Words After Violence

The madness of what has happened in Bombay leaves us speechless, even as the media din around evacuates words from their meaning.

So it only appropriate that we borrow words to remind us, in the midst of death, what it means to live.

On January 11, 1998, unidentified gunmen entered a movie theater and a small mosque in Sidi Ahmed near Algiers and massacred 120 men, women, and children at close range during Algeria’s ongoing civil conflict.

Disbeliever

By the limping of the people of Iraq
By the sound of frantic running in Qana, in Kosovo
By the men and boys of Hama massacred
By the swollen bodies in a river in Rwanda
and Afghani women and the writers of Algiers,
I am a disbeliever

in everything that refuses to kiss
full on the lips the ones still living
and receive them into the bosom of the self,
no matter the religion or the nation or race
I am a disbeliever in everything
that does not say “How was the movie? I love you”

I need a body outside my life that can travel and kneel
on the sidewalk beside a movie theater in Algiers
over the bodies of the supple children
who will never be my children’s playmates or marry them
over the bodies of the men and the women
who will never write a letter,
will never phone me from Algiers:
“How was the movie? I love you. I love you.”

I need time outside this history
where I can whisper in the ear of each of them,
By God, you will never be forgotten
By God, I will make sure the world
buries its face in your beautiful hair,
sings to you, learns your name and your music,
lifts you up in the crook of its arm like a gift

I am a disbeliever
in everything but the purity of the bodies
of the men and women–with or without the veil,
with or without the markings of the right identity–
in everything but the suppleness of children
I am a disbeliever in every scripture
in the world that leaves out
“How was the movie? I love you. I love you.”

Mohja Kahf

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