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you never asked for this war –
you were born into it, a happy accident of circumstance
and you planted the landmines as you
took your first breath, first step, first date, first kiss.

you never asked for this war –
your hands are raw-red from offering white flags
feet as light and soft as dandelion-seeds
trying to find out which piece of ground will collapse next.

you never asked for this war –
you’re a conscript to this battlefield
helmet ill-fitting, fatigues borrowed from some dead comrade
you collect bullet-scars before you learn how to load a gun
gunpowder scorching the tender from your fingers.

Nobody’s got time for snowflakes –
so when you start melting blood out the edges of your Kevlar
you turn it back into ice and think cold thoughts.

you never asked for this war.
You fight it anyway, with every breath, every nerve, every cell, every thought.
when she yells at you too loud to hear
when she shoves you out the door with a coat and a broken phone
(you never spend the night outside; it’s just about reminding you
who calls the shots

who pays the bills
who will always win out
in a war between your wills)

you never asked for this war.
you were just born into it.
you want to be a better daughter
you pretend not to be her son.

you never asked for this war;
and one day, maybe soon, you’ll walk away
waiting for a bullet in your back
waiting for a sword between your shoulders
waiting for God to cut you down for your cowardice –
and at last, the sound of shotguns and mortar fire
will fade into the distance behind you.

not yet – you’re not brave enough
or strong enough
or old enough.
Not yet.
But one day.



Elliott Dunstan is an Ottawa-based poet, historian and author, previously published in Bywords.ca and Renaissance Press, and currently running Alkimia Fables Press. Elliott is a mixed-race autistic trans man who tries to speak to all of these things in his novels and poetry, which can be found at elliottdunstan.com.
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20 May 2024

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