Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Dunya Mikhail, the Iraqi poet with whom I participated in the CHF panel, demonstrated her considerable humility by reading only two poems and telling a short anecdote, while the rest of us blathered on. So, today, I dedicate to her. This is her devastating poem, "Bag of Bones," one of the first poems from The War Works Hard. You can hear her interview at npr.
"Bag of Bones" by Dunya Mikhail
What good luck!
She has found his bones.
The skull is also in the bag
the bag in her hand
like all other bags
in all other trembling hands.
His bones, like thousands of bones
in the mass graveyard,
his skull, not like any other skull.
Two eyes or holes
with which he listened to music
that told his own story,
that never knew clean air,
a mouth, open like a chasm,
was not like that when he kissed her
not in this place
noisy with skulls and bones and dust
dug up with questions:
What does it mean to die all this death
in a place where the darkness plays all this silence?
What does it mean to meet your loved ones now
with all of these hollow places?
To give back to your mother
on the occasion of death
a handful of bones
she had given to you
on the occasion of birth?
To depart without death or birth certificates
because the dictator does not give receipts
when he takes your life?
The dictator has a heart, too,
a balloon that never pops.
He has a skull, too, a huge one
not like any other skull.
It solved by itself a math problem
That multiplied the one death by millions
to equal homeland
The dictator is the director of a great tragedy.
He has an audience, too,
an audience that claps
until the bones begin to rattle—
the bones in bags,
the full bag finally in her hand,
unlike her disappointed neighbor
who has not yet found her own.