After the Burn

by Heather Bourbeau

We were not uninformed.
They sent missives through short form
for short attentions,

And still we did not listen.

They wore their goading and goals proudly
to construct diversions and walls, to resurrect hate,
to tear us down bit by bit and by whole.

But these we called “buffoonery” and “bluster”.

They said they could shoot a supporter and still rise.
They sneered and leered until women began to curl in pain,
They reveled in the violence of chaos and fear.

And still we assumed a unity that never was.

There are those who hope they will prove incompetent,
that we would wake from this punch line nightmare
that our basest instincts will be smothered, our consciences cleared.

But we are here, and we are all to blame.

They set our houses and sanctuaries on fire,
and still we could not believe.

We smelled the smoke, but refused to see the flames.

Heather Bourbeau’s fiction and poetry have been published in 100 Word Story, Cleaver, Duende, Eleven Eleven, Francis Ford Coppola Winery’s Chalkboard, Open City, and The Stockholm Review of Literature. Her journalism has appeared in The Economist, The Financial Times, Foreign Affairs, and Foreign Policy. She was a contributing writer to Not On Our Watch: A Mission to End Genocide in Darfur and Beyond with Don Cheadle and John Prendergast. She has worked with various UN agencies, including the UN peacekeeping mission in Liberia and UNICEF Somalia.