BBCF

The Barnard-Boecker Centre Foundation

For Shaima

At the post office
when I mailed my letter to you
I asked:
is the mail going through to Iraq?
no notice that it is not
was the reply.
I bought the stamp
and sent my greetings.

I am thinking of you and your friends
in the courtyard of a thousand years old university
where you studied my language
the language of imperialism
the language of greed

you wore a scarf and giggled
come to the WC and
I will show you my hair
it is very long.

around me the voices of death
shout now
we want war
we will kill you to save you
missiles are ready to fly
to destroy your historic city
to kill you and your widowed mother
and the man you love
and smash your dreams to rubble

in your graduation photo
you and other women wore
special red scarves that day
and you clutched Mickey Mouse.

Mickey Mouse-
a symbol of imperial power
to amuse,
to divert,
to lie.
Why do you hold it?
while we amuse ourselves
to death of the soul
while we starve and bomb
you to death of hope.
I did not ask, it seems unkind
to cavil at a ridiculous rodent
I sent the most banal of greetings
of wishes for your marriage
even though you have no money
little food
and no job prospects
and my feeble wishes for peace.

you studied George Bernard Shaw
I sent you papers last year about
the irony of an Englishman
who satirized war
as a silly male game
you did well on your thesis
Shaw was born long before Disney
now satire is impossible
irony is luxury
the troops are ready
Disneyland is guarded
as carefully as the Pentagon
symbols are important.

did my letter arrive
before the missiles?
did any plane carry a harmless cargo
to a country tipped
on the chasm of destruction?

will you marry that nice man
in your graduating class before
he takes a uniform
and departs with a gun?
before your dreams become dust?

only if the stamp has more power
than the bomb
only if our words, our voices
our power of peace
can drive the missiles back.

if you ask me, dear Shaima,
I could not answer
but with only hope
only with a stamp
as the postal clerk
looks sympathetic when
I start to weep before her
will it arrive before you die?
only         if
only hope the letter comes
before the bombs,
a letter carried by millions of voices
a power with no threat
on the desert wind
hear the words:
NO TO WAR.

I met Shaima, an English student, at the Al Mustensyria University, probably the oldest university in the world.
The USA bombed it in April, 2003.
Theresa Wolfwood

 

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