Nothing Happened in 1999

A king did not die, a president
was not acquitted, a balloon
did not fly around the world
in twenty days, at 84
with white hair, Joe DiMaggio
was not mourned. And air strikes
launched street to street
in order to bring peace, or
a doctor convicted of doctoring
death? No, and no, nothing
happened, except flowers purple
the year before bloomed
white, but no viruses named
after women spread across
the globe, and the word
“columbine” did not enter
the consciousness of a nation.
What about the bomb
that made a mistake, or the famous
son of a famous president
mistaking the ocean for the sky?
That year, the weather was
unpredictable, that happened,
and if anything else did,
like shots fired at people
praying, no one heard them,
and if people prayed for war
to become holy, those prayers
went unanswered. In Turkey,
the ground split open and
the 17,000 who would die, let’s say,
miraculously, they did not, not
in 1999, the year two lifelong
enemies shook hands and said
there will be peace, but
their palms never touched, why
lie about that? Let’s say
the child from Cuba arrived
not an orphan but with his mother,
who loved and did not sink into
the sea. Let’s not talk
about rampages, disasters,
conflicts or coupes that never
ruined a perfectly good year
during which the sun shined
on the moon, the earth,
and six billion who, for once,
got everything right and not
a single thing wrong.

Hayan Charara, "Nothing Happened in 1999." Copyright © 2017 by Hayan Charara. Used by permission of the author for PoetryNow, a partnership between the Poetry Foundation and the WFMT Radio Network.
Source: PoetryNow (2017)
More Poems by Hayan Charara