Flowers of Flame

The Poetry of IRAQ



Bags of Bones

Dunya Mikhail

What luck!

At last she has found his bones.

His skull is also in the bag.

The bag in her hand

Is just like all the other bags

In other shivering hands.

His bones look like thousands of bones

In the mass graveyard.

But his skull is unlike

Any other skull.

Two eyes, two holes—

He saw too much through them.

Two holes for ears

To let the music in.

The story of this skull

Is his alone.

A nose
That is just an empty gap,

A mouth open

Like an abyss—

It was not like this

When he kissed her

There, quietly

Far from this place

With its clatter of skulls, bones, and dust.

This place where all our questions are exhumed:

What does it mean…

To give your mother back,

On the occasion of death,

The handful of bones

She offered you

On the occasion of birth?

What does it mean that you depart

Without a death certificate?

The dictator does not give a receipt

When he takes your life.

…His skull, alone, has figured all this out—

How to multiply one death by millions

To equal the country.

He is the director of this tragedy,

And as his audience applauds

It shakes the bones,

The bones in the bags,

The full bag in her hand at last.

Her luck, at least a little better

Than her neighbor, who, alas

Still goes on looking

For her bag

Of bones.

Flowers of Flame
Copyright 2008 by Michigan State University