POETRY Pollution Report “Particulates and ozone levels are up in several cities today” The Chicago Tribune The Streets of Kandahar The sheets are rumpled, pillows ragged from the night. “Tell me there is some end in sight,” she says, “something I cannot see or hear.” We have awakened to the news: jets dropping tons of bombs on Kandahar, two young Baptists, rescued, confessing that they have maybe spoken a little about Jesus, have, possibly, broken the word they gave not to speak of the man who was a truth sayer. No irony, only a deep-seated desire to spread some other person’s truth, to spread a “gospel” which is truth. Sly grins, such joy. “Tell me we are bombing people for some great truth, for more than a matter of simple vengeance.”Two testaments, so many words for truth, for gospel, so many testimonies they ricochet across the news and through old texts searched for single lines to support whatever we might choose. “Is He on our side?” she asks. “Does His blood stream in the firmament just behind the cover of B-52s? The sky seems so red, crimson.” We watch the stream of refugees, see men who look alike, some hunched over, dragging others. They all hold the same old book. So many dead. Towers fall. In the fields, a young woman gleans the wheat, selects small kernels to feed herself, her baby, her aging mother. The picture flickers, fades out to a voice over telling us that we are winning, the evil ones are on the run. They flee from people wearing turbans, long beards, flowing brown and gray robes, reflections from the same old books. The caves are full of scrolls, sacred words from the beginning of something that woke and stirred in the deserts and the passes long before we crossed an ocean. Listen: birds once flew hereravens and doves. A small boy kicks a ball, another bounces it from foot to foot then uses the side of his foot to send it whistling to another. They laugh, run with joy down dusty streets, bang the ball from foot to head. They are not yet dead. I had supposed they were, that some bomb, smart or dumb, would land in the streets of Kandahar. Into the streets of death, children thunder, backward and forward, screams rise to the sky, drown out for some brief moment, the roar, the shriek, the sound of bright machinery. The great game sweeps overhead. And I am dumb, can neither speak nor write. Clouds of dust obscure the sun. Particulates drop on particular people, though the newspaper just lists the cities Los Angeles, long number one, overtaken by Houston, New York City coming on third. It is my daughter, an angel, who inhales the smog sulphuric in the city of angels, no longer a heaven or even a haven as it was for those lured with false promises, escaping the Dust Bowl. My poor kid is starstruck, hangs out on Hollywood and Vine, has her coffee iri the same drugstore where Lana Turner got her big break. In the city of heartbreak and freeways, where every scene is beheld thanks to smogin the sepia tint of old photographs, my daughter does not know that her grandfather came to this valley thinking he would get to pick apples in Eden. David Ray H. Palmer Hall David Ray lives in Tucson and is the author of many volumes of poetry, including Sam’s Book and Demons in the Diner. One Thousand Years is his 2002 collection of poems about the Holocaust from Holy Cow! Press. He has recently won the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation Poetry Award. Studs Terkel has written, “David Ray’s poetry has always been radiant even though personal tragedy has suffused it.” H. Palmer Hall is the library director at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio. Recent work has appeared in North American Review, The Texas Review, and Ascent. His most recent book is Deep Thicket & Still Waters. Naomi Shihab Nye 10/11/02 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 21
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