We Interrupt This Poem
I am writing: The rain a silver sheen across the lake
when radio voices spill like rain across my words.
First the mother's voice slides inside my own: Bosnian and Serb,
we have lived side by side, our children like blood brothers.
Do I treat Nesa the Serb different from Sead, my own son?
I cover him with a blanket when he's cold. Feed him
the same as my own. So why?
I ask why?
Nesa, filtered through Sead's voice, explains: I'm a soldier now.
I must beat you, my friend, or they will kill me.
And Sead, beaten many times, says, Hit me. I will bear it,
but he cries when he sees Nesa's face.
This story is new. I have heard it all before.
From Karakraj Camp near Zvornik, Sead flees
over the Alps. His mother, alone, in winter,
makes her way across the border to a Zagreb mosque.
I imagine them today in a Queens walkup. Maybe she
touches his arm. Maybe they sit together on a flowered sofa
and flowers fill the window box. Sead crushes memories in his fists,
his words, like birds fleeing his own dark center:
I did nothing except I am Muslim. Now, if they handed me
a Serbian child, I would kill him with my bare hands.
I wait, but the mother does not speak
of what she is capable.
—CJ Muchhala, Shorewood, WI