Bruce Weigl

The Last Lie


Some guy in the miserable convoy
raised up in the back of our open truck
and threw a can of C rations at a child
who called into the rumble for food.
He didn't toss the can, he wound up and hung it
on the child's forehead and she was stunned
backwards into the dust of our trucks.

Across the sudden angle of the road's curving
I could still see her when she rose,
waving one hand across her swollen, bleeding head,
wildly swinging her other hand
at the children who mobbed her,
who tried to take her food.

I grit my teeth myself to remember that girl
smiling as she fought off her brothers and sisters.
She laughed
as if she thought it were a joke
and the guy with me laughed
and fingered the edge of another can
like it was the seam of a baseball
until his rage ripped
again into the faces of children
who called to us for food.

Copyright 1988 by Bruce Weigl
Reproduced with kind permission


As I read this poem, I ask myself, what is the purpose of it? Why does the author take the time to tell us about the soldier who enjoys throwing cans of food at children? When I first read this poem, I was horrified, but did not immediately see the reason for the poem, other than to cause the reaction I felt. Perhaps Weigl is trying to remind the reader that there is unjust cruelty in the world, and by making us more aware of it, hope that we think before acting.

The soldier thought so little of the poor hungry children. It is as if the children were less human to him because of the war. He hated them because of their need, the need that caused him to be there in the war.

Perhaps what is most astonishing however, is the little girl's reaction to the violence. She laughed while holding her bleeding head. I often laugh hardest when life is at it's worst, but what about the girl? Was she just so happy to have food that she didn't care how it came to her? No matter how many times I read this poem, I cannot unravel the girl. The cruel soldier certainly could not unravel her either.

go to "Song of Napalm" go to "Short"
go to "The Kiss" go to "Snowy Egret"
go to "Mercy " go to "On the Anniversary of Her Grace"