Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Iraq War Grief Daily Witness Day 30

A man cries as he waits to claim the body of a relative who was killed in a suicide bomb attack at the Baghdad Economy and Administration College February 25, 2007. A suicide bomber wearing a vest packed with explosives killed 40 people in the Baghdad college on Sunday, a day after Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki expressed optimism about a security crackdown in the capital.
REUTERS/Kareem Raheem (IRAQ)

A Calculus of Readiness
by Liz Waldner

I, too, come from the city of dolls.
A small palm is my umbrella.
This takes care of above
but below, the blind river of sadness rolls
on and in it, a hand is always reaching up
to pick fish from the night-time sky.

The lines on the palm of the hand lure a trout
with a strand of hair from the head of a doll.
The bait is the hope for a hand on your brow.
Shadows play on the wall. Or the face of a doll.
The plants eyeing each other
is all.

I would not call the stars generous.
They don't cry enough for dolls to play Drink Me.
They don't cast a covenant's fishy rainbow
yet leaf faces watch the open window
where they hang far and hard.
The rein of starlight a second hand

with which to play Go Fish.
Now Give me a hand, plants. Now give me
good-night, stars.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Iraq War Grief Daily Witness Day 29

A protester wears a banner at the start of the 'No Trident, Troops Out of Iraq' demonstration in London, February 24, 2007.

Hatred and vengeance, my eternal portion
by William Cowper

Hatred and vengeance, my eternal portion,
Scarce can endure delay of execution,
Wait, with impatient readiness, to seize my
Soul in a moment.

Damned below Judas: more abhorred than he was,
Who for a few pence sold his holy Master.
Twice betrayed Jesus me, this last delinquent,
Deems the profanest.

Man disavows, and Deity disowns me:
Hell might afford my miseries a shelter;
Therefore hell keeps her ever hungry mouths all
Bolted against me.

Hard lot! encompassed with a thousand dangers;
Weary, faint, trembling with a thousand terrors;
I'm called, if vanquished, to receive a sentence
Worse than Abiram's.

Him the vindictive rod of angry justice
Sent quick and howling to the center headlong;
I, fed with judgment, in a fleshly tomb, am
Buried above ground.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Iraq War Grief Daily Witness Day 28

A woman injured in a suicide bomber attack gets treatment inside the Imam Ali hospital in Baghdad's Shiite enclave of Sadr City, Iraq, Sunday, Feb. 25, 2007. A suicide bomber struck Sunday outside a college campus in Baghdad, killing at least 38 people and injuring dozens as a string of other blasts and rocket attacks left bloodshed around the city.
(AP Photo/Adil al-Khazali)

by Maxine Kumin

Gassing the woodchucks didn't turn out right.
The knockout bomb from the Feed and Grain Exchange
was featured as merciful, quick at the bone
and the case we had against them was airtight,
both exits shoehorned shut with puddingstone,
but they had a sub-sub-basement out of range.

Next morning they turned up again, no worse
for the cyanide than we for our cigarettes
and state-store Scotch, all of us up to scratch.
They brought down the marigolds as a matter of course
and then took over the vegetable patch
nipping the broccoli shoots, beheading the carrots.

The food from our mouths, I said, righteously thrilling
to the feel of the .22, the bullets' neat noses.
I, a lapsed pacifist fallen from grace
puffed with Darwinian pieties for killing,
now drew a bead on the little woodchuck's face.
He died down in the everbearing roses.

Ten minutes later I dropped the mother. She
flipflopped in the air and fell, her needle teeth
still hooked in a leaf of early Swiss chard.
Another baby next. O one-two-three
the murderer inside me rose up hard,
the hawkeye killer came on stage forthwith.

There's one chuck left. Old wily fellow, he keeps
me cocked and ready day after day after day.
All night I hunt his humped-up form. I dream
I sight along the barrel in my sleep.
If only they'd all consented to die unseen
gassed underground the quiet Nazi way.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Iraq War Grief Daily Witness Day 27

An Iraqi man holds the body of a boy after a car bomb explosion at a market in the neighbourhood known as New Baghdad, southeast of Baghdad, February 18, 2007. Two car bombs tore through a busy shopping area of a mainly Shi'ite district of Baghdad on Sunday, killing 55 people and wounding scores as militants defied a military offensive by U.S. and Iraqi troops.
REUTERS/Carlos Barria (IRAQ)

April 27, 1937
by Timothy Steele

General Ludendorff, two years before,
Had pushed the concept in his Total War,
And so it seemed a perfect time to see
If one could undermine an enemy
By striking its civilian population.
This proved a most effective innovation,
As the defenseless ancient Basque town learned:
Three quarters of its buildings bombed and burned,
Its children and young wives were blown to bits
Or gunned down, when they fled, by Messerschmitts.
Shocked condemnations poured forth from the press,
But Franco triumphed; and, buoyed by success,
The Luftwaffe would similarly slam
Warsaw and Coventry and Rotterdam.

