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Iraqi Boy

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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)

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

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Iraqi Boy

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