Headless Torso

They have come to find their loved ones
around their necks the photographs of their father, their brother,
their older sister who went off to the office every morning And they abandon their searches to give their hands and shoulders to stretchers
         Water spills naturally into the sea even today
         Even the color blue lies in the sky
         Smoke and ash swirl in the face of the sunlight
         Spilling on the ground, as if nothing happened
In a blue frock a black woman, fat and aging, asks everyone,
“Have you seen my Gopal?”
Bits of white cloud sail slowly around the head of the Statue of Liberty
Indifferent as God—pointing out only once, “We don’t create the religion of terror.
They do. They do, they do, they do.”
But today they have come to find their loved ones, to hold the fire,
To enter the fire—three hundred and forty never returned
Strapped into the flying death
In their last phone call they dialed the world and said,
“Take care. Take care. Look after the children.”
On their last night of lovemaking, with his last breath, he said tenderly,
“Like that. Like that. I love you still.”
And in a strangled voice she answered from the earth, “Me, too! Me, too!”
The white flash of the television tried in vain to forge a story from her grief
It broke against the widow’s stone and turned into the faces of the mourners
Circling the killing ground, who asked the poet,
“Have you seen? This is my father, my friend, my sister.
Poet, you should know them,
Because you painted the walls of Altamira
You created the sky of The Moonlight Sonata
Searching in the forest you brought herbs
You watch the test tube through the night the medicine wakes
In your song you never wanted to be king
We too do not want to be king
We are common people—white, yellow, black gods
Together we will discover a religion of bread, rice, and water
Why can we not return home from work?
Why can we not see our children?
You created love, you put my loved ones in my hand
You made the melody of rain, Kareem,
And so the rainy season of the world begins, we shower, we are the fields,
    the crops, the trees and birds, man and woman, the whole world family
You see the mind of civilization with your bare eye
Why didn’t you warn us? Why didn’t you tell us who our enemy was?
    We have no enemy
Look at all the stretchers emerging from the ground one after another
There is Joseph the carpenter and his wife
There is Sridm and Sudam, Hassan and Hussein of Carbola
Look , look, the half-burned body of the child Jesus
Now you must tell us, poet, Who did this to them?

What can the poet say now?
Above his shoulder, in place of his head—the monstrous wreckage,
    the bare bones and ribs of the tower
What can the poet say?
His gullet is filled with sand, concrete, the broken bodies of father, son, husband,
    friend, sister
He wants to say,
         “My poetry is 300,000 tons of twisted iron”
From under the earth he can only chant this mantra,
         “Death, death, death”
And one day he heard thousands and thousands removing lumps of ash
Thousands and thousands of hands pushing into the sky the new tower
And in the morning he heard people heading for work again, teenagers
    skateboarding on the sidewalks, boys and girls going to class
On the bridge over the river the cars streaming onward
    Again life keeps its hand on life
Once again sunlight sails by the high-rises—touching the city skyline, in the
    dark blue of the heavens, he sees the outstretched wings Picasso’s Peace Dove Lifting off from the canvas and coming nearer, nearer, then change into a plane
    and crash into the ribs of the towerTranslated by Joy Goswami and Christopher Merrill