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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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No

Eighty seconds, my mother says,

Over the telephone.

And she is telling me,

How a girl died, how

She was killed,

Shot point-blank at school

By another student,

With a shotgun, or

How her head was a target.

And I am talking

Over my mother,

Talking loudly now,

Saying over and over

No and I don’t want to know,

Because it is dinner time or because

I have children.

And when I hang up,

The telephone is a ghost,

Dead phantom weight,

Hanging here,

Between the side of my face

And the top of my shoulder blade,

The weight of the girl and what

Happened to her,

And I am turning around now,

To face him,

My four year old son, who is

Sitting at the kitchen table,

Looking at me, and

I am taking his plate away,

Asking him questions,

Saying was it good or are you done,

Waiting for him to answer,

One way or the other,

Even though,

I know,

He cannot say no yet,

Because he has childhood apraxia of speech,

Where most of the words he wants to say,

Cannot come out.

And I am thinking of him,

My son, and

The girl who was shot in the head,

Or the children in Iraq and Syria,

Afghanistan and South Sudan,

All of the places in the world

Where children have no choice

But to live in a world where

Violence happens or

Bombs blow up,

How if they said no,

It would not make a difference,

Or myself,

On the telephone with my mother,

How every time we say

I don’t want to know,

We are like drones,

Hovering in the sky,

Hanging over the heads of children,

Conducting surveillance,

And doing nothing else.

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Needles

I tell my husband how

I saw needles,

Hypodermic and laying,

On the side of the road,

Dumped there from a trash can

Overturned on trash day.

Which side, my husband asks me,

And he is looking at our bed, and

I say, it does not matter, because

I pass it anyway, walking each way

To school and back, with our children.

And I tell my husband how

I called the police,

How they came and collected them,

The needles, wearing gloves, or how

There are more now,

More needles, strewn

Across the hairline of where

The road meets the grass of a lawn

Of a house where someone,

Someone is throwing them away improperly,

I say, even though there is no law saying so,

And nothing, nothing I can do about it.

And we lay in this bed.

And the darkness is puncturing the room,

Flooding into it,

And I know,

I know this is nothing,

Nothing compared to countries

Where war is fought,

Countries torn apart by war,

Countries like Afghanistan,

Where war has torn through its skin,

Where mothers have to send children

Out into a world of war and what

War has left behind,

Hidden underneath dirt or piles

Of metal or the hood of a car,

IEDs shaped like organs,

Cluster bombs, clustered

Like rocks or kidneys, and

How they are undetonated,

Ready to explode, how

My husband tells me,

They call them ERW,

The explosive remnants of war.

He is asleep now,

And I am thinking about

How a landmine looks like a breast,

With its circular pressure plate, and

The arming plug, a nipple,

Or about what the word remnant means,

When it is an arm,

A leg, or the torso

Of a child.

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Hand

I am practicing spelling with my son,

Saying the word sever out loud,

Letter by letter, joining together,

Like bones.

And my son is telling me about how,

He was playing with his friends and

One of them pretended that his arm

Was cut off, gone, he says,

And my son is just nine years old,

And he cannot imagine it,

A world where arms come off

And don’t go back on, or how,

War is a world of lost limbs,

How thousands of soldiers

Are amputees now, or how

There are hospitals,

Hospitals full of them,

Soldiers with bodies blown up

By war, limbs blown off, arms

And legs left on sides of roads,

And how that is not counting

The limbs of children, the arms

And the legs of children living

In countries where war is fought,

Or how they climb piles of metal

That war left behind,

Where unexploded ordnance

That was left behind

Still blows up, and

That is the thing about a hand,

I tell my husband, later, standing

In our hallway, this radius bone

Of our house, stretching itself

Towards the bedrooms, and behind it,

How the living room and the kitchen

Are dark,

And I want to tell my husband,

Who went to war and came home,

I want to tell him about bones,

How in the palm of a hand,

There are trapezoid and trapezium bones

That cluster together like stones,

But my husband just reaches for me,

And he is saying no or I know,

Reaching his arm

Out to me, giving me his hand,

And I take it.

 

 

 

 

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