Friday, August 17, 2007


Asra’a, (Alan Pogue) Abu Floos, © 2001.

"We had gone to celebrate the opening of the water treatment plant nearby when we stopped in the village of Abu Floos. Several children ran up to the bus. I noticed this little girl had no right arm and asked what had happened to her. The same plane that fired the missile that injured Mustafa had first fired a missile into Abu Floos. Asra’a had been on her way home from school when she was stuck by missile fragments. Twenty people were killed, one hundred injured and 65 houses were destroyed, but Asra’a survived. When I hear “No Fly Zone” it is her face that I see." (Alan Pogue)

Stronger Than An American Bomb

Mother held my sleeve
when the photographer came.

I can feel my fingers stretch
wide sometimes, wait for the other
fist to close.

I hurt less now, mainly
if people look.

I wake up afraid.

Mother holds me
says I am her beautiful child,
says I am stronger than
an American bomb.

(*Invented poem written to the photograph before I met Asra’a. SB)

Asra’a's New Arm, (Alan Pogue) Houston, © 2004.
"After two months of fittings and adjustments, Ted Muilenberg gives Asra’a a finished artificial arm." (Alan Pogue)

Poster Child

Asra’a stands next to a world famous photograph of herself. I was nervous about meeting her. I don’t speak Arabic and my country is bombing hers. How is it possible that she does not hate us? A friend translates. I tell her Alan said she liked bracelets and I’ve brought some. Asra’a accepts a pink Strauss Crystal bracelet and two necklaces, one shell and one made of black stone. She is fourteen-years-old. Alan photographed her in Iraq, and then spent three years arranging for her to come to America to be fitted for a prosthetic arm. Asra’a has been plucked from a village where bombs explode between home and school, where hundreds of people have depleted uranium sickness, where the water is bad, where her mother and five siblings wait for her return. She and her father work with doctors in Houston to make the arm work. She’s to wear it for short periods each day. Asra’a and her father have not traveled out of Iraq before. How must we look to them? Asra’a sits beside me. She shows me her watch. I point to the 12 and say “twelve.” Then point to the 1 and say “one.” She begins to count. She says the numbers in English from one to 24. I ask her for the numbers in Arabic. I am a dolt in foreign languages, but repeat each number as she carefully pronounces it for me. Her father checks on us, corrects my pronunciation. We count in Arabic to twelve, then to 24. Asra’a counts in English to thirty, then forty. She gets confused in the teens and goes back to them. We count again, laughing when she gets the numbers right more often than I do. I remember learning to count in Norwegian, an astounding process that involves addition, fractions and thinking back and forth in time. Asra’a counts to fifty, and sixty and seventy, then eighty. In the exhibit hall I point to a photograph of her family. She tells me one woman is “aunt” and shows me “brother” and “sister.” She says one is “Mama.” She shows me a photograph of “house.” And one of “school.” She points to an open sewer in the street and to a photo of people who have gathered to repair the water treatment plant. If we can open our hearts, children will teach us what they need and how to communicate with them.

Asra’a’s Home, (Alan Pogue) Abu Floos, © 2003.

"The View from Asra’a’s Front Door, (Alan Pogue) Abu Floos, ©2003.
An open sewer runs down the street and around the corner. Off to the right is an open trash dump." (Alan Pogue)

Asra’a’s School, (Alan Pogue) Abu Floos, ©2003.
"There is little between Asra'a's school and home at which to aim missiles, except children and their families." (Alan Pogue)

Poems, ©Susan Bright, 2007

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-ninety 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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Blogger Ivan G. Goldman said...

The same u.s. religious crazies who think it's ok to blow up a little girl's arm to get at some petroleum also are certain Jesus would approve and in fact are certain he favors machine guns for citizens too, but they tell you not to drink wine. I could be wrong, but as i read the bible Jesus drank wine and was never known to own a machine gun.

4:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


As usual, your work is lovely, tender - touches our hearts and compassion, our rationality and sanity.

6:50 AM  

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