Lisa Suhair Majaj


(Beit Hanoun, November 2006)

A technical failure, terrible accident, unfortunate
event....necessary but regrettable....we had
to take action....there was no choice

Excuses pile up like body parts (gaping yellow-toothed
jaw separated from its head, neck slit open below the absent
chin, burned torso flaking like singed paper, brain spilling
from a broken child-size skull, severed hand still grasping).

Parts don’t make a whole.
Aid workers collecting heads and hands from the street in black
garbage bags lay out decapitated bodies on silver morgue trays, stack
appendages beside them like missing puzzle pieces, then go home
and hold their heads in their hands.

Maybe they pray for amnesia. Maybe they search
for answers: how many hands it takes to staunch a wound that won’t
stop bleeding, how to remember the dream of an ordinary
life. Can a headless handless body cradle a child, greet
a neighbor, plant an orchard, plow a field, sign a peace treaty?

Some of the dead kept their heads. One young mother lies
waxen, holding two children in rigid embrace, slumbering portrait
belied by the blood smearing their cheeks - infant’s mouth
slightly open, as if dreaming of a breast, the warm flow
of milk; tousle-haired girl-child turning in death’s dream,
echo of her mother’s pallid beauty.

Part of this has been screamed a million
times. Part of it will never be heard. Part of it
reflects like quiet light off the streams of untreated sewage
and pools of shimmering blood in Gaza lanes.
Part of it hides behind headlines where this shard
of the story will never be told.

First published in International Feminist Journal of Politics, Volume 9, Issue 3, 2007.

A Few Reasons to Oppose the War

because wind soughs in the branches of trees
like blood sighing through veins

because in each country there are songs
huddled like wet-feathered birds

because our bodies are soft and easily harmed
and destruction is a way of dying, not living

because we are so utterly human
and so prone to grief

because even though the news has nothing new to say
and keeps on saying it
NO still fights its way into the world

because for every bomb that is readied
a baby nestles into her mother
latches onto a nipple beaded with milk

because the tulips have waited all winter
in the cold dark earth

because each morning the wildflowers outside my window
raise their yellow faces to the sun

because we are all, each one of us,
in love with the light

(first published in self-published chapbook These Words)


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