Saturday, December 11, 2004

128. Two Families (poem)


for about four hours,
no water, my brother
missing, Aunt Salah
dead, the same bomb
killing all three children.

Mark joined the Marines
in June, just after
high school graduation;
he got sent to Iraq
last March, got killed
in Fallujah.

my uncle,
after the funeral,
moved in with us, no longer
noisy and cheerful,
prone to bursts of sobbing,
said he'd join the new police.

Mark played tight end
on the football team;
he took Courtney Phillips,
the most popular girl in school,
to the senior Prom, gave her his ring,
she thought he was so cool.


my father
wouldn't let us go to school,
my sister and I, the kidnappings:
he pretended it was all a joke,
said he couldn't afford the ransom
for a pair of princesses.

Courtney says Mark
told her about joining up,
said he was afraid to tell
his folks, his mom would
just worry, and his dad,
he said, would kill him.

a car bomb
(we could hear the blast at home)
killed the police recruits
lined up on the sidewalk,
and at first we thought
my uncle was among them.

Mark's dad, Mr Kenneally,
had served in the 7th Cav
in Vietnam, he ran
a real-estate company in town;
his wife worked at Wal-Mart, they both
broke down when he told them.


for several days
we asked everywhere for news
and there was no news;
finally, three weeks later
a scribbled message arrived,
my uncle was with the resistance.

Mark did well at Basic,
got his sharpshooter's badge
and came home on furlough;
we went out to the Stagecoach,
got drunk, he said his parents
were OK, but Courtney was cold.

my poor father
puts on a necktie every morning,
kisses my mother, says good bye
to us girls, takes up his briefcase
and goes out to a job
we all know no longer exists.

Mark used to send e-mails
after he first got to Iraq;
at first the letters were full
of funny stories, after a while
they got harder to read,
a lot of strange religious stuff.


my friend Farah
is dead, killed with her father
by machine-gun fire;
they were driving behind
an American convoy, a bomb went off,
the soldiers shot them dead.

after the election
there's going to be a big attack
on a town called Fallujah;
we're gearing up, wrote Mark,
and if I don't make it, tell Courtney
I love her: she won't answer my e-mails.

we are frantic,
my father has been missing
for two days: my mother
has asked everybody, nobody
can tell us anything; also,
my uncle was killed in Fallujah.

a car came to the door,
two Marines in dress blues:
Mark's mom refused to see them,
his dad, in tears, let them in.
Mark is gone: now Courtney Phillips
says she always loved him.