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The Nigerian Kidnappings Inspire today's 30/30 poem

On the way to school, NPR ran a story on the Nigerian kidnapping of 230 schoolgirls. It struck me as a parent and a writer about the story. Throughout the day it simmered.  On my lunch break I looked up some Yoruba words, and after school drafted the poem.

The initial draft was a two pronged poem: a satire of Hollywood writers pitching a film about a father who goes after the kidnappers, and a poem about the sound of the grieving parents. I meant to show a harsh division of worlds and privilege, but one that shared a similar tonal sound--as in machinery, background noise, harmonics, etc.

WESTERN/AFRICAN HARMONICS

The tubes of this poem vibrate at 1093 hertz,
the stir of womb memory.

Scene: Lattes, milk galaxies. Three smart execs type out the pitch:
a gaunt dark father hunts for his daughter
a pretty mother, wasting with tears, gathers a protest.
“For Cannes.” They nod and screen down. “We can shoot
in South Africa. Cheap, plus local color”
“How does it end?” One asks, palm trees reflecting up
in his glare greened glasses. The others shrug.
“How about he finds them, kills the kidnappers,
but dies in the escape?” Silence. Latte galaxies
unarm as they sip and type and tweet and like.
The office hums, vibrates with the pitch of Trane
air conditioners, fat black power lines.

Cut scene: Chibok, Nigeria is five plane hops away,
plus a un-shocked truck ride, and an hour of walking.
The long Nigerian wood is bare and truthful as a skull,
or as untruthful as a weather vane in an Atlantic wind.
Enter two wrung hearts as empty as shirts drying on a line.
A pair of parents gather with other losses carrying signs,
Each is a wooden bowl, empty, and chipped
and salt dried and stained. A collective murmur rises
to roar and back to murmur again as the throat aches and dries.
But the final draft, which you can read here---once it's up--focuses on the sounds of grief. Any exploitation I satirized was removed, but the fact that I used the event for my own work is not lost on me, though I hope the draft is not exploitative. It is not my intention. I felt that it cheapened the grief, in some way, or my clumsy expression of it. Anyway, that is my contribution for the day.


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