Veteran Negotiation
by Johnson Cheu

With the aim of diffusing tension,
you stand before my wheeled frame
and make this declaration:
"It's hell being disabled."

How to counter this statement?
What words are strong enough
to dispute your position? You have
disarmed me for the moment. I'll concede

some days I lose
the battle with my body, fatigued,
and in pain. Some days
the stares of pity or unease

prove difficult to bear.
Yet, it doesn't seem fair
to map out positions, to claim
one as better, or worse

than another.
I would not want
to see what your eyes
have seen:

children burned,
buildings bombed,
trees defoliated, naked limbs
of severed bodies.

To have survived
such hell is indeed
commendable, though disabling.
But maybe you are not asking me

to take sides?
You were hoping
for some solidarity
between battle-weary brothers?

I'll grant you that intent.
Still, I cannot agree
with your declaration.
Agreeing would signal

defeat, would allow others
to encroach on the territory
that is my body, as though
it is an unoccupied area

clear for conquest.
My body is not open
for negotiation. Such liberties,
I will not surrender.

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