Category: Fall 2017

Poem: Drone

…Let this be the Body
through which the War has passed.
—Frank Bidart

somewhere I did not learn mow down or mop up • somewhere I wouldn’t hear your father must come with me or I must fingerprint your grandmother can you translate please • the FBI has my cousins’ computers • my father says say whatever you want over the phone • my father says don’t let them scare you that’s what they want • my mother has a hard time believing anything’s bugged • my father and I always talk like the world listens • my father is still on the bus with contraband papers under his seat as uniforms storm down the aisle • it was my job to put a cross on each home with dead for clearing • it was my job to dig graves into the soccer field • I wrote red tracksuit • I wrote Shahida, headless, found beside Saad Mosque • buried in the same grave as the above • I wrote unidentified fingers • found inside Oldsmobile car • I wrote their epitaphs in chalk • from my son’s wedding mattress I know this mound’s his room • I dropped to a knee and engaged the enemy • I emptied my clip then finished the job • I took two steps in and threw a grenade • I took no more than two steps into a room before firing • in Haditha we cleared homes Fallujah-style • my father was reading the Koran when they shot him through the chest • they fired into the closet • the kitchen • the ninety-year-old standing over the stove • just where was I • uno a uno tu cara en todos los buses urbanos • Here lie the mortal remains of one who in life searched your face • call me when you get home • let’s miss an appointment together • let’s miss another flight to repeated strip searches • that Haditha bed • magenta queen sheets and a wood-shelved headboard and blood splattered up the walls to the ceiling • they held each other • they slept on opposing ends wishing one would leave • mother doesn’t know who I am anymore • I write Mustapha Mohammad Khalaf, fifteen months old • I write Here lies an unknown martyr, a big security guard with a blue shirt, found near an industrial area with a chain of keys • Martyr unknown, only bones • they ask if I have anything to declare then limit my response to fruits and nuts • an American interrupts an A and B conversation to tell me you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do • he strikes me as a misstep away from she was asking for it • what did you expect after fishing Popov from a trash bin • what did you expect after accepting a marbled palace • they drag the man who killed my uncle out of a hole • they inspect him for ticks on national television • no one in my family celebrates • when the FBI knocks I tell them I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do; they get a kick out of that • she just lay there and took it like a champ • she was dying for it • at a protest a man sells a shirt that says My dick would pull out of Iraq • my mother tape-records my laugh to mail bubble-wrapped back home • my mother records me singing Ye shabe mahtab mah meeyad to khab • I am singing the moon will come one night and take me away sidestreet by sidestreet • sitting on a pilled suburban carpet or picking blue felt off the hand-me-down couch • the displaced whatnots • I practice the work of worms • how much I can wear away with no one watching • two generations ago my blood moved through borders according to grazing and seasons • then a lifeline of planes • planes fly so close to my head filled with bomblets and disappeared men • scaffolding sprouts nooses sagging with my dead • I burn my finger on the broiler and smell trenches • my uncle pissing himself • shopping bags are legs • there is half a head in the gutter • I say Hello NSA when I place a call • somewhere a file details my sexual habits • some tribunal may read it all back to me • Golsorkhi, I know the cell they will put me in • they put me onto a crooked pile of others to rot • is this what happens to a brain born into war • a city of broken teeth • the thuds of falling • we have learned to sing a child calm in a bomb shelter • I am singing to her still

Poem: Safe House

SANCTUARY where we don’t have to

SANITIZE hands or words or knives, don’t have to use a

SCALE each morning, worried we take up too much space. I

SCAN my memory of baba talking—him on

SCREEN answering a question (how are you?) I would ask and ask from behind the camera, his face changing with each repetition as he tried to watch the football game. He doesn’t know this is the beginning of my

SCRIBING life: repetition and change. A human face at the seaport and a home getting smaller. Let’s

SEARCH my father’s profile: a moustache black and holding back a

SECRET he still hasn’t told me,

SECTION of the couch that’s fallen a bit from his repeated weight,

SECTOR of the government designed to keep him from flying. He kept our house

SECURE except from the little bugs that come with dried herbs from Iran. He gives

SECURITY officers a reason to get off their chairs. My father is not afraid of

SEDITION. He can

SEIZE a wild pigeon off a Santa Monica street or watch

SEIZURES unfold in his sister’s bedroom—the FBI storming through. He said use wood sticks to hold up your protest signs then use them in

SELF-DEFENSE when their horses come, his eyes

SENSITIVE when he passes advice to me, like I’m his

SEQUEL, like we’re all a

SERIAL caught on Iranian satellite TV. When you tell someone off, he calls it

SERVICING. When I stand on his feet, I call it

SHADOWING. He naps in the afternoon and wakes with

SHEETLINES on his face, his hair upright, the sound of

SHELLS (SPECIFY)—the sound of mussel shells on the lip of the Bosphorus crunching beneath his feet. He’s given me

SHELTER and

SHIELDING, shown it’s better to travel away from the

SHOAL. Let them follow you he says from somewhere in Los Angeles waiting for me. If he feels a

SHORT FALL he doesn’t tell me about it.

 

Poem: Theater

I dropped down against the mosque wall

curled my shoulders in

let my feet fall apart

tilting toward the rubble-dusted floor

tried to still my lashes

as rifles came clanging in

their muzzles smelling out fever

heated off a pulse

I was playing dead

between the dead

a beast caught sight of my breath

blew off my face

he said:

“Now he’s fucking dead”