The Gathering

Years from now, in a very special place
Many souls were gathered around a fire
I was there too, a fly on the wall…

The first to speak was a brave little man
His valor seemed to belie his stature
I should never have sent them to Russia, he said
My ambition put my fellow soldiers in harm’s way
I was wrong

Next up was a bespectacled gent
He looked like a Midwestern haberdasher
There were many ways to end the Great War, he said
I chose the very worst and thousands died in Japan
I was wrong

A mustachioed Russian was awaiting his turn
He looked remorseful, as if he had killed someone
I should never have incarcerated them in the Gulags, he said
The greatest minds of my country would have made it even greater
I was wrong

Everyone fell silent as the fearsome Austrian spoke
He looked like sanity had never befriended him
I should not have believed that Germans were so special, he said
I should not have wreaked havoc on those decent Jews
I was wrong

An old, toothless Indian in a loincloth spoke next
He looked like he had fasted for many days
I should never have appeased that ambitious man, he said
I should never have allowed religion to divide my great land
I was wrong

A man who looked like a Chinese farmer was next to speak
He bowed his head, as if he was ashamed
The cultural revolution should never have happened, he said
Many million of my countrymen would be alive today
I was wrong

Then a tall, gruff Texan stood up and spoke
His craggy face suggested he really cared for his people
I should never have lied about that unwinnable war, he said
Our men should have come home alive, welcomed like heroes
I was wrong

A timorous, secretive Californian spoke in a whisper
He looked, well, pretty much like a crook
I was a crook, he said, I am a crook, I will always be a crook
I should never have pretended to be anything else
I was wrong


A short, slight Cambodian now began to mutter
He looked like he was consumed by an existential fear
Genocide, by any name, is an unforgivable crime, he said
I buried my brothers and sisters in the Killing Fields
I was wrong

An old, bearded mullah got up to speak next
He adjusted his turban and spoke in his soft, sinister voice
The Religious Revolution went horribly wrong, he said
I should never have ignored the will of my people in Islam’s name
I was wrong

Now it was the turn of yet another Texan
This one wasn’t very smart and he looked like he knew it
Even if he had the WMD, that was no excuse for the war, he said
Four hundred thousand Iraqis did not deserve to die at my hands
I was wrong

The last one up was a big orange man, very fat but strangely also fit
He wore, it seemed, a wig (badly made) of golden strands
It was a bad idea to build that wall along our border, he said
It was a bad idea too to enlist the support of a feckless despot
I was wrong

Ah… a sigh escaped me
Was it my cold breath? Maybe…
But the special place froze over

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