Language Lesson from the Defense Department
In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defence of the
— George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language,” 1946
Weapons of mass destruction:
packed with a punch,
small as an atom:
a large legacy.
Enhanced interrogation techniques:
The Latin tortura means twisted
(because twisted minds twist bodies,
burn them at the stake, slice, pull nails).
In modern times we enhance tortura
by waterboarding and Abu Ghraibing.
Proxy and war together:
Two marionettes dancing
to the beat of a war drum.
Note that noncombatants
always die in war
no matter if they are wearing
a bride’s veil in Kandahar
or kicking a soccer ball
on the beach in Gaza.
If they sliver the sky
and silver and redden the earth
according to plan,
they would be doing
their apocalyptic job.
Like the warp and weft of Persian rugs,
fires from bombs weave their way into
the smallest spaces, bond with flesh.
These carpets snuff out oxygen
of hospitals, homes, history.
People awash with guns and dollars
cleanse away the Others—not by water
but by hellfire missiles
or carpet bombing
One winning strategy:
force them to flee from fear.
As opposed to untargeted,
which is generally less acceptable
(though both have their time and place).
Humanitarian pause in the killing:
Noise of F-16s disappears.
Pallid faces, squinting eyes greet rubble.
Rice and yogurt arrive.
Corpses cleared, time to count family members.
Basement doors creak open again
then shutter as stores re-shutter.
A few hours of paper-thin peace
to give attackers a break.
Zeina Azzam is a Palestinian-American writer, poet, editor, and community activist. Her poems are published in Pleiades, Heartwood Literary Magazine, Sukoon Magazine, Mizna, Split This Rock, The Fourth River, Lunch Ticket, Infinite Rust, and the edited volumes Bettering American Poetry (forthcoming), Making Mirrors: Writing/Righting by and for Refugees, and Gaza Unsilenced, among others. Zeina holds an M.A. in Arabic literature from Georgetown University.