The Pied Piper

Cover of The Nation, September 24, 2007.

His face, neck, tie,

background, 

all made up of more than 

three thousand tiny mosaics.

 

Did you find your son? 

Was he on the forehead, 

the lips, 

the bridge of the nose, 

perched on the lapel flag? 

 

Did you see your little girl? 

Was she on his shoulder, 

his ear, 

his thinning hair? 

 

Did you find your mommy? 

Was she near his heart? 

 

The designers 

tried to help us visualize 

the number of Americans 

the Rat Catcher had killed. 

 

In those tiny mosaics, 

Americans saw 

the evil of the piper 

whose catchy tune they followed. 

 

Today, 

with more than four thousand dead, 

the mosaics would be smaller, 

the faces, 

more blurry.

 

The designers did not include 

the injured

(more than a hundred  thousand),

or the suicides 

(hundreds each year), 

or the wives and girlfriends 

the soldiers murder 

between tours of duty. 

 

They did not include 

the Iraqis,

soldiers and civilians,

each of those American boys 

killed, injured, abused, 

before he was wounded, 

or sent home in a box. 

(more than a million). 

 

For a true portrait, 

each mosaic of an American soldier 

would have to contain, 

like nesting Russian dolls, 

its own mosaics, 

thousands of tiny specs, 

barely visible, 

blending into each other, 

of Iraqis and others 

killed, maimed, 

raped, tortured, 

orphaned,

imprisoned,

impoverished,

exiled,

disappeared.

 

Even at a microscopic level, 

they don’t fit. 

The murdered don’t fit. 

 

Case and Kling 

will have to design 

a portrait that, 

like a sonogram, 

shows the inside, 

so we can see

the microscopic mosaics 

that line his skull, 

where the dead will feel deader. 

 

But, they won’t fit there either.

They will have to go down 

into his chest, 

find his heart, 

touch it. 

 

They will know then 

it was the dead 

leading the dead 

into war.

© 2019 by Lilvia Soto