Two Poems on Extrajudicial Killings

By David Jayson Oquendo


(This poem first appeared in the blog Kill List Chronicles.)

I fear that my life rests on the trigger finger of a stranger I am to entrust my safety into,
and that my face
and my body is a target that once resembles another could bring me to my doom,
and that I am in the middle of a war I never wished to be a part of,
and that my family and my friends are in that war,
and that we are divided,
and that our mouths no longer create the sound they used to,
and that our ears are becoming more eager to hear gunshots,
and that it has become normal to kill and be killed,
and that if you did nothing wrong, you don’t have to worry,
you’re just going to accept that you’re going to get killed
either by the government or by someone you do not know,
and it’s okay.
Tell me, please, if you’re so adamant on making me shut up,
if you’re convinced that there must always be a trade-off,
that the world operates in binary logic,
tell me,
if this is war, where do we evacuate?


Death By Fear

(This poem first appeared in the zine Resbak.)

This will be the picture you will paint
with the tips of your fingers, indelible
as the ink that will seethe through your nails:
Blood trickles down the concrete roads—
traction stronger than asphalt, thick and black.
And then it flows like a river.
In the middle of a valley of lifeless bodies,
lives transfigure into numbers in an infographic,
names and memories morph into statistics,
eyes hazed with fear are zeroes
to the kill count rounded to the nearest thousand.

After that you lift your hands off the canvas.
You will look at me in senseless wonder
and then you will ask me what it is that I want,
tell me, “How is it that you complain of change
if change is what we always yearned for?”
and I will answer, fist clenched and yearning,
that I want to be alive,
that every dead man ID’d with a cardboard
packed in a garbage bag and duct tape
might as well be me,
or my brother,
or my dad.

And I will tell you that I want peace of mind.
I want home to feel like it and not a prison,
not a place where our words hold no power
under the night sky, permanent, serrated
its cold whimper a lullaby for children with no homes
empty of pity, where at gunpoint our lives begin to lose value,
where our minds will stretch in prayer
because our fingers will be unable to move
where our necks will pave way for the noose holding our epitaph,
where no one will know how fear is deadlier.