Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Do Not Mind the Bombs

by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

I N B E LGI U M , I remember
they called this day White Monday. Belgium was my
home when I was learning words like God
and doubt and faith. Belgium was my home
when I entered the country called Man. There,
in that land where I’d learned to fall in love
with learning, winter always stayed and stayed,
the days too dark, the rains incessant, pounding,
pounding—and all the sleepers dreamed of sun
and shirtless days. Shirtless, shoeless days.
I remember: trains, leaves, trees. Remember
too that aging, tired woman who’d told me why
the trees grew straight and tall in rows
in Belgium’s rain-soaked earth.
I remember what she’d said: “The trees,
we planted them in rows. When the war
was fi nally won.” I pictured her young,
a handsome husband at her side. At last the war
was done! At last! And before they planted crops,
they planted trees—the trees the war had stolen
from the earth. “What the bombs had not destroyed,
we chopped for fuel. Their stumps and branches
gave us warmth. The land was bare and spent.
The earth, it reeked of guns and blood and rotting
fl esh. And so we planted trees. And as we worked
we found reminders of the war. A rifl e, empty
shells, the remains of a man, a bullet through
his chest, his uniform turning to dust. We called
the priest and blessed the bones. A boy! I knew
he’d been a boy. Belgian, English, French! Bah!
He was a boy! I cried that night for all
the world had lost—then woke and fi nished
planting. And through the years, we watched
the growing trees. Before my mother died, she went
from tree to tree, kissing leaves and branches.
‘Have you gone mad?’ I yelled. And she screamed
back: ‘I am, at last, in love!’ She smelled of leaves
and bark the night she breathed her last. The day I buried
her, I leaned against a tree and wept. I swear, I swear
I smelled her breath as I leaned against that tree.”
Today, I hear that woman’s voice as I
read the morning news—the news of bombs,
of all the deaths, Americans, Iraqis, children, women,
men. Dead. Like π the blood and bodies
run into infi nity. I walk outside, the sky as clear
as simple boyhood words mamá, papá, y agua. Oh
for a day when this would be my only task—to sit
and memorize the blueness of a sky.
Better now to study
trees that grow on desert sands than to study war.
So I begin to count the leaves on limbs
of waking trees. I know that wars are raging
everywhere. Even in my heart. Do not mind
the bombs. Do not mind them, not today.
I wander through my yard,
examining the plants. I lost some to the freeze—but
most survived. I touch and kiss the tender leaves
and speak to them, half lost, half crazed,
and half expecting trees and plants
and shrubs to kiss me back. Perhaps, today,
they’ll kiss me back. I touch a desert bush—yellow
fl owers bursting like a fl ame, spring’s fi rst blaze
of light. The dog running up and down and up
and down the yard, then rolling on the grass
to scratch her back. I laugh and speak
to her. The wars are everywhere. I’ll plant
another tree. Something to survive the torture
of the sun. Something to withstand a thousand
years of drought.
I touch a tree I planted
years ago. I touch and touch. Oh, do not mind
the bombs today. Kiss me, kiss me back.

From Dreaming the End of War

Friday, October 10, 2008

Sorry, No Maxwelling For Me

So disappointed. He's coming to Chicago, and I didn't hear anything about it. Tickets have been on sale since last month. And I didn't hear anything about it. Damn it! I like love this guy.