September 8, 2007

Left Boob

I read this new poem by Sinan Antoon in World Literature Today and thought it was brilliant. Actually I said out loud in the bookstore—I’d give my left boob to have written this...

A Letter

I address them
The dead Iraqis
Where do we stand now?
Give or take a few hundred thousand?

Had you been birds,
Your disappearance might have caused some outrage
you could have flown en masse
over the metropolis,
clouded its skies for a few hours
in protest.
Meteorologists and bird-watchers
surely would have noticed
Had you been trees,
you would have made a beautiful forest
whose destruction would have been deemed a crime
against the planet.
Had you been words,
you would have formed a precious book
or manuscript whose loss
would be mourned across the world
But you are none of these
And you had to pass quietly and uneventfully
No one will campaign for you
No one cares to represent you
No absentee ballots have been issued or sent
You will have to wait decades
for a monument,
or a tiny museum.
If you are lucky
in provoking retroactive guilt
your names will be inscribed on a wall somewhere
But until then, you may welcome more to your midst
and form a vast silent chorus
of ghosts,
condemning the spectators and the actors
Exeunt Omens!

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