Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Iraq War Grief Daily Witness Day 13

Dody Callahan, the widow of Army Sgt. 1st Class Keith A. Callahan, reacts as she emerges from St. Charles Church in Woburn, Mass., Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2007, after the soldier's funeral. Callahan died Wednesday, Jan. 24 of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated while he was conducting a combat patrol south of Baghdad, according to the Department of Defense.
(AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

"Now, I know you remember so and so"
by Doris Davenport

meaning somebody who rode through town once, ten
years ago or who lived and died before your birth. They
expect you to remember, to know, just like your mind is
their mind and if you don't, they might take it personal.
Get so made at you, they can't get on with the story.

Not like Fannie Mae. She will get all into a story and
catch herself: "But that was before you
were born." Fannie Mae will pause, grin for emphasis
and say, "And I wish you
coulda seen it!"

not me.
when i get through
when i'm done
won't be no wishing
you could see.
you gone see.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Iraq War Grief Daily Witness Day 12

Iraqis receive the corpses of their killed relatives from the morgue of a hospital in Baghdad's impoverished district of Sadr City. Iraqi and US forces have captured more than 600 fighters loyal to firebrand Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, the US military said, while violence across the country claimed another 36 lives.
(AFP/Ahmad al-Rubaye)

Easter Sunday, 1985
by Charles Martin

"To take steps toward the reappearance alive of the disappeared is a subversive act, and measures will be adopted to deal with it."
General Oscar Mejia Victores,
President of Guatemala

In the Palace of the President this morning,
The General is gripped by the suspicion
That those who were disappeared will be returning
In a subversive act of resurrection.

Why do you worry? The disappeared can never
Be brought back from wherever they were taken;
The age of miracles is gone forever;
These are not sleeping, nor will they awaken.

And if some tell you Christ once reappeared
Alive, one Easter morning, that he was seen—
Give them the lie, for who today can find him?

He is perhaps with those who were disappeared,
Broken and killed, flung into some ravine
With his arms safely wired up behind him.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Iraq War Grief Daily Witness Day 11

Residents grieve over the bodies of relatives killed in simultaneous bomb attacks in Baghdad, January 22, 2007.
(Kareem Raheem/Reuters)

You Tell Us What to Do
by Faiz Ahmed Faiz
translated by Agha Shahid Ali

When we launched life
on the river of grief,
how vital were our arms, how ruby our blood.
With a few strokes, it seemed,
we would cross all pain,
we would soon disembark.
That didn't happen.
In the stillness of each wave we found invisible currents.
The boatmen, too, were unskilled,
their oars untested.
Investigate the matter as you will,
blame whomever, as much as you want,
but the river hasn't changed,
the raft is still the same.
Now you suggest what's to be done,
you tell us how to come ashore.

When we saw the wounds of our country
appear on our skins,
we believed each word of the healers.
Besides, we remembered so many cures,
it seemed at any moment
all troubles would end, each wound heal completely.
That didn't happen: our ailments
were so many, so deep within us
that all diagnoses proved false, each remedy useless.
Now do whatever, follow each clue,
accuse whomever, as much as you will,
our bodies are still the same,
our wounds still open.
Now tell us what we should do,
you tell us how to heal these wounds.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Iraq War Grief Daily Witness Day 10

dedicated today in honor and thanksgiving for all who marched

An anti-Iraq war protester gestures for peace while U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (L) testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, January 11, 2007.

Liam Madden poses for a portrait, Friday, Jan. 26, 2007 in the Brooklyn borough of New York. Madden, a Marine sergeant who received his discharge Jan. 20, served in Iraq and with Navy Petty Officer Jonathan Hutto founded Appeal for Redress, an organization of 1,200 active-duty personnel and veterans who favor a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. A small number of active military troops will take part in Saturday's rally in Washington against the Iraq war, the co-founders of the active-duty protest group say.
(AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Snow is seen on the demonstration site of anti-war protestor Brian Haw in Parliament Square, London, as the Palace of Westminster is seen in the background, after an overnight snow fall, Wednesday Jan. 24, 2007. Haw has held a continuous vigil at the site since June 2, 2001
(AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

