Sister Yvette, ©Alan Pogue, 1998, Baghdad
Like many of Alan's photographs, this photo of a nun
and children taken in a Baghdad Catholic Church
in 1998, is hauntingly perfect. She was unable to
protect the children in her care, her city, country.
We can do no better in America when violence
smashes the small moments of our daily lives.
As horrific as was the tragedy at Virginia Tech
this week, it was like a normal day in Baghdad
(198 killed yesterday there). We are all prey
to a world culture addicted to violence.
Here is what the National Alliance on Mental
Illness says about the relationship between mental illness
Sister Yvette —
arms stretched wide, gathers Iraqi children,
boys on one side, girls on the other.
Her slim body like a white crucifix at the apex
of communion animates the simple altar of
a church in Baghdad.
Arms spread wide, Sister Yvette holds back a host
of children while overhead war planes whine
and thunder, sirens scream, and Empire hovers
like the Anti-Christ.
Sister Yvette, arms spread wide holds back,
for an instant, the tide of war, while beneath
her feet, deep in folds that bleed like the womb
of life, oil blinds us to alternatives.
Iraqi children, for a moment,
are safe, confessed, pure as light.
Sister Yvette, arms spread wide stands like a white
wood cross, holds back, for an instant, the horror
of bombs falling from the sky, one small woman
listening to the children, listening to the children.
©Susan Bright, 2001
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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