for the Buddhas of Bamiyan
by Karen Kovacik
If we gain something,
it was there from the beginning.
If we lose something, it is hidden nearby.
Between the empire of
and the empire of Rome,
in an oasis along the Silk Road,
you heard pomegranates
in Latin and Farsi and Greek.
Chinese generals, Persian merchants,
inventors of gunpowder
fanciers of rhubarb and bronze:
all conducted their commerce
in your shadow: you
who saw monasteries cut from mountains,
you who were sculpted out of sandstone,
who listened to the
whispers of Christians;
who welcomed Muslims and Manicheans,
disciples of Nestor and Zoroaster.
Leopards and lions rolled
in their cages, actors
mimicked peacocks and parrots, travelers
through the Taklamakan Desert
gave thanks to plural gods.
You who survived Genghis Khan’s cannon,
who saw the British
retreat, then Soviets and Americans,
you whom the Taliban ringed
with burning tires blacking your face,
you with dynamite in
your groin, you witness
to starving farmers, to secret schools for girls:
for fourteen centuries you stood fast
still at Siddhartha
on the night of his enlightenment,
as much a part of this valley as the wind.
Who will know you now
by your absence,
remembering your before?
When the night comes, who will know you?
When the ash falls,
who will know you?
After earthquakes and eclipses,
whenever there is fire,
how to feel you filling
us and leaving us,
abiding in the grottoes
of our breath?
says, “Rigoberta Menchú is just some
Guatemalan woman they wrote a book about,”
and I reply
by Felicia Martinez
Sister, Rigoberta is just a woman
who fled barefoot from her burning hut in the highland
just another sister lover cousin mother
who left behind a brother neighbor uncle father
a bloody leg, a fleshy skull
that soldiers piss on during patrol
She’s just another Maya
who trips across borders to avoid the bullet
aching to kiss her temple
when she comes home
Do you know Calixta
who serves you burritos at the corner taquería?
Do you know María
whose son patches your leaky roof?
Do you know Irena
who stoops to pick strawberries for your summer
Can you read to Xuwin
the words painted on the tractor
“Made in the USA”
so she knows who uproots her cornfields back home?
how tight can you shut your eyes?
Will the think layer of flesh protect you
from the barrel aimed between your brows
when you decide to wake?
by Susan Lloyd McGarry
Walking towards the clothesline,
careful in the night, I measure
my steps as if on a tightrope.
A dark shape
becomes familiar in my arms—
the flannel nightgown cool to my touch.
Each piece of clothing smells of
fresh. Morning in my arms,
though the lines above me melt into night.
The wooden clothespins shut
in my hand before I drop them in the bucket,
as my mother dropped them, and her mother and hers...
I stand in the mystifying dark
to a lonesome peeper.
Could we wash words? Claim them
back from buying and selling,
from the lack of care? Wash them one
by one, hang them to dry,
then gather them in our arms,
the ordinary words.
Would you do this?
Would you use them to say
what you mean?
To say love,
to say new, to say