in bright hot sun
finally
across the distance
from behind the barbed wire and hot-barrelled weapons
I watched the canisters of tear gas sailing through the air
trailing streams of smoke
they landed on the dirt and the green grass
and spewed their painful irresistible fog

Now at last
the marchers
who had kept coming in the face of the bullets
turned and fled
carrying the dead
the dying and bleeding
they ran back up the green hill

Then suddenly the scene shifted to an anonymous government office
where a comely young spokeswoman
speaking crisp American-accented English
explained that these unweaponed marchers
walking in the hot bright sun
posed such an overwhelming threat
to the heavily-armed occupying forces
behind the walls of barbed wire
that there was no alternative
no other choice
but to open fire across the impossible distance that no stone could traverse
to fire into the unarmed crowd
to fire again and again and again and again
to watch them twist and fall into the mounds of dirt

No Choice
No Alternative

Her appearance on the screen lasted
almost
as long as the time given to the marchers and their dead
the reporter
who was standing near the border
behind the barbed wire
who had seen it all with her own eyes
dutifully concluded her piece with geopolitical context
one side says this
the other says that
plots and machinations lie behind every public outpouring
but even given all that
even she
speaking as the marchers were fleeing from the noxious clouds behind her
even she
could not avoid the obvious question—

Why use the tear gas last?
Why shoot first?
Why fire into the bodies
into the unarmed marchers
and kill them
when all along you were equipped with the proven means
to disperse them without death and blood?

It seems then
there was a choice for the occupying force

And they made that choice

The choice to kill
to speak with death and blood across the impossible distance