At the close of the 2014 Split This Rock Poetry Festival, Kenyan poet and activist Shailja Patel, inspired by the Guantanamo prisoners who scratched poems on a styrofoam cup with pebbles, passed it from cage to cage, until it was discovered and smashed by their jailers, did a necessary act. She wrote and read the names of the many girls killed by
drones on a paper cup. She read these names introduced by President
Obama’s words delivered at the 2010 White House Correspondents Dinner: "The
Jonas Brothers are here, they're out there somewhere. (Applause) Sasha and
Malia are huge fans, but boys, don't get any ideas (laughter). Two words for
you: predator drones (Laughter). You will never see it coming (Laughter). You
think I'm joking? (Laughter).” U.S.
We all love our babies.
|Activist Poet Shailja Patel reading the names of the many girls killed by U.S. drones.|
By Solmaz Sharif
somewhere I did not learn • somewhere I wouldn’t hear • the FBI has my cousins’ computers • my father says • my father says • my mother has a hard time believing anything’s bugged • my father and I always talk like the world listens • my father is still on the bus with contraband papers under his seat as uniforms storm down the aisle • it was my job to put a cross on each home with dead for clearing • it was my job to dig graves into the soccer field • I wrote • I wrote • • I wrote • • I wrote their epitaphs in chalk • from my son’s wedding mattress I know this mound’s his room • I dropped to a knee and engaged the enemy • I emptied my clip then finished the job • I took two steps in and threw a grenade • I took no more than two steps into a room before firing • in Haditha we cleared homes Fallujah-style • my father was reading the Koran when they shot him through the chest • they fired into the closet • the kitchen • the ninety-year-old standing over the stove • just where was I • • • call me when you get home • let’s miss an appointment together • let’s miss another flight to repeated strip searches • that Haditha bed • magenta queen sheets and a wood-shelved headboard and blood splattered up the walls to the ceiling • they held each other • they slept on opposing ends wishing one would leave • mother doesn’t know who I am anymore • I write • I write • • they ask if I have anything to declare then limit my response to fruits and nuts • an American interrupts an A and B conversation to tell me • he strikes me as a misstep away from • what did you expect after fishing Popov from a trash bin • what did you expect after accepting a marbled palace • they drag the man who killed my uncle out of a hole • they inspect him for ticks on national television • no one in my family celebrates • when the FBI knocks I tell them ; they get a kick out of that • she just lay there and took it like a champ • she was dying for it • at a protest a man sells a shirt that says • my mother tape-records my laugh to mail bubble-wrapped back home • my mother records me singing • I am singing the moon will come one night and take me away sidestreet by sidestreet • sitting on a pilled suburban carpet or picking blue felt off the hand-me-down couch • the displaced whatnots • I practice the work of worms • how much I can wear away with no one watching • two generations ago my blood moved through borders according to grazing and seasons • then a lifeline of planes • planes fly so close to my head filled with bomblets and disappeared men • scaffolding sprouts nooses sagging with my dead • I burn my finger on the broiler and smell trenches • my uncle pissing himself • shopping bags are legs • there is half a head in the gutter • I say when I place a call • somewhere a file details my sexual habits • some tribunal may read it all back to me • Golsorkhi, I know the cell they will put me in • they put me onto a crooked pile of others to rot • is this what happens to a brain born into war • a city of broken teeth • the thuds of falling • we have learned to sing a child calm in a bomb shelter • I am singing to her still