Saturday, March 19, 2016

Sand Opera Lenten Journey Day 39: What Consequence is a Body + Nomi Stone

Sand Opera Lenten Journey Day 39: What Consequence is a Body + Nomi Stone

If you ever got lost as a child, you might remember that rising terror as the reality of your separation finally began to sink in. Everything known was lost, and you were utterly alone. Maybe you didn’t cry until you finally saw your mom or dad, because you knew it was finally alright. You were home in their arms. Years later, how strange to feel a similar pang when my little children would disappear from my sight, and I’d suddenly wonder in fear if I’d ever see them again. Were they abducted? Would they run across the street? The mind goes to crazy places.

In the second chapter of Luke, a twelve year old Jesus fails to leave with the family caravan and stays in Jerusalem. When they finally figure it out, his parents were “astonished,” and his mother says, upon seeing him, “why have you done this to us?” In short, she’s angry as hell. He’s already leaving them, as all children do when they grow up. A long goodbye.

But some people do disappear, not of their own volition. Today’s poem concerns Yemeni citizen Mohamed Bashmilah’s arrest and “rendition” into secret “black site” prisons. His family must have been terrified for him, wondering where he was, perhaps even more terrified than he was. Never charged with a crime, he’s one of the “collateral damage” of the War on Terror. Even his case against the airline, Jeppesen, that was complicit in the rendition, was dropped due to national security. Thanks to Nomi Stone, for her contributing further background to this crazy story in her commentary.

From “Homefront/Removes” (Sand Opera)

What consequence is a body. And if the eye were a lamp.    In the beginning, there was a certain darkness, an uncertain darkness after. I’m trying to piece together something resembling the sea, in the frail moments before squall. For passengers to safely reach the stable osmotic. In the sudden wake, how to see the difference between “or” & “and”—on which matters of matter & spirit hang. If the eye. If a body a body none/theless loved by anons & disappeared. If a body separate & how. MOHAMED v. JEPPESEN, Inc. For passengers to safely. Jeppesen: Transforming the Way the World Moves. If I the see, sea again. What consequence is a body a body nonetheless. If the light in me is gone. Thus I the Doctor with Disfigured. Thus I, Scribe of Black Hives. If my body full of darkness.

“What Consequence is a Body” by Nomi Stone

Scribe of Black Hives, loosen the sting into the air. In extraordinary renditions, the prisoners’ bodies are chained to the floor of the plane and subdued with sedatives. Each body, taken for an al-Qa’ida suspect, is plucked out of its life and disappeared.

There is a company called Jeppesen, which “help[s] aviation professionals worldwide reach their destinations safely and efficiently.” “Quality,” the company says “is everyone’s responsibility.”

The New Yorker described how Khaled al-Masri, a German car salesman, was mistaken for an al-Qa’ida operative. After a Jeppesen plane sent him across the sea into a black site, the American flight crew flew to a resort in Majorca. The island is bright and hot and studded with caves both above and beneath the sea.

In 2007, the ACLU sued Jeppesen on behalf of five plaintiffs who had been disappeared and then tortured in black sites across the ocean. Under these very waves, there are interconnected passages, cavities you can’t even imagine. And there are bodies — can you believe this — without consequence.

These are the nicknames for these crafts that hold bodies without consequence: ghost plane; spook flight.

The lawsuit was dismissed, as it was feared that the case would bring information to light that could endanger security. In 2010, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit again dismissed the case. The ACLU filed for appeal with the Supreme Court. In May 2011, the Supreme Court dismissed the case. Summer was coming again, and the sun was harsh and dry over the white buildings. 

--Nomi Stone is the author of the poetry collection Stranger’s Notebook. Her poems appear or are forthcoming in Best American Poetry 2016, Poetry Northwest, Drunken Boat, and elsewhere. She’s currently working on Kill Class, a collection of poems based on two years of ethnographic fieldwork in war games across America.

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