"Jacques-Louis David's Diana and Apollo Killing Niobe's Children" by John Brantingham

For some, war is just academic, just

breasts popping out of white flowing dresses

as women raise one arm in gorgeous distress,

just people falling in romantic repose,

just wounds that barely mar flesh and cosmic

justice from the gods, until (that is) they see

what it is for themselves, until they bleed

and watch others, brutal and horrific.

Only, David kept up this painting style

even after he’d watched Robespierre

guillotine, even after he’d helped him,

after listening to the music of screams while

blood clotted on Parisian streets. He was there

and still painted it beautiful, not grim.

John Brantingham was Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks’ first poet laureate. His work has been featured in hundreds of magazines. He has nineteen books of poetry and fiction includinghis latest, Life: Orange to Pear (Bamboo Dart Press). He lives in Jamestown, New York.