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ISSUE:  Summer 2008

If this is what we studied for,
heads bent over books at wooden desks
engraved with the names of the dead,
then I have a new feeling for
 subtraction.

Olive trees, three acres slashed
equals zero zero zero.
That’s my address. The grade on my page.

If this is the spectrum of pronouns—
you kill, he or she kills, anyone might kill—
then I speak a new language without them.
Words rinse into one another
recklessly—morning, wishes, windows, thick paste
of kisses on a child’s warm scalp, riddle, riddle,
tin bowl. No reflection, no wall or ladder,
no lock, no key.

If this is why we bow our heads to pray
in the corner, by the iron stove,
so many years, forgive me.
Forget the words, the posture,
the time of day. Blood aches inside
my veins. Where did we bury Sitti?
Between her sons, unmarked boulder
by the bent tree. I will wait there,
telling her the same story she told me
about the long river of waiting, how some of us
fall into it and are not seen again,
even by the bottom stones.
How some of us end up in another paradox
known by other names, drifting
with clouds on far horizons,
lost in small shops
making change for gasoline.
I can’t get into a better story no matter
how hard I try. If this is persistence,
lack of imagination,
sorrow, who knows? I’m stuck here,
in the invisible corner of war
that’s not even called war, pressed
like a pigeon into the smallest twig cage,
my dry eyes flaming.

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