Carolyn Forché, “Letter to a City Under Siege”

carolyn forche bw
 
 
 
 
 
Carolyn Forché
 
 
 
 
 
“Letter to a City Under Siege”
 
 
 
 
 
Turning the pages of the book you have lent me of your wounded city,
reading the Braille on its walls, walking beneath ghost branches
of chestnuts, past fires that turn the bullet-shattered windows bronze,
flaring an instant without warming the fallen houses
where you sleep without water or light, a biscuit tin of nothing between you,
or later in the café ruins, you discuss all night the burnt literature
borrowed from a library where all books met with despair,
I wanted to give your notes back to you, so they might be
published in another language, not yours or mine but a tongue
understood by children who make bulletproof vests out of cardboard.
We could then lie down in the cemetery where violets grew in your childhood
before snipers fired on the city using gravestones for cover.
Friend, absent one, exile, I can tell you that your tunnel is still there,
mud-walled and hallowed of earth, through which you smuggled
oranges into the city—oranges!—bright as winter moons by the barrow-load.
So let’s walk further up the street, to the hill where one could see
the city woven in fog, roofs filled with sky, uprooted bridges
and a shop window where a shard of glass hung over the spine of a book.
The library burns on page sixty, as it burns in all the newspapers of the world,
and the clopping of horses’ hooves isn’t the sound of clopping horses.
This is where, through snow, a dog finds his way with, in its mouth, a human bone.
Quiet are the ruins of the houses of God. All the houses.
And what else, what more? No food no light no water. Even clocks aren’t spared.
But, my good friend, the tunnel! The oranges!

       – published in Boston Review
 
 
 
 
***
 
 
 
 

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~ by samofthetenthousandthings on February 21, 2016.

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