Berlin cheered these developments; but two
Can play such games—and usually do—
No matter how repellent or how bloody.
And Churchill was, as always, a quick study
And would adopt the tactic as his own,
Sending the RAF to blitz Cologne.
Devising better ways to carpet-bomb
(Which later were employed in Vietnam),
The Allies, in a show of aerial might,
Incinerated Dresden in a night
That left the good and evil to their fates,
While back in the untorched United States
Others approved an even darker plan
To coax a prompt surrender from Japan.

That day in Spain has taught us, to our cost,
That there are lines that never should be crossed;
The ignorance of leaders is not bliss
If they’re intent on tempting Nemesis.
Each day we rise, and each day life goes on:
An author signs beneath a colophon;
Trucks carry freight through waves of desert heat;
A bat cracks, a crowd rises to its feet;
Huge jets lift to the sky, and, higher yet,
Float satellites that serve the Internet.
But still, despite our cleverness and love,
Regardless of the past, regardless of
The future on which all our hopes are pinned,
We’ll reap the whirlwind, who have sown the wind.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Iraq War Grief Daily Witness Day 26

A Marine Honor Guard carries the casket of Marine Sgt. Maj. Joseph J. Ellis, of Ashland, Ohio, during funeral services at Arlington Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2007. He was killed February 7th in Iraq's Anbar Province west of Baghdad.
(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Marilyn Adams talks about the loss of her husband, Pennsylvania National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Brent Adams, while in the family room in Wexford, Pa., Thursday, Feb. 1, 2007. 'I'm torn,' she said about the war in Iraq. 'Should we finish the job? And then I go to the funerals of the local guys and I'm like, this is just stupid ... I don't think we're going to finish it there. I don't think there's a finishing point. They're getting more efficient at killing us, that's a direct quote from the president.'
(AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

V. What The Thunder Said
from The Waste Land
by T. S. Eliot

After the torchlight red on sweaty faces
After the frosty silence in the gardens
After the agony in stony places
The shouting and the crying
Prison and palace and reverberation
Of thunder of spring over distant mountains
He who was living is now dead
We who were living are now dying
With a little patience

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Iraq War Grief Daily Witness Day 25

A woman who claims that she was raped by three members if the Iraqi police force cries as she talks to members of the press in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, Feb. 19, 2007. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ordered an investigation Monday into allegations by a Sunni Arab woman that she was raped by three members of the Shiite-dominated police force after she was detained over the weekend.
(AP Photo/Asaad Mouhsin)

from America
by Herman Melville


Yet later, and the silk did wind
Her fair cold form;
Little availed the shining shroud,
Though ruddy in hue, to cheer or warm
A watcher looked upon her low, and said-
She sleeps, but sleeps, she is not dead.
But in that sleep contortion showed
The terror of the vision there-
A silent vision unavowed,
Revealing earth's foundation bare,
And Gorgon in her hidden place.
It was a thing of fear to see
So foul a dream upon so fair a face,
And the dreamer lying in that starry shroud.

"Let me clear it up for any moron with lingering doubts: It’s worse. It’s over. You lost. You lost the day your tanks rolled into Baghdad to the cheers of your imported, American-trained monkeys. You lost every single family whose home your soldiers violated. You lost every sane, red-blooded Iraqi when the Abu Ghraib pictures came out and verified your atrocities behind prison walls as well as the ones we see in our streets. You lost when you brought murderers, looters, gangsters and militia heads to power and hailed them as Iraq’s first democratic government. You lost when a gruesome execution was dubbed your biggest accomplishment. You lost the respect and reputation you once had. You lost more than 3000 troops. That is what you lost America. I hope the oil, at least, made it worthwhile."
from Riverbend’s blog, Bagdhad Burning
posted Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Monday, February 19, 2007

Iraq War Grief Daily Witness Day 24

An Iraqi youth cries as he leaves the scene of a car bomb explosion at a market in the neighbourhood known as New Baghdad, southeast of Baghdad, February 18, 2007. Two car bombs tore through a busy shopping area of a mainly Shi'ite district of Baghdad on Sunday, killing 55 people and wounding scores as militants defied a military offensive by U.S. and Iraqi troops.
REUTERS/Carlos Barria (IRAQ)

The Slave Mother
by Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

Heard you that shriek? It rose
So wildly on the air,
It seemed as if a burden'd heart
Was breaking in despair.

