Fall

Iraq, I tell my husband,

As we stand in our kitchen,

Where he is holding a knife

In his hand and strawberries

In his other hand,

That he grew in the garden

He planted when

He came home from war,

Crossing the lawn like that

In his combat boots, how

He peeled back the grass

Like skin or how the raw

Square of dirt was like a wound,

And I am saying Iraq is falling,

Because one by one,

The cities and towns,

Are falling.

Fallujah and Qaim and Rawa,

Anah and Rutba and Tal Afar,

Sharqat, Hawija, Tikret, and

Suleiman Beg,

How they are falling to terrorists.

And I cannot stop thinking about

How a city or a town or

A country cannot fall.

How it is people, people who fall,

The people who live there, in Iraq,

Shot execution style in the street

Or bombed in their cars or schools

Or houses,

How Iraq is a country of bodies

Falling down dead.

And there are soldiers from America

Who went there to fight, who died

There, or came home only half alive,

Standing in houses and hallways,

Kitchens, in America, with wives,

With children, or no one, saying

I am here,

Even though they feel

Too far gone to ever come home

Again,

And all the talk

About whether,

Whether we will go back to Iraq,

Or whether, whether we should

Have ever gone.

And it is morning here when

I find a nest in our backyard.

And I think about how baby birds

Can fall out of the nest,

And I find my husband,

In the garden again,

Where things are growing,

And I am asking him if,

If the baby birds fall out,

Who, who will pick them up,

The dead birds,

Off the grass,

With a shovel,

Their skeletons small and sharp

Like toothpicks.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Circuit

The power goes off again

In this condo I am living in

Since my husband left,

Left for war.

And my neighbor comes over,

With a flashlight in his hand,

Saying something about how

A line went down and

Just to check on you.

This neighbor who is a man,

Who I share a wall with and

Nothing else,

Not about the war,

How I am married,

Or how my husband

Is gone.

Because this is what the Army

Tells me to do,

Not to tell anyone, and

Not to draw attention to myself,

Because I am

A woman living alone.

And he asks me where,

Where the electrical box is,

The circuit breaker, he says,

Lifting his hands into the air

And making snapping motions

With his fingers,

To show me,

Saying this is a husband’s job,

As if I do not know

What electricity is or

How a circuit can break,

Disconnect,

When there is a surge,

And the power overloads.

But my neighbor does not understand

That when your husband goes to war,

Is gone for fifteen months,

Boots-on-ground in Afghanistan,

You learn about power,

Where the box is,

Hanging on a wall

In your garage, or

How to hold the switches

In your fingers in the dark,

And when he comes home,

How the war will surge

Through your house,

This current of war

You did not expect,

How Afghanistan will surge

Through your body every

Time he touches you and

Every time he doesn’t.

How there will be volts,

Flashbacks,

The amps of what happened there,

The bodies of men and women and

Children, dead and lying on a road,

How the war will be a live current

In your marriage,

How there will be connections,

When you are lying in bed,

Your legs and his legs

Crossing like wires, or

His arm crossing your chest

Like an ammunition belt,

The disconnections,

When circuits break,

Because the power,

The power of war and what

It does becomes too much,

And your husband turns away,

Turns off, shuts down,

And everything goes dark again.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Helmet

Ten years, my husband is saying,

As we put our sons to bed, turn

On the dishwasher, turn it off,

The ceiling light in the kitchen,

Above our heads, and we are

Turning towards one another,

Or turning around corners,

Down this hallway, into our bedroom,

And closing the door, or how we are

Trying to leave it behind us,

A decade of marriage,

A decade of dead babies and dead

Bodies and a war,

Or how there are too many,

Too many anniversaries now,

The day he left,

The day he came back,

The day I realized he was still gone,

Or the day the doctor stood there,

In front of me, a probe in his hand,

The probe on my stomach, moving

In circles, a transmitter, how he was

Saying nothing, nothing except everything,

How everything is wrong.

And I just want to hold him,

Hold my husband,

Alive and in this darkness,

My hands holding his head,

With my fingers splayed over

His head and hair like a helmet.

And I am holding him,

Holding Afghanistan,

What happened there or what

What is still happening, I whisper,

Holding it like a heart or like a brain,

Soft, and in my hands.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Airplane

We are at a science fair,

At the grammar school,

And my son is learning

How to make a paper airplane,

Taking a blank sheet of paper,

And folding it,

Over and over,

With his fingers.

And they still have not found it.

The missing Malaysian airplane

That left Kuala Lumpur and

How it is still missing.

The body of the airplane,

Its twin engines, wings,

Their folded wingtips,

And the people,

Because the airplane was full of people,

Two hundred and twenty seven passengers

And twelve crew members on board, or how

The youngest was just two years old,

And the oldest was seventy six, and

How officials say, we lost all contact,

Or how the people left behind,

Mothers and wives, sisters, daughters,

Sons, husbands, brothers, and fathers,

How they keep trying,

Trying to contact them,

Calling their cellular phones,

Letting it ring and ring, or

Listening to a voice mail message,

And saying it is still there.

But the people,

The people are just gone, and

The search is about signals,

Radars and pulses, black boxes,

And tracking pings,

Or how there is only silence.

And I am thinking about how

My younger son has Apraxia,

How his brain

Does not send the right signal

To his mouth and how

He cannot get his words

To come out.

