Michael A. Schiller

Michael A. SchillerMike was born in New York, NY, and grew up in Nyack. Although he received extensive training in the performing arts as a child, he found his preferred medium of expression was poetry. He developed his own style of writing, which he describes as “progressive romantic” – his primary influences being romantic era poetry and present day rock music. He launched his poetry website in November 2000, and shortly thereafter began writing political editorials as well. Both his poetry and political material have since been featured in magazines and newsweeklies throughout the world, some of which credit him as a regular contributor. Though most of his early work centered on his personal life, his recent work has increasingly centered on global and national issues. He self-published his first book of poetry, “Sentences I Freed From The Ropes They Tried To Weave Around Me” in Spring 2002. At 26, he continues to reside in New York.

THE DECISION

Calmly our teacher discussed
the developments with our class
my mind was elsewhere
off to college in only a few months
after four long years of high school
I was finally going to be free
so all this talk of current events
did little to distract me from my
thoughts and aspirations
after college I planned on going
on to medical school
I had always excelled in biology,
and my dream was to be a doctor
I was valedictorian, a straight ‘A’ student
For once I could relax as graduation
was only three weeks away
My medical ambitions were accidental
My girlfriend had died of pneumonia
as I sat helplessly by her side in the hospital
I promised myself that I would study to be a doctor
so that other people wouldn’t have the endure
the pain I felt the day I lost her.
I haven’t dated since.
The bell startles me, and the teacher dismisses the class.
On my way home I stop at the comic book store
I know, I should’ve outgrown them by now
I actually have a huge collection, over 900 comics
lots of first issues, though to get those
it took months and months
of saving all the money I made working at the Gap
I’ve had to cut back on comics this year, though,
since I had to split the cost
of my first year’s tuition with my parents.
They just installed a new swimming pool,
so this year they said I needed to do my part
and chip in for my education.
Today, though, I’m going to treat myself
to some comics since I’ve already paid up my share
of the college costs for the year
I get home, and my father’s standing at the door
with a strange look on his face
He asks me to come into the living room and sit down
A letter arrived today, he tells me…
I won’t be going to college…
I’ve been drafted into the military.
No, I tell him, I’m not joining the military-
but he cuts me off and tells me I have no choice
He starts talking about learning “tough lessons” and “discipline”,
though I know he’s lying. He may believe his lies, but they’re still
lies.
I tell him I’m not going,
I’ll spend my life in hiding if I have to
He screams at me about doing what I’m told
and storms off into my room, takes my comics
and tosses them into the garbage.
He wails about patriotism and honor
Things he knows nothing about.
A patriot is someone who loves their country’s values
and war is not an American value,
it’s not even a human value…
But he won’t listen
He says he still controls my bank account, I’m under 18
My money is his, according to the law
He will force me to go, by denying me the money I earned
leaving me with no way out
The next morning they wake me up early
and drive me to the training camp I was assigned to
Barely even saying good-bye they drive away
leaving me in this strange place
by myself, though I’m surrounded by people
Quickly I learn that I’m now nothing more
than a piece of property in the eyes
of the people I’ve been entrusted to
I’m given orders, and told I don’t have the right
to question what I’m told to do…
I don’t have the right to say no to anything.
So much for our being a free country
Within weeks I’m not even living in our country
I’m in the middle east, on a U.S. base
training for this war that’s been going on for months
My parents bragged about supporting this war
as if they had any clue what it was about or
what was happening to their own son who was sent here
I’ve never been physically strong
in school I couldn’t carry more than two text books at a time
so I’m subjected to constant insults and ridicule
They force me to perform strenuous labor
in the hopes it will make me stronger, but that doesn’t happen
My strength was always my mind, but nobody here
is interested in my mind
to these people, I’m just an object, a disposable object.
One day, I collapse while jogging
the heat was too unbearable
I was dehydrated, and I felt sick
I hear the sergeant yelling at me but can’t even
figure out what he’s saying
I’m dizzy, delirious, my mind feels like it’s melting
the sergeant seems to be getting closer
I hear his voice grow louder
but my entire body is in pain,
weeks and weeks of labor I was never physically built for
exercises my doctors had always advised me against
nobody was willing to listen when I told them
I wasn’t able to do this, but they said,
“we don’t know the definition of the word can’t”
but I, the aspiring doctor know that all living things
are limited only to what their bodies will allow
and now my legs are swelling in agony
The feeling of paralysis overcomes me
I was never meant to be here
I was meant to be in medical school
and now my arms are melting in the sun
and my eyes are red, my head is throbbing,
and the veil of sleep creeps up on me
and I know I’m about to faint
when my right leg is lifted into the air
and I’m dragged across the field
and that angry voice, the sergeant, is
moving across the field with me
He’s dragging me, my face scraping against the dirt
and suddenly he stops for a moment
and then shoves me into some sort of short wooden box
and locks the door
I had heard about these, they’re used as disciplinary tools
they leave you there for days like an animal
as punishment for “disobedience”
I should be in a hospital getting medical treatment
not locked away in a box!
My conditions only worsen over the next day
my fever rises, but I’m able to sleep a little
I get bitten by insects I can’t even see
I couldn’t tell how much time went by,
but there was no light coming through the side
of the box when it happened
I heard a loud bang nearby, then several more,
the camp was under attack
nobody came for me
it only lasted a few minutes, the fire
which engulfed my body in those last moments of life
The last thing which entered my mind
was the painful realization
that my parents had never loved me
If they had, they wouldn’t have sent me to die in this war
they wouldn’t have cheered when this war was declared
The only thing they cared about was their self-image
So much so that my life meant nothing to them
in comparison to their desire
to perceive themselves as morally superior beings
and that was what I died for
I died so my parents could believe themselves “good citizens”
My parents had never voted, not once in their entire lives.
I was their sacrificial offering to nobody,
and their sacrificial offering to everybody.
As the fragments of my bones began to split into tiny pieces,
and my throat melted in flames fueled by my burning blood,
that final moment revealed but one truth…
By approving of my abduction and induction into that war,
by approving of the war itself,
by their complicity in the fate that befell me,
my parents were as responsible for my death
as the people who had dropped the bomb that killed me.
Some graduation present.