This poem was published in an anthology of award-winning student work when its author, Aline Dolinh, was in 9th grade. I came across it when one of my 10th graders chose it for an assignment because it resonated with her. It resonates with me, too, and probably many, many others. I have to say, this is one of the best war poems I’ve seen in a really, really long time.
My mother was the one who taught me
how to turn my heart to stone. Make your eyes dark like
bullet holes, she whispers softly
while braiding my hair. Set your mouth like a razor blade. The
war is not yet over.
Of all the children, I was old enough to remember
the acrid tang of napalm, blooms of crimson on the humid air,
the swelling flares of gunfire. I tell myself
to get used to the weight of that stone hanging heavy in my
They’d said I’d never be pretty here, so I want to become
beautiful instead —
but the terrible sort of beauty, the kind that makes men die,
the kind that launches a thousand ships. I want a revolution
that brings up the blood.
A long time ago, I tore out the threads
fastened to my heart. There’s electricity in my veins
that could burn cities to the ground.