Volume 26, Number 4

The War Room

The room is bare and scented with the fragrance
of warfare, of a landscape rising against an anthem
that is the sound of a mother opening her mouth.

Nobody enters, or sets the empty table. Violence marks
itself on each wall with a familiar patterning of
salt, rust, halfhearted ricochets in bulleted silk.

Soldiers come, with their different colored weapons.
There are stranger guests as well. A scientist
glancing down at his ruined hands.

A bride, soft body revealed through the tears in her veil.
The youngest boy who sat on the floor unmoving for
days, feeding off a memory of kite strings, of hot kebab.

Still, those who have stayed remember the same thing:
a soundless anticipation. They remember the bowl set
cautiously near a windowsill by some cruel and

calculating god, filled continuously with river water.
And another, with seeds, when there is no light.
They remember the texture of silence.

The sun rises outside the room, a dogwood
is met with early frost. Our prisoners hold onto their hatred.
Each try to forget the movement in the sky above them,

an air of symbols which, once deciphered,
translate into a love song chanted
by the children of their enemy’s distant country.

—Cathy Guo