Ring out, wild bells
from In Memoriam
by Lord Alfred Tennyson

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind
For those that here we see no more;
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Iraq War Grief Daily Witness Day 9

A U.S. soldier touches the head of the room mate of the late PFC Allen Brenton Jaynes from Texas during a memorial service in the U.S. forces army camp in Baghdad, January 26, 2007. Jaynes was killed last week by a roadside bomb while four of his colleagues were wounded.
REUTERS/Erik de Castro (IRAQ)

I Hear an Army
by James Joyce

I hear an army charging upon the land,
And the thunder of horses plunging, foam about their knees:
Arrogant, in black armour, behind them stand,
Disdaining the reins, with fluttering whips, the charioteers.

They cry unto the night their battle-name:
I moan in sleep when I hear afar their whirling laughter.
They cleave the gloom of dreams, a blinding flame,
Clanging, clanging upon the heart as upon an anvil.

They come shaking in triumph their long, green hair:
They come out of the sea and run shouting by the shore.
My heart, have you no wisdom thus to despair?
My love, my love, my love, why have you left me alone?

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Iraq War Grief Daily Witness Day 8

A man runs from the scene of a car bomb attack in Baghdad, January 25, 2007.
(Namir Noor-Eldeen/Reuters)

A Crosstown Breeze
by Henry Taylor

A drift of wind
when August wheeled
brought back to mind
an alfalfa field

where green windrows
bleached down to hay
while storm clouds rose
and rolled our way.

With lighthearted strain
in our pastoral agon
we raced the rain
with baler and wagon,

driving each other
to hold the turn
out of the weather
and into the barn.

A nostalgic pause
claims we saved it all,
but I’ve known the loss
of the lifelong haul;

now gray concrete
and electric light
wear on my feet
and dull my sight.

So I keep asking,
as I stand here,
my cheek still basking
in that trick of air,

would I live that life
if I had the chance,
or is it enough
to have been there once?

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Iraq War Grief Daily Witness Day 7

Smoke rises as a US Apache helicopter hovers over Baghdad's restive Haifa street district. A steady barrage of machine-gun fire and mortars was thundering across Baghdad as Iraqi and US forces battled insurgents in one of the capital's Sunni bastions.
(AFP/Sabah Arar)

Crowds Surround Us

by Tom Thompson

agile founderings and piecemeal flotations.

The crowd constitutes a gravitational field

that slaps back at the ground, numbed

and maddened by ground’s constant suckling.

The crowd embodies a depression in fabric

more than an attraction. Its angled, arteried, fleet

fantasias of need sway in

a loopy, bobbing dance without strings.

It’s this sense of movement the organism uses

to believe in its own existence, the palpable presence

of an intangible parade, uncertain

planetary marches, a supernumerary of stars.

In its mania for artifice the crowd has sewn the sky

with these shiny extras. Embodied

adoration, they snap the organism shut

before tickling it open again

with reedy gestures. Breathe.

The crowd’s louche body

clings and parts in place, an ovation

rigid and adrift, alive. It is the sea

that sweeps the sea.

Broom tight with inner bickering.

A mortal scour. Meaning,

how the crowd hates the crowd.

Outwardly. It admits you or me

as an enormous lidless eye admits glittering

beams. Endless watching, washing us in.

The crowd’s object, its point,

is always vanishing into its own mass. It is a sea

with no concern for us, even as it scores.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Iraq War Grief Daily Witness Day 6

A person burns in a minibus shortly after a bomb attack in Baghdad, January 21, 2007. A bomb killed two people and wounded seven when it destroyed a minibus in Karrada, in central Baghdad, police said.
REUTERS/Namir Noor-Eldeen (IRAQ)

Burning the Fields
by Linda Bierds


In the windless late sunlight of August,

my father set fire to a globe of twine. At his back,

the harvested acres of bluegrass and timothy

rippled. I watched from a shallow hill

as the globe, chained to the flank of his pickup truck,

galloped and bucked down a yellow row, arced

at the fire trench, circled back,

arced again, the flames behind

sketching first a C, then closing to O—a word

or wreath, a flapping, slack-based heart,

gradually filling. To me at least. To the mare

beside me, my father dragged a gleaming fence,

some cinch-corral she might have known,

the way the walls moved rhythmically,

in and in. And to the crows, manic

on the thermals? A crescent of their planet,

gone to sudden sun. I watched one stutter

past the fence line, then settle

on a Hereford's tufted nape,

as if to peck some safer grain, as if

the red-cast back it rode

contained no transformations.


