Brian Burmeister – 3 poems



As children we’re taught to love

our neighbors as ourselves.


But as our bones grow we learn

to replace faith in love with fences—

our definitions shrink with age

until brotherhood is bound by borders.


The cries of Hutu and Fur sleep

in the dark blood of earth


we pump in our cars.


Their silence confirms

life is worth more in some places.






Friday morning, March,

Six years in,

The floor of the U.N. assembly

Fills with alliteration:


Callous and calculated…

Significant signs…

Facing fear…

And Confirming the crime…


The careful selection of syllables

Hopes to impress

Like a sixteen-year-old

On a date, or in class.


But both date and teacher

See through the sounds,

Know that beneath them

Is something short of real.


In response, tragically true words come:


The decision of the government

Of Sudan is a legitimate

Sovereign decision

Which we will never reverse,


And this should not be an issue for discussion.






The baggy green uniform,

The blanket,

            Wrapped, tucked, twisted

            About face and neck

Protecting from bugs, heat, sun.


This is the first photo she takes.


A gun strap hangs over his right shoulder.

A red baseball caps sits loosely

Atop the blanket on his head.


After the photo,

He says to the woman, white,

            Surrounded by U.N. soldiers, local officials,


The camera capturing what it can of his face:


Here you have educated men,

            Men who have gone to University,

Construction workers, carpenters,

            Men who could make a living

                        If there was not a war.


The woman asks of him what they do to the women,

Why they do what they do to the women—

Her interpreter speaks for some time.


The soldier shakes his head, laughs,

Pushes the question away with his hands,

We have an antidote,

            Roots we can take from the bush.


We take those roots,

            We cannot get AIDS.





“Confirming the Crime” contains some words from and inspired by the Reutersarticle “Sudan Says to Never Reverse Decision to Expel NGOs” by Louis Charbonneau.


“Capturing What It Can” contains some words from and inspired by the documentary film The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo directed by Lisa F. Jackson.




Brian Burmeister teaches communication at Iowa State University. He is a regular contributor at Cleaver Magazine, and his writing has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. He can be followed on Twitter: @bdburmeister.


By Heavenly Flower Publishing

Bindweed Magazine publishes two anthologies each year: Midsummer Madness and Winter Wonderland. Bindweed is run as a not for profit, labour of love endeavour by an author/poet couple: Leilanie Stewart and Joseph Robert. Bindweed can be found at

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