Susan V. Facknitz


Rifle fire on afternoon streets
hits buildings, bodies, orange and red,
erupts; arms splay as they fall
or flee. Brown dirt runs red into ocher,
the colors of this season.
The woman was going to work
among the bare trees of Baghdad.
She entered the building as she always had,
headscarf in place, eyes averted.
But the soldier was nervous.
Here only days, still smelling of soap
and the breezes off the bay,
he knew about the things
that had been done, the bodies of soldiers
that had been landed at the base
the morning he’d shipped out. She held her bag
tightly. She could feel the bulky square
it contained. She felt its edges,
thought about the power it held, that soon
it would unleash. He saw her coming,
approached her first. She stiffened,
gripped her bag as he brought the dog
closer, ordered her to stop, stand still.
She couldn’t let this happen. Outside,
the clear air, wind washed, whistled
along the alley, as she refused, as he shouted
and she turned, hands on the sacred package,
holy words echoing in her head,
the pages of the book trembling,
her feet beginning their terror
as the guns rose
and she fell
and the others after.

Susan V. Facknitz lives in Massanetta Springs, Virginia. She teaches literature and creative writing at James Madison University. She has published poems in Poetry East, Louisiana Literature and New Orleans Review.

(author retains copyright)