Sharan Strange

(1959 / South Carolina / Unites States)

Words During War


The landlady's low hum of Spanish
prayer mixes with the sound
of eastbound planes overhead. She
lights candles for the people there
who are under siege, who will get
no food, no water, and cannot,
without the bomb's flash, see
a loved one's face. I glimpse
her family now and then, hear
their cadenced voices, the heavy thumping
of their steps. I'm taunted by
the spicy smell of rice and beans
simmering in her kitchen below me. The walls
chatter, breathe salsa, their heartbeat
insistent as my own. The house
we live in, partitioned, some country
with parts seceded, a body
amputated. Blood, flesh, bone,
skin- warm boundaries holding us-
and words, reducing us always
to language, destiny, intention.

When the rhythms I move to
are disrupted by hourly reports
from the battlefront, I let
the barrage explode around me, grasp
at meanings that linger like artillery's
smoke trails or the dust cloud shadows
of fleeing refugees. Downstairs,
stillness descends like fallout. Outside,
underground darkness, the electric
tremors of people passing.
I feel the gentle thrumming silence
of our house this evening. I think
of those others in the desert, their speech
a code unbroken, their vigilance and
combat breathing, the twisted, glowing wreckage
of their land like a loveless machine.

Submitted: Tuesday, September 02, 2014
Edited: Tuesday, September 02, 2014

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