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IRAQI BOY

What appear to be

peach-white, overwashed 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?”

from EffacementFind more by Elizabeth Arnold at the library

Copyright © 2010 Elizabeth Arnold
Used with the permission of Flood Editions.

Published in Elizabeth Arnold Poems

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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