DREAM: THE CITY: Bagdad, 2008

Veronica Golos


Who am I that I sit here at this door?
In my dream, there is a long alley, a place I learn Want.

The city is a mirror. Inside my reflection, old men are on fire—
Flaming like red kaffiyahs.

Litter ignites into funeral flares; the bread of the dead is baking.
Above the moans of children, soldiers warm their hands.

Avenues widen into downpour, detours unfold, flower into cemeteries.
Into this narrow place, two rivers clash.

Am I the one covered with brine, smelling of tides?
Or am I the stone, lifted like a flag?

 


Veronica Golos

Veronica Golos won the Nicholas Roerich Poetry Prize (Story Line Press) for A Bell Buried Deep. In her newest book, Vocabulary of Silence, (Red Hen Press, Feb. 2010) are powerfully wrought poems that witness and respond to the continued wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Gaza—a mirror in which we see and hear the names of war’s dead, their ghosts, and ourselves. Most recently, her poems have been or about to be published in Drunken Boat, Pedestal, Pemmican, Press 1, Bridges, Squaw Valley Review, Meridians, and other presses.


VOCABULARY OF SILENCE

Veronica Golos

 

i.
Love, what is your other name?
Who rides the red horse, the one that is smoke?
Who tramples the fields where words are tinder?

What makes us? I want it to be Love.

Come near
the naked man. A hood—over his head.  His hands—tied behind him.

How to utter it?
What word could open my jaw?

          Tanks bullets drones  air-strikes  starvation sanctions  structural
          adjustment
programming  poisoned land  police truncheons torture harsh
          up  collective
punishment   cigarette burning    water-boarding

My tongue splits.

ii.
From the Red Sea, from its salt water, in its warm shallow shoals,

…Behold!
Here are my good…dead
        rising!

They rise between river and river, between sword and sword.
They rise between the hour of song and the hour of work
          between the echo and its saying. They rise inside
          the cup-shaped hollow of pelvis—they rise and ripen and never grow old:

          Mohammad  Omar  Jawad  Ali  Selma  Madia  Fatima  Suhad  Hussein
          Ahmed
Salam  Azad   Aysha   Maysoon   Nuhad   Faisal  Raad  Zaid  Widad
          Nuha  Haifaa
Amal  Kifah  Souad  Fallujah  Ramadi  Diyala    Basra     Gaza

iii
My day is a froth out of which the dead rise,
these particular dead, the ones who come every morning in the middle of prayer.
They cushion my knees and follow my hand movements.
They are residue in all that I drink.

I place my forehead to the floor. 
I fumble with the lyric, move my finger as a blind person

along its calligraphy. 
It is written: I am cause—and comfort.




Veronica Golos won the Nicholas Roerich Poetry Prize (Story Line Press) for A Bell Buried Deep. In her newest book, Vocabulary of Silence, (Red Hen Press, Feb. 2010) are powerfully wrought poems that witness and respond to the continued wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Gaza—a mirror in which we see and hear the names of war’s dead, their ghosts, and ourselves. Most recently, her poems have been or about to be published in Drunken Boat, Pedestal, Pemmican, Press 1, Bridges, Squaw Valley Review, Meridians, and other presses.