Poetic Reflections

on War and the War in Iraq


Building Peace in Iraq

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Some of the best images of the realities of war and violence in general I have found are in the wonderful book of “Iraq Poems” penned
by David Smith-Ferri
BATTLEFIELD WITHOUT BORDERS (Haley’s, 2008; and reprinted here with his permission).
Note: proceeds from the sale of this book go to Direct Aid Iraq, providing medical help to Iraqi refugees.

“There is no sanctuary.

Violence spreads its patterned cloth over our land and sets its table.

We eat and are eaten daily.” (May 2006, p. 35)

Most of us have little or no experience of such pervasive violence.

We may glimpse it for a moment on TV,

but then it’s gone.

But for the victims of war and other violence, there truly may be “no sanctuary.”

We are invited to provide a sanctuary in our hearts for such people, but it’s painful and we resist.

From Battlefield Without Borders

“I    A Tornado.

From a window in your home, you watch it step out of the sky, as if it were the sky itself,

and touch down and make its drunken and deafening way into your neighborhood. It swallows a school, your friend’s house, a hospital.

Wind from its whirring blades lifts the roof above your head and carries it away.



“II Lightning, striking fire in woods.

At the base of your family tree, grass ignites and hot orange tongues lick its trunk, climbing toward its canopy.

You hear your cousin scream as leaves on one side of the tree catch fire. A flaming branch cracks and falls.


“III A Volcano.

Out of its fiery belly, it spews dead bodies high into air, mothers and fathers, children and babies.

Bodies pile on top of each other.

You can still see the top of the pile of American soldiers,

even as it approaches three thousand feet above sea level,

but in Iraq, the pile has entered the stratosphere.

No one has measured it, and no one knows how high it will climb.”

(From “The Iraq War Described to a Child”)



 “There is no need for words.

There is a bottomless need for words.

“No need for a pack of canine words to drag that flaming body in pieces into our yards,

a stench of molten flesh into our kitchens, its pyroclastic screams into our bedrooms.

No need for someone to tell us what to feel, as though our human bodies had forgotten how to register horror,

as though the seismograph stylus had to be operated manually and from a remote location.

“A bottomless need for words:

words like tools clearing underbrush,

uncovering a footprint of culture,

of gender, of race and nationality.

Words like hands tunneling into earth,

fingers scratching at soil and rocks seeking hidden roots of hatred,

roots of violence, roots of privilege, and yes, somewhere,

if nonviolent life, unearthing histories, personal and communal.

“But first, a space.

A space where multiple waves of feelings can vibrate through us,

a massive initial shock and its inevitable aftershocks.

A space where silence can have its say.”

(July 2006, p. 132) From “Where Silence Can Have Its Say”