News Poem: #15



Strange devotion, count your blessings

and choose the choicest portions.

O Lord, I remember such alms.


A man entrusted me

onto a garrote and turned the screw

to keep me quiet.


This is true.  I saw it.   Behind the bruise

of my blindfold, I saw it:  the soldiers

flensing the fat off bodies and refusing to


bury them.  Breathless, we are auspicious

food for another god.  I assure you.

#15 was written in Grinnell, Iowa several years ago after viewing Francisco Goya’s series “The Disasters of War” specifically Plate 15 (Y no hay remedio/”And it cannot be helped“). I was interested in Goya as an artist documenting the news of his era.

The voice of the poem also came from a different series of images that I was also researching: the Khmer Rouge’s portraits of its victims before they were summarily executed.

Since we live in an era where the documentation and collective witnessing of atrocities such as beheadings “trend” or go viral, it felt like an appropriate time for this poem.” — Lawrence Sumulong


The Colorado Independent‘s News-Stained Poetry Project features poems that are about the news, products of the news, responses to the news. “News stained” is meant as a badge of honor, a reference to the long tradition of the poet as witness. As Carolyn Forché wrote, politics can sometimes be seen as a “contaminant to serious literary work,” something to be avoided. But that way of thinking, she said, “gives the political realm too much and too little scope… It renders the personal too important and not important enough.” News developments, whether or not they are reported, shape our personal lives every day. We don’t often think in the moment about how that is happening and what it means. We should think more about it. Poets think about it. And we want to help encourage them to write more about it.

Please send submissions to tips@www.coloradoindependent.comsubject line “poem,” with a short bio and some mention of where and when the poem was written.

Francisco Goya’s Plate 15, “Y no hay remedio” Public Domain.

Lawrence Sumulong is a Filipino American photographer based in New York City. Among others, his work has been appeared in The GroundTruth Project, a global journalism initiative supported by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, Le Monde's M Magazine, the Milk Gallery, The New Yorker: Photo Booth, The New York Times, NPR, and Verve: The New Breed of Documentary Photographers.