Iraqi Boy

By Elizabeth Arnold Elizabeth Arnold
What appear to be   
peach-white, over-washed pajamas   

in the washed-out newspaper photo

on one side droop   
like a monk’s hood,   

the upper half of that leg

raised with the other, whole one   
and the hands   

they’re there!

and the less washed-out   
pink balloon above them that they reach for or have   

just let go

—the latter probably as one hand, palm up,   
is wide of it,   

two-thirds of a laughing mouth

visible, the wheelchair in this case,   
its sparkle stark against   

the flannel and plied living limbs within it,

a tool of fun. Such wisdom’s possible   
here only, the ability to feel   

glad to be alive

gone on the outside,   
the “cloistered incarceration” of the ward   

holding the boys

as if they were a group of monks.   
Asked by a visitor   

what it’s like to live secluded

most of the time,   
mute and with forced labor,   

a chronic lack of sleep for all the praying,

the Benedictine monk   
asked back:

“Have you ever been in love?”

Source: Poetry (September 2008).


This poem originally appeared in the September 2008 issue of Poetry magazine

September 2008
 Elizabeth   Arnold


Elizabeth Arnold has published three books of poems, The Reef (1999), Civilization (2006), and Effacement (2010). A scholar as well as poet, Arnold earned her PhD at the University of Chicago. Researching the poet Mina Loy for her dissertation, she discovered the poet's lost novel, Insel. She edited the work, which was published by Black Sparrow Press in 1991. Arnold has received numerous awards for her work, including a Bunting . . .

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Poems by Elizabeth Arnold

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SUBJECT Religion, Christianity, Social Commentaries, War & Conflict

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