Sunlit & dangerous, this country road.
We are follicle & meat & terror &
the machines leave their shells naked on the ground.
One soldier makes a museum in his basement.
Each mannequin in brass, unburnable coats:
I am walking between their blank faces
their bullets traveling here at the speed of sound. One soldier
who roasted a pig on his porch, barbecuing until sinews were tender
tells me he waited above the Euphrates’ waters & if they tried to pass
even after we told them not to, they deserved it: pop (deserve it); pop (deserve
it). Euphrates, your dark tunnel out, is rippling around us.
In the war, a child approaches a tank as a soldier counts the child’s
steps. I drink a bottle of wine with one soldier in the town where I am alone
with barber shops, boot repair shops. Is she my friend? I weep to her over losing
who I thought I loved & she says I
did this thing & to whom was that child beloved?
Find common ground, the soldiers say. Humanize
yourselves. Classify the norm of who you’re talking to, try
to echo it. Do this for your country, says one soldier; we
are sharks wearing suits of skin. Zip it up.
This spring, at a conference in the chilly, barely blooming city
Solmaz says enough of this emptied word “empathy.”
Ask for more: for rage. For love.
On the porch, as the sun goes, the dark pools around us & one
soldier says it is nightfall. I am tired. I did not mean for it to go on
this long. This soldier across the table, we lock eyes.
He tells me: in the occupied land, we are the arm, they
are the weapon. The weapon
in this case is a person. Choose a person
who knows who here is bad. Make them
slice open the skin of their country: only they can accurately
identify the enemy. Say yes or no: if a man squints while
under the date palm; if a woman does not swing her arms
while walking. Sir, my child was not with the enemy.
He was with me in this kitchen, making lebna from scratch.
The yogurt still is fresh on his wrist.
Nomi Stone’s second collection of poems, Kill Class is forthcoming from Tupelo Press in 2019. She is also the author of the poetry collection Stranger’s Notebook (TriQuarterly, 2008), a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Anthropology at Princeton University and has an MFA from Warren Wilson College. Poems appear or will soon in The New Republic, The New England Review, Bettering American Poetry 2017, The Best American Poetry 2016, Poetry Northwest, and elsewhere. Kill Class is based on two years of fieldwork she conducted within war trainings in mock Middle Eastern villages erected by the US military across America.