Tamika Beyer 2003

| Letters

The Hand
April, 2003

This is a protest poem
but I’m not sure to whom I should register my complaint.
I would like to protest the dismembered hand
draped across a tree branch close to a market
in an old neighborhood of Baghdad
bombed during its evening peak:
packed with women vying for the few, meager vegetables
to cook for the next day’s wartime meals.
Unsightly. Gruesome. Horrific.
How dare it enter my consciousness?

Perhaps I should complain to the woman whose hand
it once was. But it’s of no use-she’s dead.

Then I must complain to the British reporter who documented
the severed hand and other broken bodies in the marketplace.
But he only wrote what he witnessed.
We should expect no less of journalists.

Perhaps, then, I will protest to the Iraqi people for fighting to defend
their land and country. If they had welcomed our troops with cheers
and a laying down of guns, the hand would not have been liberated
from its slender wrist. But who would not fight for her home?
I would.

Therefore, I should probably register my complaint to evil
Saddam Hussein who refused to disarm and so forced us to invade.
But-no weapons of mass destruction have been found laying
deadly and waiting in the desert.

Then, I must complain to the United Nations, that venerable
institution, for allowing this preemptive and illegal act of war.
But I forget; they worked to prevent it at every turn.

So it is to George W. Bush then, to whom I must complain
about the dismembered hand whose image will not let me be.
He ordered the bombs to fall, the soldiers to kill.
But he is the president of this country, bound
to do the will of the people
(or so the story goes).

It must be then that we wanted this war.

It must be that we coveted, desperately
our sporty Durangos, our perfect, climate-controlled
split level houses and downtown condos. Our American
and god-given right to take to the open highway
and watch the farms and telephone poles go by-taking what we want
along the way, from California to Florida, D.C. to New York
taking what we want, wherever it may be.

Yes, it is to myself that I must complain.
I paid my taxes dutifully. Paid for a few inches
of the bomb that exploded where a woman stood
picking out a single lemon, weighing it in her hand,
which was then was sliced off her arm by flying shrapnel
that sailed through the air
the smoke, the screams
to land gently
like a bird nesting
in the crook
of an ancient olive tree.

Tamiko Beyer
Brooklyn, NY
(Originally published in Paradise 29 artel, 2005)