Soldiers collect & number: pigment, hair, jade, roasted meat, timber, cum. The enemy’s flute; the face of an enemy as he holds his young; the enemy’s face the moment it’s harmed. The woods are a class in what they can take. The country is fat. We eat from its side.
Sunlit and dangerous, this country road.
We are follicle and meat and terror and
the machines leave their shells naked on the ground.
One soldier makes a museum in his basement.
Each mannequin in brass, incombustible coats:
I am walking between their blank faces,
their bullets traveling at the speed of sound. One soldier
who roasted a pig on his porch barbecuing until sinews were tender
tells me he waited above the Euphrates and if they tried to pass
even after we told them not to, they deserved it: pop (deserve it); pop
(deserve it). Euphrates, your dark tunnel out is rippling around us.
In the war, a child approaches a tank as one soldier counts the child’s
steps. In the town, I drink a bottle of wine with that soldier
among barber shops, boot repair shops. Is she my friend? I weep to her. I’ve lost
who I thought I loved and she says I did
this thing and to whom was that child beloved?
Find common ground, the soldiers say. Humanize
yourselves. Classify the norm of who you’re talking to, try
to echo it. Do this for your country, says one soldier; we
are sharks wearing suits of skin. Zip up.
This spring, in the chilly, barely blooming city
Solmaz says enough of this emptied word “empathy.”
Ask for more: for rage. For love. On the porch,
as the sun goes, the dark pools around us and one
soldier says it is nightfall. I am tired. I did not mean for it to go on
this long. That soldier across the table, we lock eyes.
He tells me: in the occupied land we are the arm, they
are the weapon. The weapon
in this case is a person. Choose a person
who knows who is bad. Make them
slice open the skin of their country: only they can
identify the enemy. Say yes or no: if a man squints while
under the date palm; if a woman does not swing her arms
while walking. Sir, my child was not with the enemy.
He was with me in this kitchen, making lebna at home.
The yogurt still is fresh on his wrist.