Watching from inside
the painting of war, our
faces and the face of the Major’s
child are white-gold torches
unstemming in the meadow


I wrote “Mass Casualty Event” while observing a combat simulation in a mock Middle Eastern village. My current manuscript of poems, Kill Class, is based on two years of ethnographic fieldwork within war games across the woods and deserts of the United States. Imagine fake mosques and markets, pens of animals, mock wounds and explosions, and Middle Eastern role-players, who pretend to bargain, mourn, and die on a loop for the training soldiers.

One day I was standing in a field between two mock villages, approaching what the military called a “Mass Casualty Event.” It was cool and warm at once that day, after a long rain. Curls of scent were rising from the wild onion. I began to hear screaming and weeping in the distance, the signal of those mock injuries and deaths. I was stunned and still. When I finally approached, I saw the flushed faces of those watching the simulation, including the face of one of the military personnel’s children. That day, I was thinking a lot also about these gorgeous swirls of fuschia and green and yellow smoke the soldiers released from canisters to provide obscurity and to trick adversaries during the training exercises. I thought: I am in war. No, I am in a game of war. No, I am in a painting of war. I was reminded of Filippo Marinetto’s 1919 Futurist Manifesto about war, “Fiery Orchids,” and the aestheticization of violence, and that terrible meadow.


Nomi Stone is the author of the poetry collection Stranger’s Notebook (TriQuarterly, 2008), a PhD Candidate in Anthropology at Columbia, and an MFA Candidate in Poetry at Warren Wilson. Poems appear or are forthcoming in Poetry Northwest, Memorious, Painted Bride Quarterly, The Bloomsbury Anthology of Contemporary Jewish Poetry, at The Poetry Foundation, and elsewhere.

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