Poetry of Provocation and Witness from Split This Rock: Poem # 7

MUTANABI STREET

In March 2007, a car bomb exploded in the heart of Baghdad’s centuries-old literary center, igniting bookstores and stationery shops.

Pages flit above the ruined bookstalls.
Blank or dark with words, it doesn’t matter:

paper is as dangerous as ink—as thought.
And as for the student who was reading

in a dim café, the old men buying envelopes
across the lane, flames turned them to light,

then ash, with chemical indifference.
War tossed a match and stayed to watch

the old block burn—journals, histories,
novels, verse, dictionaries, textbooks,

anatomy primers with charts of the body
like maps of a familiar country—shops on fire

with what’s been written and what hasn’t:
the script in which mercy might repeat itself.

– Jody Bolz

Used by permission.

Jody Bolz is the author of A Lesson in Narrative Time. Her poems have appeared widely in literary magazines–The American Scholar, Indiana Review, Ploughshares, and Poetry East among them–and in many anthologies. She taught creative writing for more than 20 years at George Washington University, and in 2002 became an executive editor of Poet Lore, America’s oldest poetry journal, founded in 1889.

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