Thursday, May 27, 2010


There was a military funeral
The requisite gun salute
Leaving the smell of cordite
Hanging like clouds above
The heads of the mourners.

A flag folded until it no longer
Resembled itself placed
On his mother’s lap where
Her seemingly unending tears
Fell unchecked on the cloth

As she sobbed quietly during
The chaplain’s words
A little more audibly as the
Coffin containing her son
Was lowered into the ground
That evening, after all had left
She sat alone on her couch
Watching the news, an ill-advised
Activity, her children had
Cautioned her but she felt
The need to observe details

About a war that had taken
Her boy; on the screen there
Were women dressed in typical
Muslim garb and they were making
That fascinating noise; she turned
The volume up and paid closer
Attention – they were grieving
The announcer said, for their
Sons killed earlier that day

But their grief revealed itself
In a sound unlike anything mothers
On this side of the Atlantic produced
It was primal, it was loud, it went on
And on – it made her heart ache
To hear it but she envied them
Their ability to make such a noise

And found herself groping for a word
To describe it – it wasn’t wailing, no,
And not quite keening, although
That came closer than anything else
Then–from deep in her own grief-stricken
Brain-pan, surfacing as if like a word
Wavering up through the murky water
Of a deep well, she finally had it

Ululation—they were ululating—she
Was sure of it—she didn’t know how
She knew it, she thought as she
Got off the couch, scrambled to find
Her crossword dictionary—ah, yes
Not much of a definition, she sniffed
“To wail, to howl” Howling, yes—
She agreed that the women did sound
As if they might be howling; another
Dictionary, more confirmation and
Stronger, indicating that Middle
Eastern women made such a sound,
Ululated, to grieve, and to celebrate
Somehow she found that comforting.

No comments:

Post a Comment