20120615

Eileen R. Tabios



THE AWAKENING OF A

… heart clenched,
the volunteer
video-ed
for fundraising purposes, thus immortalizing the rice-and-beans-one-meal-a-day-lifestyle-of-two-teen-mothers-one-without-a-supportive-male-partner-living-under-tarp-sheets-getting-water-from-an-improbably-still-working-faucet-at-a-nearby-abandoned-house-their-consent-to-the-documentary-attained-with-the-gift-of-one-chicken-a-gift-so-special-it-would-be-cooked-by-the-man…
That, I know
my daughter
reveals

as she watches
(intently) the
images

from a country
she has
never

visited but knows
intimately because
poverty

is a landscape
ever burning
memory—

witnessing, I feel
again how
much

of her life
of Her
identity

I do not
know—this
child

who left an
orphanage a
teenager—

old enough to
know what
others

choose to ignore.
Except. For.
One.

Who believes One
can be.
All:

*

As I try
to find
answers

I am forever
      (Our driver told the hitchhiker, “Sorry, we can’t carry people with weapons.”)
changed. I
believe

if we all
were aware
we

all would act.
      (When rebels leave on foot, sometimes they take hostages to help them carry stolen goods
      back home.)

…a glimpse
into

a world I
am beginning
to

understand, but for
which William
James

preaching to Unitarians
foretold in
1881:

This cannot be
captured by
words—

this “utter chaos”
is “ natural
order.”

Words—this poem—
impose a
clarity

that is non-existent.
Am I
writing

now to myself
      (In one photo a mother still had the drill in her head and her baby in her lap.)
or everyone
whoever

you are…? As
I learned
more

every day I
realized how
much

I didn’t know.
      (“…remember that if you are ever scared, sad or angry—look up at the night sky, find the
      second star on the right, and follow it straight on till morning.” —Peter Pan)

I saw
more

military than civilians.
We can’t
forget

our founding fathers
were refugees.
Now

Native Americans are
refugees.…my
ankles

itched, bitten by
bugs so
small

I couldn’t see
them. “How
can

they avoid begging?”
      (In the markets there is so much gold and ivory for sale—even diamonds. Everything is piled
      on tables in small stacks.)

The only
aircraft

is Army helicopters!
Blades cutting
air…

Not much happens
      (Many women get pregnant when raped. The babies don’t have toys or soft, colored things.)
until after
prayers.

George has three
children. “One
I

have not met,”
he said.
Someone

asked the tribal
chief, “How
does

it feel in
a camp?”
“We

are embarrassed.”
      (The man with no hands put his arm out and smiled at me. I shook his wrist.)
There are
22,000,000

refugees. Two months
ago I
had

no idea. I
wanted to
write

but even the
pen was
stunned.

Nurses have little
      (Entering Area 91 a sign reads:
             PLEASE DO NOT CUT HANDS
                   LET’S JOIN HAND)

medical supplies—
more

accurately: none. The
romance of
whoever’s

bravery falls shadow
to the
boy

trying to support
gallons of
water

cradled in stained
plastic pressing
down

on his head.
He is
barefoot.

It is hot.
He has
far

to go. But
he is
lucky.

No one has
cut off
his

hands or feet.
      (“Ah! I have been a photographer for ten years. American press don’t buy these kinds of
      pictures. Other countries do.”)

It may
seem

silly, but I
think I
will

pack up my
backpack before
falling

asleep—just in
case I
wake

up and have
to flee
(unexpectedly).

I don’t want
to write
anymore.

I feel nauseous.
      (Here in Zurich, everything smells like oranges and vanilla. There is snow on the ground. I
      saw a young boy in the lobby and thought of the dusty little African boy carrying water
      on his head, sweating and trying so hard to focus. What decides where we are born and into
      what kind of life and why?)

…they have
no

soap left for
the refugees.
We

discussed women having
no sanitary
pads—

what must that
be like!
My

first job at
Mtabila Camp
was

measuring medicine. I
was so
careful

not to measure
one spoonful
too

short. A nurse
      (The little girl was too weak to cry.)
had to
(quietly)

walk away. She
began to
cry—

a man had
to walk
her

outside. Another’s grandmother
was too
old

to run when
others began
attacking.

Children wear rags.
Some wore
only

pieces of red
cloth. Without
funds

for sanitary napkins
the red
cloth

was distributed so
the women
could

at least wrap
themselves up
during

their menstrual cycle.
But women
chose

to go without.
They would
rather

the children stay
      (I don’t know how the women went without.)
warm, or
warmer.

