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Tuesday, May 01, 2018


by Mary O'Melveny

Women at the site of a car-bomb attack in Kabul in May 2017. Credit Shah Marai/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images via The New York Times.           Afghan photographer Shah Marai was among the nine journalists killed in Kabul on Monday as they “rushed to the site of yet another bombing, when a second attacker detonated his explosives amid the reporters and first responders. Altogether 25 people were killed.”  —The New York Times, April 30, 2018          A week before, “on April 22, 2018, an ISIS-affiliated suicide bomber in Kabul, Afghanistan killed at least 57 and injured more than 120 people lining  up to receive national identity cards that would allow them to vote in  the country’s parliamentary elections.  Twenty-two women and eight children were among those killed.  A neighborhood resident,  Mohammad Kalgrim, told a reporter ‘I have carried so many bodies that I cannot even talk.’ Most survivors of the blast said they were no longer likely to cast votes.” The New York Times, April 22, 2018

Our dead lie scattered
like funerary flowers
while tattered voter cards
sift downward past shards
of glass.  Entwined with ashes,
like ribbons of faded hours,
they land in drainage moats
where torn school uniforms
drift past like tiny boats
in reddened waters.

We must endure, if able,
the weight of such sorrow.
A small girl whose pink schoolbag
becomes her final pillow.
The body of her young mother,
hollowed out like a vessel.
A clerk, smothered by debris,
lists at his wooden table,
still holding forms and pencils,
his stricken face sallow.

We bore them all away
from places that had heard
their final words.  We worked
all day harvesting slain
neighbors like crops.  None shirked
as firemen tried to wash away the sins
of our street corners
and cordons of policemen
tried to contain mourners
wailing above the din.

Once, the things we ferried
were cups of cinnamon tea,
books of ghazals, prayer carpets,
promises of prophets.  We passed time
at windowsills or waiting in lines.
We pursued relief from lesser grief
like failures of imagination.
Now, we move evidence of ruination.
Unbalanced by weight of what we carried,
we have been silenced.

Mary O'Melveny is a recently-retired labor rights lawyer and "emerging" poet living in Washington, DC and Woodstock, NY.  Her work has been published in various print and on-line journals and on blog sites such as Writing in a Woman's Voice and Women in Woodstock.  Her first poetry chapbook A Woman of a Certain Age will be published in September, 2018 by Finishing Line Press.