Verse Exercises

A portfolio for her verses

The years have not made me forget

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How can I tell you that the years have not made me forget
mother’s stories of her standing behind a curtain, watching
a spy who knows the presence of her eyes, and grinning probably
in full view, the sight sowing an embryo of fear
that mother has given me for my inheritance, maybe she doesn’t know
what she has done.

How can I tell you, that there are nights I am suddenly roused
by the sound of air guns turned dead cold on the brink
of panic? Then I tell myself, these are men hunting for quails.
But my ears hug the walls, and I sit there for an hour listening
for a rustle in the bush. What is the sound of combat boots on grass?
or concrete? Is that a man’s shadow on the window?

They cannot see me here.
The room is pitch, the room is pitch, the room is pitch,
but I give off heat that their augmented eyes can see.
The door. I had it locked and latched.
It will not hold. I have never trusted knobs.

Shall I crawl under the bed? I did that when I was little. But now
I will sit here if they come. I will sit here
and stare this violence in the eye, but it will be easier
if they torched the place, the way they torched those bones you dug up
many years ago after the quarter storm. Have I ever told you, father
how clearly I see you and mother in my head, digging up bones,
searching for names? You gave those graves a name for Caritas.
But I cannot name my fear, they would laugh,
martial law is too far gone.

How articulate is violence? What competence should I acquire
to understand its message? If a land lawyer, a colleague of mother’s,
gets shot on his motorcycle, leaving behind an orphaned son whose
mother was long claimed by cancer, what does a bullet mean to that child,
to me who carries this story around with nowhere to set it down?

How articulate is a bullet? What is its sound and sign?
I seek to understand, but now without speech
the mouths of decaying bodies cannot tell the story
of massacre. Shall I instead read with a different language,
bullet holes and exit wounds
as huge as a saucer on her thigh, twenty seven gun shot wounds,
twenty six fatal, internal bleeding,
lacerations on her navel and groin?
She could be you. Tomorrow, one of these days.

In the van we are the semblance of family for a split second,
but your many colleagues are with us.
Toilers and tillers of the earth whom we drop off far from their homes
at sundown, one donning a cap low to hide his eyes, the other wearing a sweater
over the polo he wore to a thanksgiving. To shake off those watching.
They do this wordlessly, and we nod
to them, knowing tomorrow we may never see them again.
I wonder where to find laughter on such a joyous occasion
when you father, the driver, the quiet devoted husband sitting beside you,
the jocular old man at the back, the middle-aged drunkard with us,
and there are many other faces, all aged and sun-worn,
visiting the house, sharing our meals, all men with threats on their
heads for opening their mouths, swallowing saliva as if for fuel, and making sounds
that trouble the dreams of those in power.

I have nothing to say to you, father.
And all the world to say though what would it mean?
Words are not kevlar.


Written by thedoe

September 16, 2012 at 6:47 pm

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