I was about
to throw
ice

out of my
glass. He
stopped

me. “Ice is
very expensive
here.”

Gently: “Please give
it back
to

the kitchen.” Children
wore flip-flops.
Some

pairs were only
three inches
long.

Another woman showed
a bill
for

four guns—taxes
for supporting
war.

She sold all
she possessed
for

the Taliban. But
it was
still

not enough to
buy four
guns.

BK means below
the knee.
AK

means above the
      (It is easier to make a BK prosthesis.)
knee. There
also

are baby walkers
for small
amputees.

One wall defines
“Cambodia”—map
crafted

from skulls. Then
…babies thrown
up

then caught by
stabbing bayonets.
Then

…men holding babies
upside down
by

their legs before
squashing their
heads

against a tree.
One soldier
peed.

Here is where
women come
who

will be resettled.
Someone calls
them

“the lucky ones.”
      (The rehabilitation center is secured by Brinks Security.)
Sexually abused,
they

were chosen because
they have
no

husbands. Elsewhere, 80%
of imprisoned
women

are jailed for
poverty-related offenses.
Elsewhere…

I ask her
how long.
“Nine

months living under
tarp.” Elsewhere…
for

one hour at
the “Drop-in
Center”

street children receive
lessons. Doctors
believe

the children want
“desperately” to
learn

because many collect
garbage to
earn

money for fees
... tiny boy
with

big eyes and
many cuts
all

over his hands.
He receives
two

rupees for one
kilo of
rubbish.

Two rupees is
two U.S.
cents.

We keep seeing
more little
children

in the street
collecting garbage.
There

are no words.
There cannot
be

letters forming sense.
I have
no

words. I watch
      (One little girl asks if we have a doll. “My father can’t buy a doll.”)
news carry
violence

but never victims.
Not the
families.

I had no
words. I still
tried

because I have
become a
parent:

“Let’s not forget
to go
candy-shopping

at Walmart.” My
      (“Mom, I cannot bring candy. I can never bring enough to give everyone who will hear
      about the candy. They only eat one meal a day, usually rice and beans. The babies
      get sugared water, not milk.”)

wiser teen
scoffed—

Why teach them
something false?
Like

Life is sweet
even though
babies…—

two teenage moms
boil water
before

adding sugar to
feed their
babies—

how will they
know what
suffices…

who determines what
is sufficient?
Who

determines what can
be experienced
by

the most heart-broken
heart? The
most

mangled refugee? (Or
you from
an-other

continent reading into
the night?)
Who

insists a rupture
is not
rupture

but a widening
of capacity?
Who

transforms the heightening
of tragedy
into

a commendation about
pain’s infinite
expanse?

Who determines what
leaves us
speechless?

Who—there is
a Who!—
determines

what’s allowed? Who
allows someone’s
Power?

      … of the dusty little African boy carrying water on his head, sweating and trying so hard to
      focus. To not spill the most infinitesimal drop. Who decides what kind of life and why?


“What kind of
life, and
Why?”







Bibliography:

Notes from My Travels: Visits with Refugees in Africa, Cambodia, Pakistan and Ecuador by Angelina Jolie (Pocket Books, New York, 2003)

Clinica Verde video on the lifestyle of two teenage moms in Boaca, Nicaragua.

The Limits of Language, Edited by Walker Gibson (American Century Series / HILL and WANG, New York, 1962)



Eileen R. Tabios' recent releases include the relational elations of ORPHANED ALGEBRA with j/j hastain (Marsh Hawk Press, 2012), SILK EGG: Collected Novels (Shearsman Books, 2011) and THE THORN ROSARY: Selected Prose Poems (1998-2010) (Marsh Hawk Press, 2011). Her poems have been translated into Spanish, Italian, Tagalog, Japanese, Portuguese, Polish, Greek, computer-generated hybrid languages, Paintings, Video, Drawings, Visual Poetry, Mixed Media Collages, Kali Martial Arts, Music, Modern Dance and Sculpture. She’s also edited, co-edited or conceptualized nine anthologies of poetry, fiction and essays. She blogs as the “Chatelaine” at http://angelicpoker.blogspot.com; and edits Galatea Resurrects, a popular poetry review journal at http://galatearesurrects.blogspot.com.
 
 
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