THE WARTIME ISSUE
One must care about a world one will never see.
- Bertrand Russell
My unborn son, already named Sami, is now 23 weeks old,
adding fat, a creamy coating of vernix, and forming tooth buds in a
tiny mouth that doesn't yet know how to cry. He can now distinguish the
sound of my voice from all others. Blood vessels are forming in his tiny
deflated lungs, preparing him for his first breath. A skinny little leg
kicks out at my uterus, and my skin jumps in response.
An insurgent mother named Cindy Sheehan sits in a ditch in Crawford, TX,
waiting for the president to speak to her about her son Casey's death in
Iraq. Mr. Bush has pissed off one too many mamas, and now she is pushing
back, holding her position. Our president is on vacation, bicycling with
journalists, and can't seem to make the time to meet with her. "The most
heartbreaking aspect of seeing Casey lying in his casket,” Cindy said
at the hearing, “was that his face was flat again because he had no muscle
tone. He looked like he did when he was a baby laying in his bassinette."
Each morning, I page through headlines proclaiming new death and devastation
in Iraq. I thumb through pregnancy books, practice pre-natal yoga
stretches, and deliberate over which childbirth class I will take: Bradley
or Lamaze? I think about war and layettes and diapers; episiotomies and
war and c-sections; breastfeeding and war and co-sleeping; car seats and
strollers and war. I think about all the young people being sacrificed
daily to angry gods of war, and I think about their mamas. I envy Sami
the blameless safety of his solitary confinement in my body. He shifts
and flutters and shudders against my flesh. One hand absently strokes
the rising mound of my belly, and I murmur uncertain promises,
in a whisper only he can hear.
Leah Harris is an M.F.A. in Creative Writing candidate at American University. Her poetry has appeared in publications including Mizna: Prose, Poetry and Art Exploring Arab America, Chiaroscuro: A Journal of Peace and Conflict, and D.C. Poets Against the War: An Anthology.
Published in Volume 7, Number 2, Spring 2006.