Saturday, August 02, 2014

"War" by Naomi Shihab Nye

"If this is what we studied for, 
heads bent over books in wooden desks 
engraved with the names of the dead, 
then I have a new feeling for subtraction.   

Olive trees, three acres slashed 
equals zero zero zero. 
That’s my address. The grade on my page.   

If this is the spectrum of pronouns— 
you kill, he or she kills, anyone might kill— 
then I speak a new language without them. 
Words rinse into one another recklessly— 
morning, wishes, windows, paste 
of kisses on a child’s warm scalp.   

If this is why we bow our heads to pray 
in the corner, by the iron stove 
so many years, forgive me. 
Forget words, posture, time of day. 
Blood aches inside my veins. 
Where did we bury Sitti? 
I will wait beside her stone, 
telling the same story she told 
of the river of waiting, how some of us 
fall into it and are not seen again. 
How some end up in another paradox 
with a changed name, Mahmoud to Mo, 
lost in small shops making change 
for gasoline. If this is persistence, 
who knows? I’m stuck in the corner of war 
that’s not even called war, pressed like a pigeon 
into a twig cage, my dry eyes flaming."

-from Transfer (American Poets Continuum)

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