Sophia's Peace Work

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Here is my poem about the house I am currently living in ... in a moment of heat-induced weakness (the dorms at the University have no AC) I accepted an offer to live at the house of a wealthy Shiek who lives right on the river Tigris. It's a great place, but a strange place as well and I don't like the bunker mentality that seems to envelop these heavily-guarded houses. But I'm only here for a few weeks and it's helped me to strengthen (slightly) my arabic. [Added note: a mudhif is a house made of marsh grasses and typical of Marsh Arab construction. juwo and barra are Iraqi arabic words for inside and outside.]

In the house of the closed doors

There are steps down to the river, loose stones, a bar of soap
The oily, brown water slides by placidly
But there are whirlpools that arise and play from the turbulence beneath.

There is a mudhif in the garden, an unused swing and fountains with no wishes ... not even a penny's worth
The fluffy chickens strut idly by
But there is talk of politics on smooth, white stone.

There are men, many men, in knots and in guard towers, vigilant and smiling
The garden is quiet with a fire hose pumping river water an inch deep
But there are dark cars lined up at the ready.

There is the sound of the generator, helicopters overhead and gunfire in the distance
The men go about their business as they've always done
But we are not apart from the events in this city.

There is a house with closed doors, a lock with only two keys, two key masters
The mirrored domes echo my flute nicely
But we're all locked out by language and understanding.

Stay inside they tell me, in this house, behind this gate.
Here is safety, danger is outside, stupid, foolish Westerner
But they speak behind closed doors and that's what they know.

I agree, yes ... you are right, yes ... there is danger
But there is no life behind closed doors
Life is not just juwo, it is barra ... not only inside but out.

(And if I held safety so dear ... why would I have left my home to come to this place and stay behind closed doors?)


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