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Friday, February 26, 2010


by David O’Connell

but in two hundred years, they’ll sit for the play
with an Iraqi in the attic who sweeps and does dishes
then heals the dysfunctional American family,

because there is no wisdom like the wisdom
of the conquered, because, like us,
they’ll fear being conquered. In two hundred years

enough time will pass to meet this Iraqi with reverence,
for her long black shroud and sandpaper language,
for her tentative step and sharp blue eyes.

By then it will have dimmed— the IEDs, the secret prisons—
and they’ll weep in the dark when her proverb strikes true,
because it’s ancient and foreign and, like us,

they cure their shame like meat for the winter.
And when our grandchildren’s children’s grandchildren
burst from the theater, tucked into collars, bundled

to lovers, they’ll say out loud, to anyone listening,
how they’re blessed to live then, at the dawn of the century,
to be wiser than us, and ashamed at the manner

that we triumphed and crowed and were needed.
And that September, in lower Manhattan,
when the bell is rung and the names are read out,

some will remember,
some will be curious,
and some will race on toward the day.

David O’Connell’s poetry has previously appeared in Fugue, RATTLE, Drunken Boat, and Poet Lore, among other journals. In 2009, he was awarded the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts poetry fellowship. He has an MFA from Ohio State University.