Ex Gratia

A Poem by Jon Freeland

For Michael H. Brownstein


I was not there – chances are, neither were you.
Chances are, those who were are here no longer.
“Ah, but also no shorter!” is the hastily
copy-pasted reply, a wry attempt
to monger good will to
the shrunken few.

“Prove the poison.
Mete the motive.
Devote to duty.”

Da Nang.

A human right is second-class,
a head full of fiction.
Money grows not on trees
but the gaseous breeze whither
thrice they lay their defense
against ruined beds
of men, women,
children, rice

Animals and Earth.

“Prove the poison.
Mete the motive.
Devote to duty.
Sustainable worth.”


You hail from lands which
consequentially exist beyond
the fondest local dream,
a reality seam from the Jetsons
or some other promising stetson lie:
“Surely, Indians do not die
for proprietary seed.”
Well, they are no less angry
than their cousins in the west.

“Prove the poison.
Mete the motive.
Devote to duty.
Sustainable worth.
We did no wrong,



Oh, brother John…
I wonder how you would react
to find such word murder commited
in your wife’s maiden name.
Perhaps you would be enraged, having first done no harm.
Maybe you would frown at your legacy…
or be proud that your descendants
can talk their way in and out of an ethical game?

“Technically, they signed the contract.
Technically, children must work there.
Technically, we underestimated the difference in culture,
because that changes the definition of misrepresented fact.”

You dealt death out of obligation, not defense.
You gave aid out of reputation, not benevolence.
You, who boast advancement, have still not learned:
When we Do Our Worst, we will always get burned.

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