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Gregory Orfalea Gregory Orfalea is the author of The Arab Americans: A History and several other books, including two poetry collections. “Difficult, playful, seeming to move at times to the very edge of speech,” his poems “escape the silence of history.” Orfalea is also coeditor of the groundbreaking anthology Grape Leaves: A Century of Arab American Poetry. Director of the Center for Writing at Pitzer College in Claremont, California, and professor of creative writing, he has served as a judge for the American PEN Award in Research Nonfiction. He and his wife have three sons, and he currently divides his time between Claremont and Washington, D.C. War And so it begins in play with the splashing in a small pool and the shriek at errant water in the eye, or legs swelling with adrenalin to run and leap. Soon they are in a heap. And the elder pushes the younger who has the audacity to be there. He stares at first deeply before crying at his brother as if for the first time. They were one breath of air, and now two. It is not long before the elder has a scar to show he is not the only one wrong. The day and night join—see the red pulled like seared flesh far off? They run. They laugh and grow and destroy. I can’t stop it. I know what happens to boys. 265 2CHARARA_pages_165-334.qxd:Layout 1 11/14/08 2:39 PM Page 265 The Bomb That Fell on Abdu’s Farm The Phantoms approached, we were told, like warps in the sky, like gossip gone real, aimed in steel at the eyes of the village. All the farmers and farmers’ boys ran to the rooftops and watched, for it was terrifying and beautiful to see a wedge of silver up from the South. And they began to fall with a vengeance, under the anti-aircraft that ringed Damascus and the villagers whooped for there seemed a magic field around their fields. Until a cow-shed flew in red to the sky. And a mother milking collapsed in her milk. The milk ran pink. Next door, in my great-uncle’s newlyirrigated fields, a bomb fell. The mud smothered it. The mud talked to it. The mud wrapped its death like a mother. And the bomb with American lettering did not go off. Water your gardens always. Always. 266 Gregory Orfalea 2CHARARA_pages_165-334.qxd:Layout 1 11/14/08 2:39 PM Page 266 The Spider Once, rain-touched, without woman, family or friend, in a country too caught in the middle to resist pain I was pulled into the circles of a willow backlit by a streetlamp. Rainwater glistened like glucose down the black-veined bark, whips of branches spiraling round as if the willow had spun out of the ground. Silent, clear, a pearl hung and beckoned—in. Was the light the spider, or I? Once, I was lonely as death but lifted my head in the web. Gregory Orfalea 267 2CHARARA_pages_165-334.qxd:Layout 1 11/14/08 2:39 PM Page 267 On the One in the Crook of My Chest By chance, or nuzzling fit, this boy has settled in the Fertile Crescent that begins at the nub of my chin and ends in the lap, that beginning. And for a few moments, the front of my rib cage and the back of his ribs fit perfectly, bone slatting into bone, fine Venetian blinds, comb on comb. Is it too possessing to whisper “My boy, ” when he fills this gap I once believed was my body? 268 Gregory Orfalea 2CHARARA_pages_165-334.qxd:Layout 1 11/14/08 2:39 PM Page 268 ...


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