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Mondial Featured Poem: What I Do In The War

Read the Mondial

Because I cannot carry your dead child,

I sweep the deck of my friend

and fling the dry pine needles 

to the messenger breeze, and the strike

of my broom down the steps to the sea

is the shovel for digging the grave

and the birdsong is the keening

of your family and clinging companions 

Instead of joining you to claw the rubble

in search of your buried mother,

I will bring bread to my neighbour

who will serve it to her children,

and I chant your name in rhythm

to the shouts and earth movers

with the warm loaf in my hand

and the autumn air gripping my chest

I will serve tea to this welcome company

and offer a fragrant, poignant 

impotent wish for peace,

an as-salaam aleikum with each 

touch of the cup to silent lips,

while you grip your phone for news

and prepare to sleep on dark roads,

upon carpets that once had homes

Nothing in me can help you know 

if your daughter is alive or dead,

or which of those is worse,

so I will whisper b’shalom b’shalom

with each step up this mountain

from where my strength comes

and where my cries are left

and where the eagles loft and lift

You cannot bear witness to my sorrow

for those I love whom I do not know

so I will ring the Japanese garden bell

to reach all those unjustly taken away

I will listen to its resounding song

which ears hear for ten slow breaths

but which trees hear forever

and I pledge to each of you who suffers now

a place in its vibrating prayer 

Amir Peter O’Loughlin

Mayne Island, B.C.  October 14, 2023

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