harden not your hearts.
“Bag of Bones” by Dunya Mikhail
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 saw too much,
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 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 this 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 the 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 the bags,
the full bag finally in her hand, unlike her
who has not yet found her own.
Guest column: Salih J. Altoma January 14, 1999 HeraldTimesOnline.com
Guest Column: Salih J. Altoma. Herald Times January 19, 2001
The Clay's Memory*
The night is a descending myth
a forest of black snow
a sky of mud spitting out its mute ashes over all homes
thus we appear as a blend of tears and dust
no distinction between our children's frightened eyes and the palmtrees' wounds
or between the silence of the schools' empty classrooms and the sad rumbling of the
no difference between the bitter gasp, the sigh of withering souls,
the trees' smoke, the planes' thunder,
or between the fragments of bodies buried in the mud
and the veils of drowned women floating on the river's surface like numbed shivering
the river that was stunned by the disaster
a storm that sweeps all things into a bottomless abyss
the howl of the planets, rubble, haggard faces, bewildered eyes, agitated palmtrees, and
the bowels of the dead, children's corpses, and sparrows trembling against closed