for Philip Metres
I read their testimonies to darkness;
write: I am a poet poring over names
in the season of penitence. I am
the bodies, fasting in Lent; the voices
that slip from truth into arias of fear.
On the 25th anniversary of the war,
the thorny geographies of being
in this prison, in this time, frame
what is simply the standard operating
procedure of breaking relationships
into words and phrases bearing
the mark of unjust force observed. I am
disciplined. Every morning I circulate
the photographs. The photocopied
poems I read straight through. I work
with no trace of yellow highlighter,
nothing to project from the patterns
of torture the risk of transformation to joy.
2016 © Maureen E. Doallas
Last week, at his blog Behind the Lines, poet Philip Metres wrote about a project he is hosting throughout Lent. For his "Sand Opera Lenten Journey", Metres is posting a poem daily from his collection Sand Opera, which he created from his readings of the testimonies of American military personnel and Iraqis who were tortured in the infamous Abu Ghraib prison scandal (see also Metres's abu ghraib arias); each post also includes a quote from Scripture or an aphorism that frames the reading and another writer or poet's commentary. Metres's project, he says in his post, is "part of a digitally collective observance and meditation through poetry" that he hopes will serve as a calling to all of us "to come to terms with what it means to be citizens of empire, to ask ourselves how we might be participating in injustice simply by living in this time and place, and to find out ways that we ourselves might make more justice, more light, more love, and more peace."
My "found" poem above, written after reading the February 9, 2016, post, contributes my voice to those of others abjuring war and violence and advocating on behalf of peace. (My intention is to write a response to each Lenten Journey post at Behind the Lines.) Also see "A Lenten Journey: The Sand Opera Meditations (An Open Call)", January 22, 2016.
This Lent, join Metres and writers and poets offering their reflections in, beginning with "Sand Opera Lenten Journey Day One: Compline".
One of the most socially and politically conscious of poets, Philip Metres is the author also of A Concordance of Leaves (Diode, 2013; 2nd Ed., 2016), awarded the 2014 Arab American Book Award; Pictures at an Exhibition: A Petersburg Album (University of Akron Press, February 2016), I Burned at the Feast: Selected Poems of Arseny Tarkovsky (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2015), and abu ghraib arias (Flying Guillotine, 2011). Metres's Sand Opera (Alice James Books, 2015) received the Beatrice Hawley Award.