Forgiveness, ©Alan Pogue, 2000, Basra, Iraq
Candy drove a truck during the first Gulf war,
and then helped bury thousands
of Iraqi soldiers along the Road of Tears.
She was raped. She was infected
by Gulf War Syndrome.
Candy was horrified by the carnage,
and ashamed of hating the Iraqi people —
When she returned to Iraq in 1999
to fix the water treatment plants in Basra —
Candy wanted to apologize
to the Iraqi people for her part
in the devastation of their country.
Mustafa was four when he was injured
by fragments from an American bomb
that exploded outside his home, in Basra, in 1999.
In America Mustafa heard an airplane pass over head.
“Hide, hide Mother!”
His mother said, “No, no they
don’t drop bombs here.”
“Yes, yes they will!” he said,
so Um Haider again said,
“Americans don’t drop bombs
on Americans. Only in Iraq,”
But Mustafa insisted,
“They will know,”
“They will know we are Iraqi
and they will bomb us.”
Mustafa, ©Alan Pogue, 2000, Basra
Mustafa was playing outside in the street with
his brother. Haider, when a US plane fired a Cruise
Missile into the street killing Haider and placing 130 pieces of
metal into Mustafa.
When the Arab American women met with
Um Haider in a circle of women one asked,
“Where does your strength come from?”
To bring Mustafa to America for
medical treatment —
there are 130 pieces of shrapnel
in his small body —
Um Haider had to leave her
husband, four children, and extended family,
just before Shock and Awe.
“When I eat,” she says,
“I think of my children and I don’t
think they have food.
I think how can I pass this food
through my lips?”
When Candy met Um Haider,
and spoke the apology that was her
own best hope for sanity
Um Haider said, “You are a victim
of this war, just like I am.”
If you ask Um Haider where her
strength comes from, she will say
“I am a mother.”
One woman, and another, and another
begin a long apology —
mother to mother, to son, to child, to daughter
“forgive us, this is wrong”—
a million people, more
until there is enough forgiveness to end
the violence one person at a time.
©Susan Bright, 2003, published in The Layers of Our Seeing, 4th edition
print date: 12/08/06.
Susan Bright is the author of nineteen books of poetry. She is the editor of Plain View Press which since 1975 has published one-hundred-and-fifty books. Her work as a poet, publisher, activist and educator has taken her all over the United States and abroad. Her most recent book, The Layers of Our Seeing, is a collection of poetry, photographs and essays about peace done in collaboration with photographer Alan Pogue and Middle Eastern journalist, Muna Hamzeh.
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