Still, this sestina, "Baghdad: The Disappeared Girls," has a surprisingly contemporary and political edge to it; what other sestina has an epigraph from Amiri Baraka? Having just watched the film, Grbavica: Land of Dreams, a recent film about a female rape survivor of the "civil" war in the former Yugoslavia, I'm reminded how much war becomes not a battle among men, but a violence against civil society--men, women, and children alike, each with their own burdens and torments.
The Disappeared Girls.
BY MARILYN KRYSL
- - - -
Luxury, then, is a way of being ignorant.
- - - -
A girl outside the primary-schoolyard gate
has disappeared. Another—no one sees—
doesn't come home. A black car ate a broken
girl's shrill scream. Her father: She's my jewel!
I curse the West. We didn't ask for war.
Those men who come: don't they have daughters?
War slams down. Doors swing shut. Daughters
stay in. One father drove a truck, his gate
stood open, he paid his daughter's school. The war
blasts on. His girl's smart: her teacher sees
in her another teacher. Now his gold
leaves school to sweep a floor: another broken
promise. No truck, no work: he owns his broken
heart, and hers. Other pink-blouse daughters
watch TV all day. Behind each sapphire
three thousand sweating horses. Behind each gate
a girl on hold. Scared. And bored—how seize
the day? They wilt. Lose weight. They are my war—
I who buy the Uzis, mortars. (War
is terrorism: Howard Zinn.) Our broken
treaties fan my shame: dead girls, dead seas.
We polish our luxuries. These daughters
and these sons are ours, and ours the gate
that shuts our children out. There goes an emerald
of a girl—to assemble mortars. This amethyst
works at the land-mine plant. War is war
against the spirit. Break it, smash the gate,
desecrate the altar. Something's broken?
Toss it. Buy another. Another daughter
puts on pink pants, a pink hairband, a rhinestone
ring. Then she sits down and weeps. She sees
that spill of light across the floor, pearls
the sun lays down as though she's some god's daughter.
Zinn again: War is always war
against children. We're good at making broken
things. It's easy as shopping. Our aggregate:
indifference, comfort, war. Here's a gate
made of diamonds. Open it. That broken
girl, our daughter, waits here, and she sees.