By Pauletta Hansel
These days I think too much
about assassination, and let me just say
I have come down against it every time,
swatting it away, a plague-ridden fly
in my otherwise mild and law-abiding imagination,
and I do not accept the legal argument
that targeted killings are a country’s form
of self-defense, regardless of whether the target
will ever see the inside of a detention center,
and be faced with deciding, like thousands
of seven-year-olds, should the assigned Mylar blanket
go over or under on the mud-caked concrete floor.
Every time, I rise up on the right side of the question
though I have gone so far as to research the word:
From the Arabic, hashshashin, the Assassins of Persia,
perhaps so-named for the necessity of getting high
before slipping in the blade. (In private,
some Border Patrol agents consider migrant deaths
a laughing matter; others are succumbing to depression,
anxiety, or substance abuse.*)
How, with or without the name, the act
is older than our ability to write it down.
How way back in the Old Testament,
there it was alongside the begetting and begats.
How in the Roman Empire, strangling in the bathtub
was the method of choice for murdering one’s king,
while, as you might expect, in Japan it was the sword.
Here in the US we, as always,
prefer the gun, and let me just say,
I do not and will not own one.
I confess only to the image in my mind
of the mongrel dogs of history lapping at the wound.
*The Atlantic, July 3, 2019
Pauletta Hansel writes: “I think the poem mostly speaks for itself, and that pretty much terrifies me.”