Click here to listen to John Hodgen read this poem.
CNN is always on.
The old people seem to like it, the receptionist would say,
the way the stories loop around again, always the same,
the pretty news anchor, the weather in Missouri heading our way.
But today something is happening, live footage unfolding.
The old people lean in, held in its sway.
“They beheaded those soldiers,” I hear one of them say,
and then again, in the way old people say everything twice,
a loop coming round again, “Those soldiers,
those boys, they beheaded them.” And now we all look,
again and again, except the receptionist, who never looks up,
who hates her day-to-day, the rest of us squinting
at the scroll that keeps running at the bottom of the screen,
like a free eye exam, each letter showing up like an apple
on a table, like a head upon a platter, the thing we have seen
since the day they were captured, the thing we keep seeing
even when we look away, the thing that keeps us staring
at the thing that isn’t there, the thing we can’t imagine,
even with our eyes wide open, even if we walked outside,
took to the street, holding each other gently by the arm,
even if trucks were driving by dragging the boys’ bodies,
the pretty news anchor, the weather behind her,
the thing we keep looking at, the thing we can’t see.