A seepage, then, from the fire's edge: there

and there, the russet flood of rabbits.

Over the sounds of burning, their haunted calls

began, shrill and wavering, as if

their dormant voice strings

had tightened into threads of glass.

In an instant they were gone—the rabbits,

their voices—over the fire trench,

into the fallows. My father walked

near the burn line, waved up to me, and from

that wave, or the rippled film of heat,

I remembered our porch in an August wind,

how he stepped through the weathered doorway,

his hand outstretched with some

book-pressed flower, orchid or lily, withered

to a parchment brown. Here, he said, but

as he spoke it atomized before us—

pulp and stem, the pollened tongue,

dreadful in the dancing air.


Scummed and boxcar thin,

six glass-walled houses stretched beside our fields.

Inside them, lilies, lilies—

a thousand shades of white, I think.

Eggshell, oyster, parchment, flax.

Far down the black-mulched beds, they seemed

ancestral to me, the fluted heads of

dowagers, their meaty, groping,

silent tongues. They seemed

to form perspective's chain:

cinder, bone, divinity . . .


My father waved. The crows set down.

By evening, our fields took the texture

of freshened clay, a sleek

and water-bloated sheen, although no water

rested there—just heat and ash

united in a slick mirage. I crossed the fence line,

circled closer, the grasses all around me

collapsing into tufts of smoke. Then as I bent

I saw the shapes, rows and rows of tougher stems—

brittle, black, metallic wisps, like something grown

to echo grass. The soot was warm,

the sky held smoke in a jaundiced wing,

and as a breeze crossed slowly through,

stems glowed—then ebbed—

consecutively. And so revealed a kind of path,

and then a kind of journey.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Iraq War Grief Daily Witness Day 5

The body of a bomb attack victim is brought to a hospital morgue in Baghdad January 16, 2007. A car bomb and a suicide bomber killed 60 people and wounded 110 more, including many students blown up as they waited for cars to take them home at the entrance to a university in Baghdad, police said.
REUTERS/Kareem Raheem (IRAQ)


by Maurya Simon

Noon. I can connect nothing with nothing.

Perhaps even chaos is cause for celebration.

And perhaps the astrologers are right when they chart

one disaster, one propitious night, one happenstance

of glory to the next so they accrue like an alphabet

in the primer of each person's life. I read my horoscope

each day, searching for the solitary clue, the sign

signaling my journey's halt, when I might look up

at last into the stars, connect-the-dots--see, at once,

the bright Virgin standing steadfastly like a silver ship

docked among the midnight swarms, her left hand


to me, as if nothing floats between us but the world.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Iraq War Grief Daily Witness Day 4

A man covers a child killed at Bab al-Sheik market in central Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2007. Two bombs were detonated five minutes apart Tuesday in a used motorcycle marketplace in central Baghdad, killing at least 15 people and wounding 74 others, police said. The first bomb was attached to a motorcycle in the market. As the curious gathered to look at the aftermath, a suicide car bomber drove into the crowd and blew up his vehicle.

(AP Photo/Karim Kadim)

from Apricots Died Young

by Chiao Meng

translated by David Hinton

Apricots died young in blossoms still nipples. Frost cut them free, and their scattering made me

mourn the child I had long ago,

so I wrote this poem.


Don't fondle these pearls. O hands of ice,

fondle pearls and they're quick to fly.

And don't cut spring short, sudden frost.

Cut spring short and that blaze of beauty's lost.

Still nipples, tiny blossoms fall in tatters

tinged pure as a child's robes long ago.