Saw you those hands so sadly clasped--
The bowed and feeble head--
The shuddering of that fragile form--
That look of grief and dread?

Saw you the sad, imploring eye?
Its every glance was pain,
As if a storm of agony
Were sweeping through the brain.

She is a mother pale with fear,
Her boy clings to her side,
And in her kirtle vainly tries
His trembling form to hide.

He is not hers, although she bore
For him a mother's pains;
He is not hers, although her blood
Is coursing through his veins!

He is not hers, for cruel hands
May rudely tear apart
The only wreath of household love
That binds her breaking heart.

His love has been a joyous light
That o'er her pathway smiled,
A fountain gushing ever new,
Amid life's desert wild.

His lightest word has been a tone
Of music round her heart,
Their lives a streamlet blent in one--
Oh, Father! must they part?

They tear him from her circling arms,
Her last and fond embrace.
Oh! never more may her sad eyes
Gaze on his mournful face.

No marvel, then, these bitter shrieks
Disturb the listening air:
She is a mother, and her heart
Is breaking in despair.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

War Grief Daily Witness Day 23

a personal note: I've been away and have not posted for almost a week. Today's embedded video interview with Ishmael Beah is provided in the spirit of hope.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Iraq War Grief Daily Witness Day 22

A Kurdish boy walks down the stands of a stadium turned into a displacement camp in Kirkuk, 290 kilometers (180 miles) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday, Feb. 11, 2007. Even as the world focuses on Baghdad's security, a series of bombings here may be the long-feared start of a second deadly war in Iraq, this one between Kurds and Arabs, both with claims on a territory atop one of the world's largest oil reserves.
(AP Photo/Yahya Ahmed)

from Last Things
by William Meredith
for Robert Lowell

At the edge of the Greek world, I think, was a cliff
To which fallen gods were chained, immortal.
Time is without forgiveness, but intermittently
He sends the old, sentimental, hungry
Vulture compassion to gnaw on the stone
Vitals of each of us, even the young, as if
To ready each of us, even the old, for an unthinkable
Event he foresees for each of us—a reckoning, our own.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Iraq War Grief Daily Witness Day 21

Firemen hose down a burning building after twin car bomb attacks at Shorja market in Baghdad February 12, 2007.
(Thaier al-Sudani/Reuters)


by Tessa Rumsey

Where did you grow, before your roots took hold in the garden?
Curiouser and curiouser, this allegiance you seem to have with rocks.
Bluish blooms bathed in perfection, the moon shines fresh as you melt away.


Loneliness is a laboratory; its territory is forever defined; for reasons beyond our conviction It cannot be lessened; only redirected and made to resemble a crumbling heaven or the year’s Grand delusion: I shall no longer want for that which left me long ago—go slow, said the soul, That you may know the streets of your abandoned city more intimately than any joy Or cherished season. We were in collusion, this city and I, creating a mythology of desolation; Feeling utterly evacuated; yet methodically structured; in a post-Roman Empire; previously Doomed sort of way—and what did the soul say, but know it better, then in a fever, go deeper. There are days, I told the translator, when the veil drops and I am no longer inside the No-Place most familiar, built by me long ago, and I walk through the world as if made real By the existence of others and the casual way a crowd pauses together on a concrete curbside— Perhaps one of them is weeping, perhaps another will gently reach out and twist a knife Into my heart and we will lock eyes, and I will fall to my knees, and for a moment He will hold me. What will I remember? The cold blade’s cruel demeanor? My body As it seizures? Or the gesture of my destroyer, showing me that in this life, I was not alone.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Iraq War Grief Daily Witness Day 20

Soldiers from the 1st Infantry Division rest wile waiting to depart for Iraq at a deployment center in Craig Gym at Fort Riley, Kan., Thursday, Feb. 8, 2007. They are part of the 21,500 solder increase sought by President Bush to turn the tide in Iraq.
(AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

Dulce et Decorum Est
by Wilfred Owen

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

Gas! Gas! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime...
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Iraq War Grief Daily Witness Day 19

