H.D. Palimpsest (These Walls Don’t Fall)

On April 6, 2016, an Iraqi college student flying from L.A. to Oakland was removed from a Southwest Airlines flight after another passenger heard him speaking in Arabic on his cell phone.

An ‘inshallah’ here and there,
some threats sent (and retweeted)
through your (and my) feed:

terror of Muslims — no offense–
causing the wheels to halt, the passengers
to disembark from the plane

in hijabs, thawbs, prayerbeads
clicking, the prophecy scrawled
on a paper napkin:

there, as here, bombs resound
in the market, temple, mosque; then
as now, an ambiguous sin:

sudden death from below or
falling from the sky, here,
there, puffs of sand

mark an absence, an open room
where a wall was, or
a stump for a hand:

so in the devastation
a drone strikes, collateral damage haunts us
in the gloom:

unaware, the satellites zoom
in on the craft, ‘Reaper’
or ‘Predator’ we know not:

we type furiously on our devices;
fighting, arguing
in comment streams — we’ve got

too much to say, we post to our walls
where ‘likes’ proliferate,
hieroglyphs of modern affect;

Iraq has nothing to teach us,
we see ourselves in a funhouse mirror,
slow faces melting in hate,

letting the pressure build until
bile bursts from our fingers
(what people will say online!):

inside, mediated pathos,
outside, the whirl of a virtual floor
throws off our footing

and we scroll down, drunk,
searching for a door
that is not there:

the body was made for
no such long sitting without moving,
yet the eyeballs cling to the screen:

the ass? it has grown numb,
the heart sinks down, dead weight,
joints, muscles atrophied, skin gone sallow,

yet the dream holds:
we share the meme: we wonder
who made it? what for?


This poem originally appeared in Dispatches From the Poetry Wars.

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