I gather them, never filling my hands,

and at dusk, grief empty, return home.


It must be this same thread of tears

piercing the hearts of spring trees:

before blossoms opened anywhere,

flake after flake fell to the blade.

Spring's life never lasts, it's true,

but my lament over frost is already

impossibly deep. Instead of blossoms

bathing streams, tears bathe robes.


At our son's birth, the moon was dark,

and when he died, it began to shine.

Moon and child, they stole each other

away. O scarcely lived child of mine,

what's it like, blossom after blossom,

if not endless blue heavens in lament,

sweetness falling into earthen dust,

nothing left to bloom in other times?


Calamity infecting a child is natural:

blossoms mostly fail. Still, I gather

ruins of the heart, a spent old man

cradling love's debris in endless night.

What can be said once sound dies away?

And once hope's dead, song's useless.

Old and sick--no child, no grandchild,

I stand like bundled firewood, alone.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Iraq War Grief Daily Witness Day 3

The bodies of bomb attack victims lie on a police vehicle in a market in Baghdad January 18, 2007. At least 17 people were killed and 47 wounded in car bombings in Baghdad on Thursday as insurgents staged a fresh series of attacks in a bloody week in the Iraqi capital.
REUTERS/Namir Noor-Eldeen (IRAQ)


by Louise Gl├╝ck

In your extended absence, you permit me

use of earth, anticipating

some return on investment. I must report

failure in my assignment, principally

regarding the tomato plants.

I think I should not be encouraged to grow

tomatoes. Or, if I am, you should withhold

the heavy rains, the cold nights that come

so often here, while other regions get

twelve weeks of summer. All this

belongs to you: on the other hand,

I planted the seeds, I watched the first shoots

like wings tearing the soil, and it was my heart

broken by the blight, the black spot so quickly

multiplying in the rows. I doubt

you have a heart, in our understanding of

that term. You who do not discriminate

between the dead and the living, who are, in consequence,

immune to foreshadowing, you may not know

how much terror we bear, the spotted leaf,

the red leaves of the maple falling

even in August, in early darkness: I am responsible

for these vines.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Iraq War Grief Daily Witness Day 2

A woman injured at Bab al-Sheik market in central Baghdad, Iraq, lies at al-Kindi hospital Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2007. Two bombs were detonated five minutes apart Tuesday in a used motorcycle marketplace in central Baghdad, killing at least 15 people and wounding 74 others, police said. The first bomb was attached to a motorcycle in the market. As the curious gathered to look at the aftermath, a suicide car bomber drove into the crowd and blew up his vehicle.
(AP Photo/Karim Kadim)

An Unemployed Machinist
by John Giorno

An unemployed
An unemployed machinist
who traveled
who traveled here
from Georgia
from Georgia 10 days ago
10 days ago
and could not find
a job
and could not find a job
into a police station
walking into a police station
yesterday and said
and said:

"I'm tired
of being scared
I'm tired of being scared."

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Iraq War Grief Daily Witness Day 1

Cayetana G. Palacios cries as her son, U.S. Army Corporal Eric G. Palacios-Rivera, of Atlantic City, N.J., is posthumously recognized with the Drum Major for Community Service award, during the New Jersey Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Commission's annual King Holiday Celebration, Sunday, Jan. 14, 2007, at the War Memorial in Trenton, N.J. Palacios-Rivera was killed in action in Iraq on Nov. 14, 2006. He is pictured on his mother's shirt.
(AP Photo/David Gard)

from Mass for the Day of St. Thomas Didymus

by Denise Levertov

ii Gloria

Praise the wet snow

falling early.

Praise the shadow

my neighbor's chimney casts on the tile roof

even this gray October day that should, they say,

have been golden.


the invisible sun burning beyond

the white cold sky, giving us

light and the chimney's shadow.


god or the gods, the unknown,

that which imagined us, which stays

our hand,

our murderous hand,

and gives us


in the shadow of death,

our daily life,

and the dream still

of goodwill, of peace on earth.


flow and change, night and

the pulse of day.