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Friday, March 23, 2018


by Bonnie Naradzay

Mansour Omari smuggled the strips of cloth bearing his fellow-detainees’ names by sewing them into the collar and cuffs of a shirt. Photograph by Miriam Lomaskin / US Holocaust Memorial Museum via The New Yorker.

Omari “said to them, ‘What do you think if we write the names of all the people, since we can’t memorize all of them?’” he told me. “Of course, they said yes.” —“Written in Blood and Rust from a Syrian Prison: ‘Don’t Forget Us’ by Robin Wright, The New Yorker, December 19, 2017

When they called my name, I grabbed Shurbaji’s shirt.
It was blue and white striped. He was saving it
for his wedding as soon as he could get out
but he gave us his shirt to smuggle our names.
The tailor honed a chicken bone for a quill.
Shurbaji, the other journalist, was skilled
at handwriting, so he etched the names on strips
of cloth. We made ink from rust scratched off cell bars,
mixed with blood that Omar slowly collected.
Making the quill a needle now, the tailor
pulled the threads in Shurbaji’s shirt to embed
the strips of names inside the cuffs and collar,
replaced the threads. Omar the tailor is dead.
The first one called out takes the shirt. When I heard
my name I grabbed his blue and white wedding shirt.
They transferred me to another underground
prison and still another. I saved the shirt.
Sweat blurred some names by the time I was released.
My love, we are coming back. Don’t forget us.
Our group of five shared a space of three floor tiles.
Still unfolding in the news, the dead, the names
of all eighty-five of us, sharing space in there.
She learned that Shurbaji died after three years
In prison and terrible beatings. My love,
My love, we are coming back. Shurbaji sang.
He’d kept the shirt in prison for the wedding.
Don’t forget us. My love, see the names. His shirt.

An all-too-truthful mash-up of two photos from Eastern Ghouta, Syria.

Bonnie Naradzay’s poems have appeared in New Letters, Tampa Review, Tar River Poetry, Poet Lore, JAMA, Pinch, Passager, Innisfree, The Guardian, Seminary Ridge Review, Anglican Theological Review, Split This Rock, TheNewVerse.News, and others.