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Winter
2009

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What I Can Not Do
Samiya Bashir

And yet I can not undo a bomb’s detonation
can not piece together bits of bone and flesh
resurrect some beloved spirit blown apart.

I know no way to separate the mushroom
from the cloud, the firing pin from the trigger, but
I can separate the napalm from the hand that sprays.

I’d like to create a new multiplication table
where 7 and 3 have roots squared and whole;
where zero is not ignored or assumed.

My new math created, I would order new calculations
of the death tolls of yesterday’s wars, insist they are used
to halt the killing tomorrow, place a moratorium
on the fighting for the counting day.

If I could, I would sit on the cold auction-house floor
before Picasso’s painted ladies, separate the pink-
fleshed paint into decisive reds and whites, add water
and oil, add blue, add green, emulsify into my mother’s face
before the pain. But I can do this

no more than I can return to her womb, separate
the cells of my embryonic self into egg, into seed.
I can not go back and offer her young body
the freedom to choose my birth. For her I would
do this: dismantle my flesh as I would not
dismantle my spirit. This is what it tells me:

I can not quiet the warrior’s midnight screams.
I can not give oxygen to the soldiers buried alive
in desert sand; I can not sit idly by while my back
yard becomes Guantanamo, my living room imprisons
for profit. I can not convince children to go gentle

into good night dreams if I can not disarm
the bogeymen reaching out to frighten them
from every screen. I can not answer the cancer
which grows like pigweed carried from new world to old.

Some things I must sit with. Some things I must ignore.
some things I hear on the radio while making love,
while others I must implore my neighbors help for.

And yet I can not undo a bomb’s detonation
nor piece together bits of bone and flesh to
resurrect some beloved spirit blown apart.

I know no way to separate the mushroom
from the cloud, the firing pin from the trigger, but
with furious fingers I yearn to stop the bullet.