1. Do not forget to smile.
It is important to remain polite.
2. Do not smile too broadly.
You will want to respect yourself
In the morning.
3. Fear is natural.
Recognize the chill down your spine,
The fears pulsing through your mind,
And your confusion between a desire to
Understand, to witness, to write the truth
And an instinct to run. Far.
To the arms of close friends or the
Salty embrace of the sea—sensory
Deprivation of depravity.
4. Do not remind them of their war names.
These names that sound ridiculous
That recall foods, nudity, or American films,
These names represent their war-time power and
Belie the horrors wrought under their command.
5. Do not forget that they will lie
About tactics, past, and plans.
They will want to rewrite history as,
Without persecution, they are both
Perpetrator and victor.
6. Now this one is difficult. Counter-intuitive.
Remember they are still human.
To dehumanize them, call them pure evil
Hinders healing, paves paths for new
Men maddened to lead us into hell.
And we won’t see it because
We don’t want to believe that our
Neighbors or friends are capable.
Because we will miss warning signs
While we are busy being human, unlike
Those (fill in the animal).
You have made better choices.
No one is saying you have done what he has.
But we must believe in the redemption of
Humanity even when we do not
Believe in the redemption of one man.
7. Finally, for your soul,
Once you leave your meeting,
Remember to breathe.
Remember to cry.
Remember to laugh with
Children unscarred by war.
~ Heather Bourbeau
Heather Bourbeau‘s poetry has been published in Open City, Boston Literary Magazine, The Fabulist, and Work. She was a Tupelo Press 30/30 Poet, a finalist for the Randall Jarrell Poetry Prize, and the winner of the Pisk! Poetry Slam. She was a contributing writer to Not On Our Watch: A Mission to End Genocide in Darfur and Beyond with Don Cheadle and John Prendergast.