A few months ago I was invited to be part of a small group of writers from different parts of the world who freely share valuable critiques on each other’s poetry online, in a private forum so our work could remain “unpublished.” Discussions are very stimulating – not just about poetry or creative writing but pretty much anything under the sun.
Every week or so a prompt is posted and each member gets to write a poem out of it. The prompt could be a photograph or a series of photographs, a word, a piece of music, etc. I’ve managed to come up with new work from this exercise and have become rather addicted to this practice. Recently a new prompt was posted that I continue to struggle with. It’s a beautiful photograph of a sunset against what looks to me as pine tree branches. Mostly red, yellow, orange and black.
Before this time I had told myself I would like to write something about the Maguindanao Massacre of 2009. I have tried to incorporate the photograph with the massacre, but so far nothing feels right. The other day I accidentally stumbled upon an old poem that needed to be revised. So for the meantime I dealt with that. Here is version 2.
Oh, before the poem… Hillary Clinton is visiting the Philippines to “strengthen ties.” I think she means “shackles” or something worse. There’s a mathematical explanation to the saying about keeping your friends and enemies – the distance and equivalent value. When I figure it out I’ll share it with the rest of the world.
Random Thoughts on the Haditha Massacre on Valentine’s Day
On Nov. 19, 2005, U.S. Marines allegedly killed 24 people in revenge for the death of one of their own, caused by an improvised exploding device (IED). The 24 individuals, six of whom were aged 10 and under, were shot at point blank range.
– United for Peace and Justice
Abdullah Walid, 4
Here is a photograph of a room, familiar
as an aunt’s house. How can I like
the colour red now after seeing this?
Those bursts are not flowers
or abstract art. They are echoes
forcing me to hear doors being broken,
cries, pleas, gunfire, explosions.
The weight of boots
over silence. An eye
for each bullet hole.
I know your name and age
from scraps of stories handed down
by sources who never knew you.
Do I add one more violation
by imagining you surviving?
How your index finger might have felt
the fine edges of each bullet hole,
an odd sensation rising
between horror and laughter.
Abdul Hamid Hassan Ali, 76 – grandfather, father and husband,
who used a wheelchair, due to a leg amputation
following complications with diabetes. Died with nine rounds
in the chest and abdomen.
Khamisa Tuma Ali, 66 – wife of Abdul Hamid Hassan Ali.
Wisdom does not go
freely with age.
Yet we know there is something
worth hearing from somone
older than us. They have seen
more lives, more deaths perhaps
than our eyes can bear.
Here is one of them.
And another. Together.
They once spoke
in a language
unfamiliar to us.
They once spoke
to each other
as they held hands
at the end of another day.
Facing a new day
again in each other’s arms.
For who knows how many years?
For who knows how many more years?
And then that suddden
void of an embrace.
Aftermath of US raid - photo from "The War Profiteers" taken from a video shot by Taher Thabet.