Today the Americans
Are giving us books.
Books in our language
Books so we can teach
More than what the Taliban
Wants us to teach.

There is to be a ceremony
Celebrating the gift
To my school.
The governor will be there
And journalists
Who will write
Of our good fortune.
And some Americans.

I am standing
Along the road
Watching as the vehicles
Which are transporting
The Americans
Pass the caravan
Which carries
Our governor.

A car appears
Between the convoys.
A violent explosion
Assaults my ears
And fills my eyes
With the color of rage
The ferocity of fire.

My first thought
Is for the driver
Of the suicide car.
Is he my brother?
My friend’s brother?
A stranger to Zabul
Brought here
Not to celebrate
The gift of books
But rather
To memorialize
His death?

Then I remember
The girl.
The American
Who accompanies
The press.
The one
Who will help
To deliver the books.

Twenty-five years old.
My contemporary.
I have read that she
Supports education
And equality for women.
I look forward to meeting her
And discussing
Our like interests.
I pray that she is safe.

I hear the people shouting.
The governor is unharmed.
But the Americans
Are gone.
All of them.
Their car bore the brunt
Of the impact
Of the explosives.

The young woman
Who has been described
In such glowing terms
Is no more.
I am sad for her.
I am sad for her companions.
But now I worry
About that
Which is important
To me
And to my people.
I worry
About the fate
Of the books.

(Inspired by “State Department’s Anne Smedinghoff had left Kabul for book donation event.” By Jay Price, McClatchy Newspapers. April 8, 2013.)

(Written for dVersePoets, Open Link Night 91, April 9, 2013.)

This entry was posted in Micro Fiction, Poetry, Short Fiction and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to “Books”

  1. Vb, this is an interesting look from a different point of view. I’m glad the narrator felt bad but I can also understand that she would be worried about the precious books as well.


  2. vb holmes says:

    I tried to imagine the thoughts of a young woman who had been hardened by life in a war-torn country yet still dreams of, and works towards, a better life for herself and her countrymen. I hope she is capable of compassion for a stranger even if it is quickly overridden by concern for her immediate needs.

  3. Wow, HEAVY. Amazing imagery and perspective.

  4. ayala says:

    The news was heartbreaking, good capture.

  5. poetrydiary says:

    Hmmm – you describe the surface of emotions and issues which run much deeper, I think, and also you capture the reality, which is simple too.

  6. brian miller says:

    dang man…a hard reality in this…and all too real…i rather hope they got the books…the kinda passing over of the death it took to bring them is interesting…i wonder if we can ever really get to that kinda numbness,,,but know all too well we can…

    • vb holmes says:

      It seems impossible but there are people who’ve lived through the terrors of war and been able to live a seemingly normal life. Of course, we, who have not shared their experiences, do not know what they have, and haven’t, suppressed.

  7. Kim Nelson says:

    Reading this, I felt connection to both women and hoped that, despite atrocities to which we are exposed, we can grow to be more loving, more accepting, more kind. Simple, I know. But it really IS that simple. Great work!

    • vb holmes says:

      Thanks, Kim. Sadly, they did not meet, although their interchange would have probably been one very small step toward advancing understanding between two different cultures.

  8. Mary says:

    I was so very saddened by this news story. Your poem made it even more real. And shattering…….. Well penned.

  9. From anticipation and hope, to violence and sadness. A sad reality to live in indeed.

  10. Other Mary says:

    Clear and straightforward, very effective presentation.

  11. Dick Jones says:

    The simplicity of the language, the steady, measured development of the narrative and the linear structure with its short verses give this poem a quiet but powerful dignity. A fine piece.

    • vb holmes says:

      Thanks for the wonderful compliment. I tried to comment on your blog but got an “error” message and then got hung up both times. Other than that, I enjoyed reading two of your posts.

  12. Sabio Lantz says:

    Nice bite of cynicism. Good story — thrown into scrolly-stanzas.
    I am getting familiar with your fiction. Enjoyed this much.

  13. vb holmes says:

    Many thanks, Sabio–I’m glad you enjoyed this and I definitely like “scrolly-stanzas”!

  14. Sabio Lantz says:

    Nah, I still hate “scrolly stanzas” with a passion! But I like your flash prose disguised as poetry!

  15. billgncs says:

    I love how your poems take concrete events and emotions ad grapple with them.

    • vb holmes says:

      When I first started my blog, I wrote poetry and flash fiction based on current news events–have gone back to doing that a couple of times recently. Glad to see Reaper and Eve have a new life ahead of them.

  16. This is a very powerful write. A heartbreaking story.

  17. ihatepoetry says:

    I wasn’t sure if this was poetry or reportage. It was a great example of both. I enjoyed this – if you can enjoy such a tragedy -very much. Mosk

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