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"The New Colosseum" by Kalvin Madsen

It started when the viewer was young. Too young. 

Urged to ingest death as a trooper,

 or a spectator to gladiatorial games, 

only with a laptop computer. 

Brothers laugh hysterically, “let's show the kid,” 

a video of a woman being stuffed full of squid.

 Full screen, “how about that other one?” 

A roadside murder with a shotgun. 

Head exploded like a watermelon — this is something new

this New Colosseum offers quite the view!


Now let's try to sleep, 

a day started with cartoons.

Ending with strange visions 

Of human bodies slew.


Many years pass, The Colosseum grows.

So many choices, so many chose.

Two men, a bagged-hammer in pixilated view

Bludgeoning an abductee for a moment or two.

Red/green understory, deathbed smashed head

Such a terrifying sight, “it’s just like I said!”

Teenage friends laugh at groans from split jaw,

How is there humor in what we just saw?

The tongue desperately whirling in flesh-jelly

“Let's see the next,”

A car crash victim, 

with a steel pole through his chest.


Let’s learn about war, that’s what a Colosseum is for.

All wars, all cameras, nations be damned,

Show us rifles zapping men in the sand.

Helmet mounted camera offers quite the view

Or apache fire missions on a convoy or two.

Are these “Horrors Of War” no longer so elusive?

Or is trauma in-person exclusive?

“Let’s see the next clip!”

Militant friends all draw sticks.

Smallest hugs the rest 

Strapping bombs to his chest.

Like a graduation ceremony, a great escapade

Soon a distant ploom of smoke confirms their friend made the trade.


We watch yanks shredded at Normandy, 

there were cameras there too,

Or flamed in the pacific 

To name another two.

We can watch our Vietnam war, with its radio chatter.

Young, green like the jungle, but that shouldn’t matter.


Chest camera medic steps on a mine,

Quadcoppter death drone, Dirty and unkind. 

Two sleeping in a pit receive a direct hit.

Little drone zooms in, “Let’s get a good look.”

He releases the tourniquet.

He lost a foot.

Goes back to sleep, there is no cure.

Little drone drops another, just to be sure.

Armored troops cross the street, all in a line.

Bullets slap the rubble, one hits a thigh.

In dust and debris, the soldiers is still not free

Dragged off by his vest, and that's all that we see.


Our viewer has grown, 

not out of what's shown.

An infatuation with death,

Or mortality at best.


Visual illusions, 

a truckbed of wood,

For a pile of nude corspes

All stacked like logs.

Emotional confusion,

I was never involved.

Only a few videos, 

Google: “How to forget what I saw.”


An outpost overrun, 

cameraman got-it in the end.

He took a few with him, but lost all his friends.

His blood came seeping 

into grounded-camera view, 

Like a blanket over sand. 

At least he took a few?


Sabotage team in the snow,

Moving forward, steady and slow.

Position uncovered, we all watched them die,

Fleeing the enemy,

Not worried why.


Oh New Colosseum, 

where mass shooters make their mark

Or where swimmers are torn apart by sharks.

From public executions, and private ones too,

Is trauma exclusive to those within view?

How far am I from feeling what's really true?

I watched ISIS executions as a youth,

Then went to school and learned others had too.

Oh New Colosseum, 

you seek to inform.

Your knowledge is disputed 

And so is your form.

Such footage of death should prevent the next war,

They say civilians can’t tolerate these images anymore.


New uploads everyday, who are they for,

But thousands of viewers who miss what came before.

Oh Old Colosseum, do videos compete?

With the sights smells and sounds

Of a living thing’s defeat?

You drew such a crowd, an audience of our build,

Excited to watch a new way to be killed.

Broken at the wheel? Or drawn and quartered? 

You drew such a crowd, but your fire soon smoldered.

A fire may die, but its use never fades.

perhaps our modern world is no less depraved.


You sent bears agains lions, hundreds at a time.

Red hot prongs to the calf of a women for her crime.

Lets eat and watch murder, then animals doing tricks. 

How about we impale some convicts up on a stick?

They’d do it today, and film it too

And with the right connections

It would be pay-per-view.

You only need the right villain,

And you’ll draw a crowd

To hear them scream wildly 

Into their death.


It stands to say our world has done good,

At defining these horrors as petrified wood.

Ancient people, ancient beliefs.

It couldn't be we.

Our cities are safe

Our children don’t see

The bodies in the streets, that's only on the screen.

It’s all entertainment, it's all on the screen.

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