I’ve added a couple of poems into the mix of Seven Years. Here’s one on the page. You can also listen to a live recording of it here.
You told us through translation
that your seventh child was born beside a road.
You were walking to the hospital.
a neighbor tied off the umbilical chord
and you walked on, I suppose, the newborn
crying in your arms, breathing the dust into his new lungs.
Six years later, sitting in an elementary school office in America
answering the social worker’s questionnaire.
That old dinosaur of a woman, she’s doing the best she can
with her clipboard and her pen, but the boy still hits his classmates.
Still runs from the teacher.
You told me, in your tiny living room,
two cups of steaming tea sitting between us,
that you aren’t sure how to raise your children
here. How to guard them. How to guide them
crossed the curious landscape of Western values,
urban problems, culture gaps.
Incredulous, offended, and distraught, you asked me:
“Can you believe that two teenagers would
kiss on the sidewalk right in front of us? In front of my
children’s eyes? This is not proper.”
You told me – sitting across the table – that
your daughter saw everything the day you
were attacked. The weapons in the
rough hands of the militia men.
The bag over your head.
Your knees in the dirt. And when
they aired Saddam Hussein’s execution on TV
years later, you told me she saw it all again.
For all evil and despair, I have not
words to respond. Can Good and Beauty
transcend sorrow, transcend culture, transcend language?
Could you and I believe together
that the LORD’s love is mysterious and steadfast,
that his mercies are new each time the planet spins? That
into our dark and aimless exile he reaches to take hold?
You told me, in an ancient tongue, that
all of this is so. I sat alone watching the sky turn
purple above the silent buildings, a cup of steaming coffee
sitting between us. That long-dead prophet’s tears
flowed from my eyes, pooling on the pages
where tragedy and promise are written.