How Will You Help
I woke in the middle of the night to a vision I didn’t know I had desired. A young, dark-skinned woman In a light blue hijab and long white robe took my left hand and slowly drew me through my bedroom window. She wanted to show me something. I knew I would follow her anywhere. We floated slowly it seemed but the ground passed quickly beneath us. Looking down through the night sky I had many questions but I soon understood her silent language of movement and gesture. Trust me completely. Be patient. Her free hand would sometimes extend toward the ground and we would descend towards the earth to see illuminated families, children at play, other children crying. Then we stopped to hover over a broad forest. Slowly my vision focused. I saw men and women running through the night, carrying their crying and screaming children. As they ran fire fell from the sky and the forest ignited behind them. I couldn’t tell if they would outrun the flames. My chest tightened as did my grip on her hand. She floated closer to me and kissed my forehead. I felt my chest break open like a shell. I was overcome with love and pain. She released my hand and pointed to the ground What, I wondered? She held my gaze with loving eyes. I felt her response. How will you help?
Waken at dawn to a muezzin’s call from a nearby minaret. “Hayya alas Salah; Hayya alal Falah.” Hasten to prayer; hasten to success. Prayer is better than sleep. Follow footprints in the sand of Sarajevo sidewalks where mortar can still fall from the walls above you, to the market where mortars lobbed from hillsides mingled animal, vegetable, mineral. Among your twenty questions— Is it a species that kills for pleasure? Those are roses painted on sidewalks where victims fell. That cemetery sprouts rows of identical white stiles. Now to the old town where young Muslim women have colored their hair fuchsia, magenta, crimson. Walk past ruins of a caravanserai to the ancient bazaar cornered by a cathedral, a mosque, a synagogue. A collective effort feeds the wild dogs at the market. They seem wary of strangers but they know their friends. Walk down Ferhadija Street to where you’re welcomed into the courtyard of the old mosque. Please observe the symbols: no smoking, no short skirts, no guns. In a cafe on Dulagina Cikma hear the death metal rap of Necro “I’ll hit that pussy up with a nasty attack” followed by Marley’s “One Love.” Up in the hills after-school children play around a broken fountain. Behind them eighty names are carved in a marble wall-- wide-ranging birth years and a three year range for deaths. Abdullah, Rabia, Mohammad. A chubby boy is teased by the others. Two adults, maybe teachers, encourage him to re-engage, and stay to watch. The children play again. from Courtship of Winds, Winter 2016
Ground must be plowed for the seed to be sown but the turf cries out with a painful moan against this inversion of all it has known. Why here, why us? The grasses cry. What have we done that we must die? Ah, my friends, you’ll see, I can swear by God, It’s your soil that counts even more than your sod. New life more splendid than familiar grass, sweet fruit and bright flowers will bloom at last. Not without effort and not without pain, but the harvest will bring inconceivable gain.
Poetry ©2021 James Hannon
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