War and Suicide


Co-winner Ully Hirsch/Robert F. Nettleton Poetry Prize
Published: April 22, 2010

I. Suicide

In desert cities,

housewives wear head scarves and rubber slippers.

At noon,

army tanks parade down sand paved streets like hulking green whales

mosquito pesticide erupting from their blowholes.

As the yellow gas approaches like vapor dandelions sprouting midair

the women scatter along with the mosquitoes.

Racing down sun bleached hallways

they fling open windows and doors

as if this were an exorcise.


In their hoarse Arab accents

they wail in sorrow.

Not because they are sad, but because they have been singing like this

since they were children.


Their legs gliding beneath their swivel hips

to a song still gripping at their waists.

These women walk like the desert, every step concealing the last.

With enough gypsy and mirage weaved into them

they will remain suspicious, always.


Once the trucks have trundled on

the women uncoil, stretching across velvet rugs and kitchen tile

they wait for the yellow haze

their afternoon God, their sole visitor for the day

waft in like a prince.

The women undress slowly, turning themselves on with anticipation

their bellybuttons springing off the ground in delight.

Teasingly, they tug at their cotton underwear and the gold chains around their necks

pouting as they point to mosquito bites

and bruises their husbands left behind the previous night.


II. War

The women try to speak

their throats like flair guns

Sodden with saliva from decades of clenched lips

Unable to ignite, they prepare to sink.


Men with rifle limbs

Trigger angled and pistol jointed

Want to be touched


Don’t they understand it’s dangerous?