American Altar

Editor’s Note: This poem was originally published by PAX.

What if, instead,
we had a monstrous steel statue,
a modern-day Molech,

its bloodstained stainless steel
altar rimmed with polished wood,
serviced by priests and acolytes

inviting us, demanding now,
our money and fresh sacrifices
to appease its appetite,

and children were pulled
at random from our streets,
our parks, our playgrounds,

groups of them, even,
from elementary schools—
but mostly from homes,

led out one at a time
by a family member
or a thoughtless friend,

the child’s cries unheard
beneath the frenzied worship
of that insatiable god?

Would we call
our guns
an idol

Michael Stalcup is a Thai American poet living in Bangkok, Thailand. His poems have been published in Commonweal, Red Letter Christians, Sojourners, and elsewhere. He co-teaches Spirit & Scribe, a workshop helping writers to integrate spiritual formation and writing craft. Find more of his work at and on Instagram @michaelstalcup.

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