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Code Orange

“There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are
known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know.
But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we
don’t know.”
-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld clarifying US policy on the war
on terror at a Department of Defense News Briefing

It
’s not always
the little boy
who cries
Wolf!
sometimes
the wolf
cries
wolf

and
points away.

Duct tape your doors shut,
we’re on Code Orange, Code Orange, people,
blue skies
no matter, there’s anthrax
somewhere, somebody said something about smallpox
wherever, an unnamed man reportedly said something
big
was coming down
eventually. A man said
people were going to die,
people are going to die,
Americans are going to die.

Officials are quoted as saying
things, officials are quoted as saying, Hurry, hurry, run,
seal yourself in a ziplock bag
in a lead-walled box
in a hole
in the earth
in prayer to our God,

and sources report
we aren’t ready, we’re not scared enough
and if we
don’t get a little more hysterical,
then it’s the terrorists who will win

because sources suggest
it could be any day, hour, minute, second–
duck!
it could be any metropolis, city, small town, farmstead,
or possibly somewhere else; for God’s sake,
there are
experts
saying
we’re not safe, we’re not safe,
now do what we say

and nobody gets hurt.

There’s fear
out past your walls, there’s fear itself
blowing against the plastic sheeting and the bars of grey tape,
there’s so much
to fear, we must do more,
we have to fight them,
kill them, cripple them
for Jesus,
Amen!

It’s not always
the little boy
who cries
Wolf!
Sometimes the wolf
cries wolf.

And it’s not always the wolf
our little boys are sent out
to kill.


This poem appears in Mississippi Review: Online Edition and in Mason’s Things We Don’t Know We Don’t Know from The Backwaters Press