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Through My Eyes

Project Name: I-raq

Medium: Poem

Summary: This work was inspired by the novel Persepolis, which beautifully portrays the consequences of war (namely the loss of innocence, security, and community) and the novel The Reluctant Fundamentalist, the fictional firsthand experience of September 11, 2001, in New York City. Both of these works inspired me to reflect on the impact of the Iraq War on my life.

I have admittedly vastly different circumstances than either of the readings – the Iraq War wasn’t fought on US soil, and during the attacks on 9/11 I was living in Phoenix, AZ, far from New York City. I do think there were similarities, though – I was a first grader and remember that day more so than any other time in elementary school. It’d be big statement to say that I “kissed my childhood goodbye” that day as Marji did one day in Persepolis (117), but it definitely came with an awareness that some things were happening that were bigger than I was and too much for me to really understand. I wanted to convey this younger perspective, similar to the one employed throughout Persepolis to explain complex political happenings.

Growing up in post-9/11 USA also was an odd atmosphere – it was a heady mix of patriotism, optimism, and sheer recklessness at home and abroad (as witnessed in both the invasion of Iraq and the housing bubble). Although my experience does not map precisely onto that of Changez’s in The Reluctant Fundamentalist, this poem tries to capture the disquieting feeling of seeing “newspaper headlines featuring words such as duty and honor” (115) that pervaded America for some time afterwards.




Christian Heritage Academy,
two-storied, red, a baseline on Baseline
overrun with me and my friends.

Plaid skirts, small white polos,
adding, subtracting, counting
one Holy Spirit, one Messiah, one God.

That Tuesday morning, in not-quite fall,
was a normal first-grade morning of cereal,
a mystery book, a quiet car ride.

I enter the small room of small people
ready to learn the new times tables
but Mrs. Thompson is crying.

Her face turned upwards to the TV
as her tears fell down to the rough carpet.
Smoke billowed across the pixels.

From far away, in a concrete jungle,
stun-shock-falling-breaking-fear came
rippling across the airwaves across the nation.

My tears fall too, for what I don’t know.
Was this a movie trailer? Did adults cry?
Why was the world falling down?

She told us that hateful people had done
a hateful thing but I hate tomatoes,
and sometimes I throw them too.

All our parents will come early,
taking us away to the safety of home,
far from bad news and hurt.

They don’t know that the pain will stay,
will rend this nation’s pride to shreds,
will be used to chase and chase

until WMD is something fourth-graders know,
until yellow ribbons drape every intersection,
until we can’t breathe for our lies and hate.

Small white polos and plaid skirts will learn
to dislike others before they can even spell,

The heady days of war will bear little fruit
until the days after war, when inertia
fails to break and violence goes on and on.