Friday, September 4, 2009

Visiting Ahmed's Family

Visiting Ahmed's Family

Baghdad, September, 2002

In a typical, North American
fireworks show,
a rocket will climb the night sky and,
with a burst of light, explode.
Concussive sound will follow,
noticeably delayed.
Here in Iraq, the opposite occurs:
the sound of war before
the actual display.

War is the invisible presence
when we gather here with friends.
We hear it howl, but who wants
to throw a cloak on that specter
and give it form?
This afternoon, we sit on a bare
concrete floor in Ahmed’s living room.
We are an odd collection of people,
arranged like furniture along the walls:
Ahmed and his four younger siblings,
barefoot and brown-skinned;
his shy and quiet mother,
unsure what to do with her hands
and eyes; Mohammad, a soldier in
the Iran-Iraq war,
now working as a taxi driver;
and three Americans,
recently arrived in Iraq
and soon to depart.

A thirteen year-old shoeshine boy,
Ahmed is the family breadwinner.
A small boy with large responsibilities,
he is proud to have us visit.
Such power we have to please.
We give Haider and Jamal,
eight-year old twins,
a fistful of Iraqi dinars.
They return with soda
sold in old Coca-Cola bottles.
Our throats tingle as cold,
dark bubbles burst.
We savor the pleasure.
We savor the moments together,
a brief time out of time.

I step outside with Haider
to kick a deflated soccer ball
in the rocky yard.
For half an hour we are two boys
with a ball, defying time,
celebrating the present moment.
Beyond us, the Saddam City ghetto
breaks like a wound,
oozing in every direction.
Somewhere in the Persian Gulf,
battleships gather.
I cannot yet see how brightly
Haider’s future will flash,
but as I put the ball down
and prepare to leave,
I can hear its concussive blast.

David Smith-Ferri


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