We Are Commanded Forty-Seven Times to Be Kind to Strangers

by Becka Mara McKay

The president wants a military
parade. I’ve begun to carry my heart

in my toes. Enlightenment was never
meant to be a medal pinned over the sins

of our forebears. I’d like to find a story
so old it starts with cave-dwelling ancestors

who drew buffalo heads on the walls because
the surface demanded it. That dust was 

my mother, says your enemy. Sometimes
a mistake banks its flames beneath the cloth

and broken crockery we use to hide it.
Painter, can we pretend we finished this 

together? No one can say we didn’t. 
The children of deadbeats kindly request 

a favor from the faithful: Please stop breaking 
the necks of firstborn donkeys in our name.



Becka Mara McKay is a poet and translator. She directs the Creative Writing MFA at Florida Atlantic University, where she serves as faculty advisor to Swamp Ape Review. Recent work has appeared in Beloit Poetry Journal, Copper Nickel, Muzzle, Ploughshares, Poetry Northwest, and Post Road. Her newest book of poems, The Little Book of No Consolation, is forthcoming from Barrow Street Press in spring 2021.

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