Joy Oakes, 26, sister of Staff Sgt. Raymond Girouard, speaks during an interview at her grandfather's home Friday, Feb., 2007 in Sweetwater, Tenn. The 24-year-old staff sergeant with the 101st Airborne Division, was one of four soldiers charged with murdering three Iraqi detainees last year. The other soldiers have pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors; Girouard, the squad leader, is in a military jail in Charleston, S.C., awaiting a court-martial next month at Fort Campbell. Oakes has set up an office, collected and sent to her brother newspaper clippings and letters from Sweetwater residents, and printed up 500 bumper stickers that read, 'We support our soldier Staff Sgt. Ray Girouard.'
(AP Photo/Wade Payne)

from The Cleaving
by Li-Young Lee

He gossips like my grandmother, this man
with my face, and I could stand
amused all afternoon
in the Hon Kee Grocery,
amid hanging meats he
chops: roast pork cut
from a hog hung
by nose and shoulders,
her entire skin burnt
crisp, flesh I know
to be sweet,
her shining
face grinning
up at ducks
dangling single file,
each pierced by black
hooks through breast, bill,
and steaming from a hole
stitched shut at the ass,
I step to the counter, recite,
and he, without even slightly
varying the rhythm of his current confession or harangue,
scribbles my order on a greasy receipt,
and chops it up quick.

Such a sorrowful Chinese face,
nomad, Gobi, Northern
in its boniness
clear from the high
warlike forehead
to the sheer edge of the jaw.
He could be my brother, but finer,
and, except for his left forearm, which is engorged,
sinewy from his daily grip and
wield of a two-pound tool,
he's delicate, narrow-
waisted, his frame
so slight a lover, some
rough other
might break it down
its smooth, oily length.
In his light-handed calligraphy
on receipts and in his
moodiness, he is
a Southerner from a river-province;
suited for scholarship, his face poised
above an open book, he'd mumble
his favorite passages.
He could be my grandfather;
come to America to get a Western education
in 1917, but too homesick to study,
he sits in the park all day, reading poems
and writing letters to his mother.

He lops the head off, chops
the neck of the duck
into six, slits
the body
open, groin
to breast, and drains
the scalding juices,
then quarters the carcass
with two fast hacks of the cleaver,
old blade that has worn
into the surface of the round
foot-thick chop-block
a scoop that cradles precisely the curved steel.

The head, flung from the body, opens
down the middle where the butcher
cleanly halved it between
the eyes, and I
see, foetal-crouched
inside the skull, the homunculus,
gray brain grainy
to eat.
Did this animal, after all, at the moment
its neck broke,
image the way his executioner
shrinks from his own death?
Is this how
I, too, recoil from my day?
See how this shape
hordes itself, see how
little it is.
See its grease on the blade.
Is this how I'll be found
when judgement is passed, when names
are called, when crimes are tallied?
This is also how I looked before I tore my mother open.
Is this how I presided over my century, is this how
I regarded the murders?
This is also how I prayed.
Was it me in the Other
I prayed to when I prayed?
This too was how I slept, clutching my wife.
Was it me in the other I loved
when I loved another?
The butcher sees me eye this delicacy.
With a finger, he picks it
out of the skull-cradle
and offers it to me.
I take it gingerly between my fingers
and suck it down.
I eat my man.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Iraq War Grief Daily Witness Day 18

Carolyn Ho, mother of Army 1st Lt. Ehren Watada sheds a tear while she is hugged by Carlos Arredondo, who's son Alex was killed in Iraq while serving in the Marine Corps, during a new conference in DuPont, Wash., after the court-martial was ruled a mistrial at Fort Lewis, Wash., Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2007. Watada announced last June that he would refuse to go to Iraq with his unit, the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division.
(AP Photo/John Froschauer)

All Things Must Pass
by George Harrison

Sunrise doesn’t last all morning
A cloudburst doesn’t last all day
Seems my love is up and has left you with no warning
It’s not always going to be this grey

All things must pass
All things must pass away

Sunset doesn’t last all evening
A wind can blow those clouds away
After all this, my love is up and must be leaving
It’s not always going to be this grey

All things must pass
All things must pass away
All things must pass

None of life’s strings can last
So, I must be on my way
And face another day

Now the darkness only stays the night-time
In the morning it will fade away
Daylight is good at arriving at the right time
It’s not always going to be this grey

All things must pass
All things must pass away
All things must pass
All things must pass away

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Iraq War Grief Daily Witness Day 17

