Excerpt: 'The War Works Hard'Excerpt: 'The War Works Hard'
Excerpt: 'The War Works Hard'
Dunya Mikhail Reads 'The War Works Hard'
The War Works Hard
by Dunya Mikhail
Paperback, 79 pages
List Price: $13.95
The War Works Hard
How magnificent the war is! How eager and efficient! Early in the morning, it wakes up the sirens and dispatches ambulances to various places, swings corpses through the air, rolls stretchers to the wounded, summons rain from the eyes of mothers, digs into the earth dislodging many things from under the ruins... Some are lifeless and glistening, others are pale and still throbbing... It produces the most questions in the minds of children, entertains the gods by shooting fireworks and missiles into the sky, sows mines in the fields and reaps punctures and blisters, urges families to emigrate, stands beside the clergymen as they curse the devil (poor devil, he remains with one hand in the searing fire)... The war continues working, day and night. It inspires tyrants to deliver long speeches, awards medals to generals and themes to poets. It contributes to the industry of artificial limbs, provides food for flies, adds pages to the history books, achieves equality between killer and killed, teaches lovers to write letters, accustoms young women to waiting, fills the newspapers with articles and pictures, builds new houses for the orphans, invigorates the coffin makers, gives grave diggers a pat on the back and paints a smile on the leader's face. The war works with unparalleled diligence! Yet no one gives it a word of praise.
Bag of Bones
What good luck! She has found his bones. The skull is also in the bag the bag in her hand like all other bags in all other trembling hands. His bones, like thousands of bones in the mass graveyard, his skull, not like any other skull. Two eyes or holes with which he listened to music that told his own story, a nose that never knew clean air, a mouth, open like a chasm, was not like that when he kissed her there, quietly, not in this place noisy with skulls and bones and dust dug up with questions: What does it mean to die all this death in a place where the darkness plays all this silence? What does it mean to meet your loved ones now with all of these hollow places? To give back to your mother on the occasion of death a handful of bones she had given to you on the occasion of birth? To depart without death or birth certificates because the dictator does not give receipts when he takes your life? The dictator has a heart, too, a balloon that never pops. He has a skull, too, a huge one not like any other skull. It solved by itself a math problem That multiplied the one death by millions to equal homeland The dictator is the director of a great tragedy. He has an audience, too, an audience that claps until the bones begin to rattle— the bones in bags, the full bag finally in her hand, unlike her disappointed neighbor who has not yet found her own.
I Was In A Hurry
Yesterday I lost a country. I was in a hurry, and didn't notice when it fell from me like a broken branch from a forgetful tree. Please, if anyone passes by and stumbles across it, perhaps in a suitcase open to the sky, or engraved on a rock like a gaping wound, or wrapped in the blankets of emigrants, or canceled like a losing lottery ticket, or helplessly forgotten in Purgatory, or rushing forward without a goal like the questions of children, or rising with the smoke of war, or rolling in a helmet on the sand, or stolen in Ali Baba's jar, or disguised in the uniform of a policeman who stirred up the prisoners and fled, or squatting in the mind of a woman who tries to smile, or scattered like the dreams of new immigrants in America. If anyone stumbles across it, return it to me please. Please return it, sir. Please return it, madam. It is my country... I was in a hurry when I lost it yesterday.