Nomi Stone

Afterwards: A Love Poem

That day, we found a moon
of a fish, belly-pocked with
spots, on the lip of the shore. It
was still. It was gorgeous. We
did not know what to do. You
filled with manic hope, looking
for a banyan leaf to carry that
dying into the sea  Lifting it as
its white scales drank within
them rainbows. When it fell
you picked it up again. When
the wave carried it and spat it
out again again you carried it.
We learned later it was a blow
fish, a delicacy some places and if
you eat a gram too much of the
flesh it kills you. I held you
that night. How I held you. I
beg you do not be furious
that I wrote about the secret
center between us now that we
are gone from each other. This
poem is at the coordinates of the
shining hole in me, which is you.


War Game, America

-Mock Middle Eastern Village

I. Becoming-Woods

            Candied blue domes dream
in the dark while the Crying

            Room cools in the night’s black
honey.  These woods seal

            their branches
 around whomever enters.  I, an almost anthropologist

            jabber in Arabic inside a curious
US military-built Middle Eastern village

            with Iraqi role-players acting
out a version of their country, alternately

and trying

             to make money to stay
alive.  Raining

            again in these woods so the role-players and I braid
each other’s hair under the awning

            of the mock
house, and they act out in

            Arabic reruns of America’s
funniest home

           videos, over tiny
Styrofoam bowls of cinnamon-sweet porridge

           made for the Shia holiday of Muharram,
though they are Sunni.  Meanwhile, one

           role-player exchanges
emails with a training soldier, and they flirt

           behind a tree.  One
afternoon, a soldier

           posts one of my
poems in the military twitter

           feed used
in the war-

           game to document
developments within

           the fictional country. Together inside

           stand in the leafed chill and he quotes my

II. Former Iraq War Interpreters Role-Play Executioners    

           Leaves cape
into clouds, we fall upon

           us as dew.  Stars

            across the lake. Little war little


            tin murder: set them up,
knock them down. Unleaf

           each life.


            holds out his Iphone. “Honey
check it out                 I played

           killed.”  In the video where he is fake-
executed, cloaked


            men brandish guns (It is the
Iraqi role-

           players, L. and O., crying
in Arabic):     Tell the killer


            his end is nigh spoke verily God
Willy sits within

            his role his face
a moon his eyes upturned

            hands clasped   now shot
two times in the head falling


            forward.      Wasn’t that cool?
Are you writing this down?       Write it down     I   


            write it.     Next to it I write:
“During the actual

            war [2003], these fake
executioners worked as interpreters

           for the Americans — a killable
choice.”  In that time, some of the time,


            their actual bodies after that act
were dressed by the militias

            in newspaper, scrawled with accusations, written
in verse: He who

            follows them is one
of them Take not the Jews and Christians for your friends

           and protectors   they are not friends

and protectors to each


            other     And amongst you


            that turns to them is of them.     Brother, look into my eyes
until the act is done.                                                               

Nomi Stone

Nomi Stone is the author of the poetry collection Stranger's Notebook (TriQuarterly, 2008), an MFA Candidate in Poetry at Warren Wilson College and a PhD Candidate in Cultural Anthropology at Columbia University. She earned a Masters in Modern Middle Eastern Studies from Oxford and was a Creative Writing Fulbright scholar in Tunisia. Her poems appear or are forthcoming in Poetry Northwest, Memorious, Plume, Painted Bride Quarterly, and elsewhere. She is currently working on Kill Class, a collection of poems based on two years of fieldwork within combat simulations in mock Middle Eastern villages erected by the US military across America.