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Friday, September 13, 2013


by Rick Gray

Horns honked nonstop, and car radios blasted Afghan pop and patriotic tunes. Dancing crowds overwhelmed traffic circles as grinning police looked on. Flares and rockets arced and sparked overhead, and celebratory gunshots rang out, but no one flinched. . . . "It was not lost on the celebrants that Wednesday was the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States that had branded their country a terrorist haven and plunged it into war once more. All day, national television stations here replayed film clips of New York’s twin towers falling and featured solemn interviews with experts about the event." --Washington Post, September 12, 2013. Image source: Twitter.

From a distance it sounds like
More war
But drive in closer and reach
Your open hand
Outside the cracked window
And feel it take hold.
This is nothing like what you dreamed.
It leads you recklessly into cheering mobs
beside your taxi, and won’t let go.
You are together now, and committed
Just like you said you always wanted
And with its free hand it pulls
the trigger of a rusted Kalashnikov
That shouts in English, just for you,
Straight up into thirty years of darkness
It’s over! Afghanistan two! India nothing!

Rick Gray has poems forthcoming in Salamander and Rkvry. His essay Total Darkness will appear in the forthcoming book Neither Here Nor There: An Anthology of Reverse Culture Shock. He teaches at the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul. When not in Kabul, he lives with his wife and twin daughters in Florida.