Fall 2016 (Volume 20, Issue II): 20th Anniversary Issue




When the drone struck
nobody came near the bodies
for fear of another missile strike.
When they finally came for Omar,
the oldest man of the tribe,
he mumbled names of flowers in Pashtu
Banafsha, he said, I belong to thee
Gul Bano
, he cried, is my Princess
of Flowers dead?

Carrying him on a stretcher
they took him up to the water wheel
where he asked Is that my mother?
a woman filling earthenware jugs
with molten snow and Helmand blue.
Look! My brothers, he pointed
at boys playing with guns
of sticks, their bellies swollen
on dry bread and loose tea

The tissue is perforated and the bones
a young doctor’s terse notes
rise behind Omar like intuited
recollections, like the broken
vernacular of the Russian soldiers falling
in the heart of Samangan
Shrapnel is lodged in semi-molten state
pursuing the course of River Oxus
through the slopes of Pamirs
It is liable to suppurate
the cool lofty passages
of Kandahar bazaar
where his father sells carpets
snuffboxes, velvets and silks,
It has ruptured the internal viscera
It has bored through the skin
of the mulberry tree
under which he sees Salma again
for the first time

Salma, Gul Bano, Princess of Flowers,
are you also fading?
Is your complexion still olive and your eyes
and hair black? Is that your shadow
splitting behind the veil, leaking
through the holes of bullets and missile strikes?
With temporal bone of the skull punctured
Do you still dress in the choicest of silks
so delicate to suggest
wind rustling through the
Lacerated and bruised
peach trees?
Come lay with me on the broken floor,
let us drink the sulfur sky
lapping against this roof
of undressed beams, come with
Blood pouring out
your long skirt clasped at the waist,
take off your untanned boots with
Pus escaping, a collapsing of the ribs
their delicately embroidered seams,
let us talk about our children and their
Blood failing to coagulate, septic
children, Banafsha and Salman,
I can hear them laughing
Softening near the ventricles
Blood pressure dropping
in this strange place shaped
like the absence of you

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