“North Korea has ordered its people in Libya not to return home, apparently out of fear that they will spread news of the anti-government uprisings in the African nation.”
~The Korea Times, April 10, 2011
Brother, it seems like everyone smokes in Libya.
There are no dispensers like in Pyongyang:
in the lonely cafés by the water off Tripoli,
out the windows of cars in line at petrol stations,
atop the derricks in Ajdabiya, men and women
flick cigarette stumps with their middle fingers.
The cherries break free and arc through the air,
hit asphalt and smolder like flares.
In the hospital: parents, grandparents, choke
the hallways, holding pictures of boys and girls,
and ask me the few words I know in Arabic:
hal ra’eet tafalee? Have you seen my child?
If I stabilize a patient, the militia takes him.
If I lose a patient, the orderlies take him.
I follow the gurney out of the operating room,
and the blood stains linger on my coat.
The families stare and wait for me to say,
Is this your child?
Last night I dreamt I was with you, training
for the Storm Corps. You punch a tin can
hundreds of times, straight into its sharp edge
until your fist peels open. I can see bone.
After the thousandth strike, the can splits,
and you punch a heap of salt.
We lie on the ground, and a soldier revs his engine.
We stretch our arms and stare into the clouds. The car
roars toward us. You hold your arm out to mine,
taut like a stone pillar. We concentrate our shoulder
tendons, and hope the car strikes too quickly to break us.
Between our hands, we hold the last signal flare.
Benjamin Walker lives in Roanoke, Virginia, where he is an MFA candidate at Hollins University. His poetry recently appeared in PANK, Orange Quarterly, and SOFTBLOW. New work is forthcoming in OccuPoetry and Mobius: The Journal of Social Change.