This is not a beautiful poem. It’s about my dad killing people in the Iranian army. It’s about the Iraqi soldiers who were just as young and hungry as he was. It’s about the bombs dropped in Tehran his home each night. It’s about him visiting home and seeing half his cousins’ neighborhood in rubble. It’s about the body parts scattered amidst the rubble. It’s about him feeling safer in combat than in his own home (at least he had a gun out there). It’s about the time he got whiskey drunk at the dinner table and told us he’s buried his friends. It’s about my mom yelling at him to stop saying these things to us his fragile girls he’s scaring us. It’s about the way he hates the taste of dried lemon because the army khooroosht was full of them. It’s about the rats that crawled on his body sleeping in caves. It’s about the night he woke up next to a scorpion ready to sting. It’s about the photo I have of him holding a machine gun with his friend in a field of beige. It’s about the fact that he can still look at this photo and smile. It’s about my dad fighting a war in the name of Allah, not one he believes in but one who craves blood, wills war. It’s about my guilt that he ducked from bullets at this age when I write poems in the grass.
/byoo-taw/ love, in a general sense; the concept of love
To live twenty years believing there was
no word for love in our language: buta.
Mom cooking two pots of khooroosht because
dried lemon brings Dad back to war: buta.
The iron in the voice of my grandmother
telling me I lost too much weight: buta.
My father discovering I like Chick-Fil-A,
him bringing it home each week: buta.
My older sister hiding while I shield her
from our screaming home: buta.
The language my mother invented so she
could learn and tell me her heart: buta.
Baking banana bread—half chocolate chip,
half plain—for my respective parents: buta.
The fact that I still don’t know how
to say “I love you” in our tongue: buta.
Gripping my necklace close and praying
(God, please) for those holy words: buta.
Nadine Koochou is an Assyrian writer and an English student at Santa Clara University. She believes the beauty of life is equal parts struggle and hope. As such, she often writes struggle in her mission to find hope.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.