Sunlit and dangerous, this country road.We are follicle and meat and terror andthe machines leave their shells naked on the ground.One soldier makes a museum in his basement.Each mannequin in brass, incombustible coats:I am walking between their blank faces,their bullets traveling at the speed of sound. One soldierwho roasted a pig on his porch barbecuing until sinews were tendertells me he waited above the Euphrates and if they tried to passeven 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 one soldier counts the child'ssteps. In the town, I drink a bottle of wine with that soldieramong barber shops, boot repair shops. Is she my friend? l weep to her.I've lost who I thought I loved and she says I didthis thing and to whom was that child beloved?Find common ground, the soldiers say. Humanizeyourselves. Classify the norm of who you're talking to, tryto echo it. Do this for your country, says one soldier; weare sharks wearing suits of skin. Zip up.This spring, in the chilly, barely blooming citySolmaz 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 and onesoldier says it is nightfall. I am tired. I did not mean for it to go onthis long. That soldier across the table, we lock eyes.He tells me: in the occupied land we are the arm, theyare the weapon. The weaponin this case is a person. Choose a personwho knows who is bad. Make themslice open the skin of their country: only theycan identify the enemy. Say yes or no: if a man squints whileunder the date palm; if a woman does not swing her armswhile walking. Sir, my child was not with the enemy.He was with me in this kitchen, making lebna at home.The yogurt still is fresh on his wrist.
Copyright © 2019 by Nomi Stone
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission.
Nomi Stone is a poet and an anthropologist, and the author of two poetry collections, Stranger’s Notebook (TriQuarterly 2008) and Kill Class (Tupelo 2019). Winner of a Pushcart Prize, Stone’s poems appear recently in POETRY, American Poetry Review, The New Republic, The Best American Poetry, Tin House, New England Review, and elsewhere. She has a PhD in Anthropology from Columbia and an MFA in Poetry from Warren Wilson, and she is an Assistant Professor in Poetry at the University of Texas, Dallas.
A poet and anthropologist explores the surprising world of war games in mock Middle Eastern villages in which the U.S. military trains. With deft lyrical attention, these documentary poems reveal the nuanced culture and violence of the war machine—alive and well within these basecamp villages, the American military, and, ultimately, the human heart.
“Part documentary, part poetry, Kill Class by Nomi Stone is completely arresting, unsettling, and crucial.”
—Rachel Morgan, Editor, North American Review