An Iraqi wounded in a bomb blast sits inside the Imam Ali hospital in the Shiite enclave of Sadr City in Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, Feb. 3, 2007. A suicide truck bomber struck the busy outdoor Sadriyah market in a predominantly Shiite area of Baghdad on Saturday, killing at least 82 people and wounding dozens, police and hospital officials said.
(AP Photo/Karim Kadim)

from Paradise Lost, IV
by John Milton

The Argument

O for that warning voice, which he who saw
The Apocalypse heard cry in Heaven aloud,
Then when the Dragon, put to second rout,
Came furious down to be revenged on men,
Woe to the inhabitants on Earth! that now,
While time was, our first parents had been warned
The coming of their secret Foe, and scaped,
Haply so scaped, his mortal snare! For now
Satan, now first inflamed with rage, came down,
The tempter, ere the accuser, of mankind,
To wreak on innocent frail Man his loss
Of that first battle, and his flight to Hell.
Yet not rejoicing in his speed, though bold
Far off and fearless, nor with cause to boast,
Begins his dire attempt; which, nigh the birth
Now rowling, boils in his tumultuous breast,
And like a devilish engine back recoils
Upon himself. Horror and doubt distract
His troubled thoughts, and from the bottom stir
The hell within him; for within him Hell
He brings, and round about him, nor from Hell
One step, no more than from Himself, can fly
By change of place. Now conscience wakes despair
That slumbered; wakes the bitter memory
Of what he was, what is, and what must be
Worse; of worse deeds worse sufferings must ensue!

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Iraq War Grief Daily Witness Day 16

An Iraqi woman watches as soldiers from Delta Company, 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment searches her home near Youssifiyah, 12 miles (20 kilometers) south of Baghdad, Iraq Saturday, Feb. 3, 2007.
(AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

Curse One: The Wraith
by Cynthia Huntington

You are a small shape of death crouched among leaves.
The twist of your red mouth is the torque of poison.
Tangle of leaves, spill of leaves, slow rot of leaves. . .
Misery, ruin, iniquity. You are the scuffling thing in dry grass.
Rodent, snail, the curly-legged spider, centipede, rat snake.
I see you by the back-hooded barbecue in November, brooding
like the smoke of burned meat. The fire in the coals gone out,
the sun hung low and weak in smoldering sky, cold
breath of winter. You are all smoke breath, grief, and conniving.
You are the alien thing invading my garden, a haunt, a plague,
lurking beyond light and warmth, there in the shadows wearing
death inside out, a curse on the sky. You are a spot, a flaw, a
blotch and a stain on the world you corrupt and I hate
you and fear you and look for you everywhere with dread.

Friday, February 2, 2007

Iraq War Grief Daily Witness Day 15

A man who was wounded during Thursday night's suicide bomb attack, lies in a hospital in Hilla, about 100 km (60 miles) south of Baghdad, February 2, 2007. Two suicide bombers killed 45 people and wounded 150 when they blew themselves up at a crowded market in the Iraqi town of Hilla on Thursday, police said.
REUTERS/Mushtaq Muhammad (IRAQ)

Bone Song
by Tom Lavazzi

It doesn’t turn anymore
the worn stone
the seasons halted at winter

I remember
when two bones, rubbed together
made people laugh
and weep at times

now, many rest
like broken marionettes
in shallow pits
It will always be cold

The new bread
common and tasteless
is no longer made here
warm like a cat

And vacant carriages
with wheels deaf as faces
never leave the pale houses

Yet I stay a moment longer
at the table
looking at the waxed and wired skull
wondering how to answer it

The eyes, no eyes
already have begun
to reclaim

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Iraq War Grief Daily Witness Day 14

Relatives grieve lost loved ones at al-Kindi hospital in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday Jan. 22, 2007. Two nearly simultaneous bombs struck a predominantly Shiite commercial area in central Baghdad, killing at least 78 people and wounding at least 156, said Deputy Health Minister Hakim al-Zamili.
(AP Photo/Karim Kadim)

by Wilfred Owen

His fingers wake, and flutter; up the bed.
His eyes come open with a pull of will,
Helped by the yellow mayflowers by his head.
The blind-cord drawls across the window-sill...
What a smooth floor the ward has! What a rug!
Who is that talking somewhere out of sight?
Three flies creeping round the shiny jug...
'Nurse! Doctor!'-'Yes; all right, all right.'

But sudden evening muddles all the air.
There seems no time to want a drink of water.
Nurse looks so far away. And here and there
Music and roses burst through crimson slaughter.
He can't remember where he saw blue sky...
The trench is narrower. Cold, he's cold; yet hot-
And there's no light to see the voices by...
There is no time to ask...he knows not what.