attack by stratagem

Faith Esperanza Harron

Find a productive way to be angry
A school counselor said this
She wanted to center my world or something
but what if I didn’t want a centered world
just one that rocked like the chair
from Grandpa’s workroom and one that spun like discus
in my seventh-grade eleven-year-old swinging arm
already bat-winged with chub?
The office smelled like honey
I remembered this at least
It had small ragged-winged butterflies
drawn by children on the walls
I would NOT make a butterfly
Maybe a bird with teeth
Find a productive way to be angry
Have I?
I would have said so
Ground hard on my fists but not hard enough
A shoulder cocked back like I’ll throw a football and catch it out
of the spiraling air and my father’ll have to come back
to see that winning catch
Because he has to he needs to I need him to
I want concrete ground laced with spikes of arsenic
and a speared pit to fall hands-first into
like the kind they trap tigers in
I could be a tiger
If I was a tiger
how I wish I was a tiger
strong enough to drag that Humvee, my father’s
all the way back from front lines
Too many lines, too many miles away
Miles you could measure in lifetimes of walking
Ground is instead beneath me soft like bird feather
Looped strings of carpet pull apart in my fingers
Fingers that wouldn’t fit into my father’s gloves
I flex my hand
More carpet shreds just like the like the letters
in the words in the sentences in the paragraphs
my father told me just before he left
It’s a second leaving
Should be easier
I am older
It is not easier
My hands hurt like leaves when they fall to the ground


Previously, Faith Esperanza Harron has worked as a reporter for The Bismarck Tribune and as a freelance writer for CollegeXpress online. Her work has been recognized by Creative Communications, the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, the North Dakota Newspaper Association, and others. She is also the daughter of a soldier-father and an ‘off-post commander’ mother. War has been a part of her life since her first memory, the Twin Towers falling on 9/11, and continues to be interwoven with her writing in various forms, from novels to poetry. She currently attends Stanford University, majoring in Mechanical Engineering with a minor in Russian. This poem is one of a series, each titled from the chapters of Sun Tzu's The Art of War.