Sunday, June 3, 2012

Counting the dead

This poem by Joan Mazza heightens the impact of war-data by bringing it into the kitchen and the office -- juxtaposing war-numbers with the events of a pleasant day in central Virginia.  

Numbers for the Week       by Joan Mazza

This morning, it was twenty-eight degrees. I photographed
red oak leaves rimed with frost. I made chicken soup, canned
ten pint jars in the pressure cooker at fifteen pounds of pressure
for seventy-five minutes. On the stump near the compost pile,
I left the skin of fourteen chicken thighs for crows and woodpeckers.  

Two suicide bombers killed fifty-one people in an Iraqi market.
Twenty-seven men waiting for work in Baghdad were killed
by another suicide bomber. They knew the risks, but needed work.
Three Americans died when an improvised explosive device
detonated at a checkpoint. Three others were seriously wounded.

In preparation for a contest, I revised two poems about my dead
parents and walked up to the mailbox to send them before the deadline.
A flock of about sixty vultures posed in oaks and sweet gum
for fifty photos with my new camera and telephoto lens.

Inside a hunter’s blind, I waited for an hour, hoping to see a hawk.
In search of insurgents, three houses were invaded in Afghanistan.
Four women and eight children died, including two infants.
The army is investigating. The bodies of ten beheaded men
were discovered in Baghdad. They were tortured before being shot.

I took Michi to the groomer at seven-thirty, drove to a yard sale,
bought two paperback novels for snowy days. At Food Lion,
bought whipped cream and the ingredients for thirty-two
chocolate brownies. At one, the groomer called to say Michi was ready.

Carl Shumaker from Bridgeport, Connecticut was killed in Iraq. His death
marks 2900 Americans dead. His family says he was sweet and funny,
loved by all. He was twenty-six, leaves a wife and two-year old daughter.
Completing his third tour of duty, he was to be home for Christmas.
His best friend is recovering after losing one arm and one leg.

I changed sheets, vacuumed six bookshelves in the guestroom,
drafted three new poems, washed five loads of laundry, hung clothes
on a rack instead of using the dryer. I mended the seam on my quilt
and put out two clean towels in each of three bathrooms.

Violence in Iraq is up twenty-two per cent since the summer.
This week, the DOW was up 138 points.

"Numbers for the Week" has appeared in Skyline Review 2008 and online at

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