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Look

This week in the PEN Poetry Series, PEN America features a poem by Solmaz Sharif. 

 

Look


It matters what you call a thing: Exquisite a lover called me.
       Exquisite.

Whereas Well, if I were from your culture, living in this country,
       said the man outside the 2004 Republican National
       Convention, I would put up with that for this country;

Whereas I felt the need to clarify: You would put up with
       TORTURE, you mean and he proclaimed: Yes;

Whereas what is your life;

Whereas years after they LOOK down from their jets
        and declare my mother’s Abadan block PROBABLY
        DESTROYED, we walked by the villas, the faces
        of buildings torn off into dioramas, and recorded it
        on a hand-held camcorder and I said That’s a gun as I
        trained the lens on a rusting GUN-TYPE WEAPON and
        That’s Iraq as I zoomed over the river;

Whereas it could take as long as 16 seconds between
         the trigger pulled in Las Vegas and the Hellfire missile
         landing in Mazar-e-Sharif, after which they will ask
         Did we hit a child? No. A dog. they will answer themselves;

Whereas the federal judge at the sentencing hearing said
         I want to make sure I pronounce the defendant’s name
         correctly;

Whereas this lover would pronounce my name and call me
         Exquisite and LAY the floor lamp across the floor so that
         we would not see each other by DIRECT ILLUMINATION,
         softening even the light;

Whereas the lover made my heat rise, rise so that if heat
         sensors were trained on me, they could read
         my THERMAL SHADOW through the roof and through
         the wardrobe;

Whereas you know we ran into like groups like mass executions.
         w/ hands tied behind their backs. and everybody shot
         in the head side by side. its not like seeing a dead body walking
         to the grocery store here. its not like that. its iraq you know
         its iraq. its kinda like acceptable to see that there and not—it
         was kinda like seeing a dead dog or a dead cat laying—;

Whereas I thought if he would LOOK at my exquisite face
         or my father’s, he would reconsider;

Whereas You mean I should be sent MISSING because of my family
         name?
and he answered Yes. That’s exactly what I mean,
         adding that his wife helped draft the PATRIOT Act;

Whereas the federal judge wanted to be sure he was
         pronouncing the defendant’s name correctly and said he
         had read all the exhibits, which included the letter I
         wrote to cast the defendant in a loving light;

Whereas today we celebrate things like his transfer to a
         detention center closer to home;

Whereas his son has moved across the country;

Whereas I made nothing happen;

Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is
         your life? It is even a THERMAL SHADOW, it appears
         so little, and then vanishes from the screen;

Whereas I cannot control my own heat and it can take
         as long as 16 seconds between the trigger, the Hellfire
         missile, and A dog, they will answer themselves;

Whereas A dog, they will say: Now, therefore,

Let it matter what we call a thing.

Let it be the exquisite face for at least 16 seconds.

Let me LOOK at you.

Let me look at you in a light that takes years to get here.

 

Once a week, the PEN Poetry Series publishes work by emerging and established writers from coast to coast. Subscribe to the Poetry Series mailing list and have poems delivered to your e-mail as soon as they are published (no spam, no news, just poems). 

 

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