In remembrance of the folks killed on September 11, 2001 and all who are killed every day every where in the name of holy, right, or good wars. Suheir Hammad's words broke my heart, comforted, and inspired me at the same time when I first read them ten years ago. I offer my own after hers.
First Writing Since
by Suheir Hammad
no poetry in ashes south of canal.
no prose in trucks driving debris and dna.
evident out my window an abstract reality.
sky where once was steel.
smoke where once was flesh.
please god, let it be a mistake, the pilot’s heart, the plane’s engine.
god, please, don’t let it be anyone
who looks like my brothers.
i don’t know how bad a life has to break in order to kill.
i have never been so hungry that i willed hunger
never so angry as to want a gun over a pen.
even as a woman, a palestinian.
never this broken.
ricardo on radio said in his accent thick as yucca, “i will
feel so much better when the first bombs drop over there.
a woman crying in a car parked and stranded in hurt.
i offered comfort, a hand she did not see before she said,
“we’re gonna burn them so bad.” my hand went to my
head and my head to the dead iraqi
children, the dead in nicaragua. in rwanda who vied
with fake sport wrestling for america’s attention.
people saying, this was bound to happen, let’s not forget u.s. transgressions.
hold up, i live here. these are my friends and fam,
me in those buildings, and we’re not bad
people, do not support america’s bullying. can i just have half a
second to feel bad?
thank you, woman, who saw me brinking cool and blinking
tears. opened her arms before she asked “do you want a hug?”
big white woman, and her embrace only people with flesh can offer.
“my brother’s in the navy,” i said. “and we’re arabs”. “wow, you
got double trouble.” word.
one more person ask me if i knew the hijackers.
one more motherfucker ask me what navy my brother is in.
one more person assume no arabs or muslims were killed.
assume they know me, or that i represent a people.
or that a people represent an evil. or that evil is as simple as a
flag and words on a page.
we did not vilify white men when mcveigh bombed oklahoma.
give out his family’s address or church. or blame the bible or pat fucking robertson.
networks air footage of palestinians dancing in the
street, no apology that hungry children are bribed with
sweets that turn their teeth brown. correspondents edit images.
archives facilitate lazy journalism.
and when we talk about holy books, hooded men and death, why
never mention the kkk?
if there are any people on earth who understand how new york is
feeling right now, they are in the west bank and the gaza strip.
bush has waged war on a man once openly funded by the cia. i’ve read too many books to believe what i am told. i don’t give a fuck about
bin laden. his vision of the world don’t represent me or those i
love. but i’ve signed petitions for years to out
the u.s. sponsored taliban. shit is complicated, and i
don’t know what to think.
but i know who will pay.
women, mostly colored and poor, will have to bury children, support themselves through grief.
in america, it will be those amongst us who refuse blanket attacks on
the shivering. who work toward social justice, and opposing hateful policies.
“either you are with us, or with the terrorists” - meaning keep your people under control and resistance censored. meaning we got the loot and the nukes
never felt less american and more brooklyn, than these days. these stars and stripes represent the dead as citizens first – not
family, not lovers.
my skin is real thin, my eyes are darker. the future holds little light.
my baby brother is a man now, on alert, praying five times a
day the orders he will take are righteous and
not weigh his soul down from the afterlife.
both my brothers - my heart stops - not a beat
disturbs my fear. muslim, gentle men. born in brooklyn
and their faces are of the arab man, all eyelashes and
nose and beautiful color and stubborn hair.
what will their lives be like now?
over there is over here.
across the river, burning rubber and limbs
rescuers traumatized. skyline
brought back to human size. no longer taunting gods.
i cried when i saw those
buildings collapse on themselves like a broken heart. i have never
owned pain that needs to spread like that.
there is no poetry in this. causes and effects.
symbols and ideologies. mad conspiracy here, information we’ll
never know. there is death here, and promises of more.
there is life here. anyone hearing this is breathing, maybe hurting,
but breathing for sure. if there is any light to come, it will
shine from the eyes of those who look for peace and justice after the
rubble and rhetoric are cleared and the phoenix has risen.
we got to carry each other now.
you are either with life, or against it.
Suheir Hammad is a Palestinian-American poet and political activist. She has published a book of poems, Born Palestinian, Born Black and a memoir, Drops of This Story.
Shout Out to the OGS: Osama, George, and Sadaam
by Cathy Arellano
richman osama thinks it’s time
for his religious hour
tells 19 fanatical fatalists
to fly planes into twin towers
of global trade
and five triggered fist
of imperial power
this inspires george
to declare a crusade
he readies, aims
to attack the taliban
too bad he didn’t raise a hand
when girls were pulled from school
and pushed to wed
though young enough to still wet the bed
george bombs caves
to shake qaeda loose
but he overlooks egypt’s martial law’s noose,
the general-called-president in pakistan,
and the emir of kuwait
who still hasn’t set the date
when women can vote
though his democratic regime was saved
twelve years ago
somehow our friendship
with the saudi monarchy
home of fifteen of the fliers
stays as strong as the oilgarchy
oligarchies aren’t a middle east only deal
we’ve got our own
let’s keep it real
this country’s richman
son of central intelligence,
this supremely selected leader
groans against affirmative action
though with average grades
he gained admission to his daddy’s yale
then drove drunk and avoided jail
george’s brother neal has been awol
since silverado savings and loan failed
his other brother jeb
governs the state
that had the highest rate
of vote and voter rejection
make no mistake
george is from the elite
and no matter what
will never give up that seat
though he swears up and down
it’s not lust for oil
or revenge making him fight
his daddy’s foe
we all know that ain’t so
it’s george’s watch
in the house of white
he’s not going to botch
the chance to run the country
like a fortune 500 company
just look at “rice-a-cheney
the oil industry treats”
george restricts civil unions
and civil rights
in the name of saving the nation
with this richman
it’s business as usual
the attacks on liberties
also happened in sadaam’s state
that military millionaire
gassed his own people
he disgraced them and their land
when the cia funneled dollars to his hand
so he would fight iran
these rich men don’t have their eyes
on the prize
but on the other guys’ size
of weapons of mass destruction
it doesn’t take much deduction
to figure out from this point
how things will function
blood will shed for oil
the poor of iraq afghanistan pakistan
and this land
still place second
and for girls and women
no matter how many burqas we wear
or where we bow our heads in prayer
it comes down to the daily struggle
for food, water, and air
but richmen don’t care
they don’t pay for war
from their pockets
it’s not their kids
getting shot by rockets
if richmen’s kids fought wars
maybe their fathers
would find other ways
to settle scores
instead, richmen give poor folks guns
send them far away to bleed
or keep them close
throw them in jail
and don’t let them read
richmen get nervous
when the people know what they need
these richmen show no shame
they act like their bank accounts
reflect their piety
erase the notoriety
of how they obtain their wealth
but the message jesus and mohammad
preached for spiritual health
was love one another
not rape your sister
kill your brother
the next time one of these richmen
bows his head and prays to the dollar
we gotta stand up and holler
we must remember
that any fundamentalism
that denies the fundamentals for all
is just old-fashioned tyranny
are you hearin’ me?
ballots will be bought
bullets will be shot
as the OGS fight
to extinguish our light
but if you’re hearin’ me
let’s lift our eyes, raise our voices
each day and every hour
cuz there’s no force
stronger than the people’s power
now it’s time to end this poem
so please slip one last fact
inside your dome:regime change begins at home