Or how my older son worries,

How he asks me will he talk,

And I am watching him,

My older son,

Who is about to throw his paper airplane

Down this hallway of boys

And flying paper airplanes,

How I hear someone saying,

It’s like a war zone in here,

But my son is nine years old,

And he believes this world is a world

Where airplanes are not lost

And words can always be found,

And he is holding the paper airplane,

In his hand,

Pinching the nose with his two fingers,

And letting go.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Locate

My husband and I are upstairs,

Sitting on a couch in this living

Room, with our backs to a window,

Talking about getting a GPS system

For our son,

A microchip

Sewn into his clothing,

A location based GPS

That uses radio frequency or satellite,

Cellular waves that can find him,

If he gets lost,

Because he is four years old

And cannot say many words

And the words he can say are

Approximations,

His speech therapist tells us,

Taking her hands and holding

His face and making

The shape of a word

With his mouth, his lips,

And tongue and jaw,

Repeating yes or say yes.

And I am thinking about

Location,

What it means to locate,

How when the war came,

Seven years ago,

To our house and

My husband was away

For fifteen months,

I used a map,

To show my older son

Where his father was,

How I pointed at it,

Afghanistan,

My finger on the country,

Saying there,

So he would know

That his father was gone

But not lost.

Or how when my husband

Came home from war,

I could not find him at first,

How we could not find each other

For a while, because coming home

From war can be hard,

Even though he was lying in our bed,

Standing in our kitchen, facing me,

Reaching across the island,

Saying here and I’m right here.

And we turn the television off,

Because the news is hard to hear,

Stories about children,

Living in war torn countries,

Where violence and killing

And death are tearing apart

Everything,

Tearing apart their cities,

And tearing apart their families,

And how, if they are lucky enough

To survive, they flee,

Families crossing deserts,

A stomach of land

Stretching between what is safe

And what is not,

Crossing over borders,

And becoming refugees of war,

How there are millions of them,

And I am turning towards him,

Now,

My husband, and saying, how

It would be easy, 

So easy to get separated,

To lose a child,

If you are fleeing from war,

Or how there are so many,

So many mothers and fathers who lose

Their children to war,

And there are statistics,

But no one really knows

How many.

How many children are refugees of war or

How many children

Have been killed in war.

And I know what the word approximation means,

How it is an estimate,

How it is close and nearly

But not exact.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Half

The museum has a photograph

Of a pair of shoes from 9/11,

A pair of black high heel shoes

That are scuffed on the sides.

And seeing them

Brings me back

To that day,

Planes hitting,

Bodies falling,

Or how the rest of us tried to run.

And I remember the shoes of 9/11,

When I went back to Ground Zero,

Two weeks later,

The dust and the dogs,

Soldiers with their tanks,

And how I saw the shoes

Strewn like that across the roads

And sidewalks and how they were

Covered in a thick gray dust.

But the shoes in the photograph are together,

A pair,

And I don’t remember any pairs.

I only remember one shoe,

Covered in thick, gray dust

And repeated over and over,

Alone and missing the other

Shoe, which was gone now.

Because shoes do not fall off in pairs

When you are running from a falling Tower,

And shoes do not drop off in pairs

When you are falling, falling

From the sky.

But I know that 9/11 is full of halves,

Half of a Tower still standing before

It collapses,

Half of a pelvic bone,

Large and flat, like half of a heart,

Half of my story,

My story of war.

And it was almost seven years after that day,

After 9/11,

The night my husband came home from war,

And I waited until he was asleep,

Before I got out of bed and went

To our front door,

Where his combat boots stood,

Side by side,

And still covered in mud,

Caked in the mud of Afghanistan,

Or maybe Kuwait, where he slept

In a tent, got debriefed,

And returned his weapons,

Before they let him go.

And I am reaching down and touching them,

My husband’s boots from the war,

And the mud is falling off

Into my hands and onto the floor,

This floor, in our house, in America,

Where my husband is

Alive and asleep in our bed,

His body turning over now,

To face my side,

My half of the bed.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Pretend

Our son is invited to a birthday party

Where they will play tag with laser guns,

Wear vests over their small chests, and

Carry large rifles,

Kneel in the darkness,

And shoot each other.

I don’t like it, I say to my husband,

As we unload the dishwasher,

Separating forks and spoons and

Knives, the artillery of this kitchen.

And the other mothers

Will say it is harmless or unavoidable,

Just part of it, part of being a boy, and

How they will do it anyway,

Pretend to kill.

But war is real

In our house.

Because my husband went to war.

Twelve months,

Boots-on-ground in Afghanistan,

And he came home lucky,

Because he was still alive,

And because he did not have to

Use his gun.

But the war is not over.

And he can always go back,

Get deployed again,

Leave us and

Wear his Kevlar helmet again,

His body armor again,

And carry two guns again,

A machine gun and

A pistol,

Just in case, he tells me,

He has to shoot someone

At close range,

Repeating them, the words

Close and range.

And he shows me the distance,

As we stand, here,

In front of the sink,

Reaching out his hand,

And taking mine, saying

Like this, before pulling me closer.

War is not pretend,

I will say,

When we tell our son,

You cannot go.

War covers this world.

And war covers children.

Children in South Sudan or Iraq,

Afghanistan and Syria and Pakistan.

War covers children

In mass graves

On the side of a road.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment