Journalism in Verse – EST. 2016


Yemeni Child

in Obituaries by

The little starving girl
has a house inside her chest
filled with lambent light
and gentle fragrant breezes
coming in through the open windows
and wafting from room to room
to room.

All her friends are there
in the house inside her chest
and her mama and papa,
brothers and sisters,
uncles and aunts,
a joyous communal gathering
for the evening meal.

In the kitchen in the house
inside the chest
of the little starving girl
mamas and aunties are preparing the food
while papas and uncles
play silly games with the children
and tell exciting stories
about how unafraid they were
when they were young.

Platters and trays and baskets appear
filled with saltah and ogda,
with lentils and rice and potatoes,
with lamb and chicken and saluf,
but first there is a pause
for gratitude
then heaping dishes are passed
from hand to hand
around and around and around
never seeming to grow emptier
while the eating and the joking and the jabbering
continue long and far into the night.

In the house inside the chest
of the little starving girl
the beds are clean and soft
and hold the children in a warm and white embrace
as the little ones drift off to sleep
with bellies full and hearts overflowing.

When the little starving girl awakes
she is not in the house inside her chest
but in a cruel, wicked place
where children do not matter
and are murdered by hunger,
where families are slaughtered
with missiles and bombs,
houses are demolished willy-nilly
and corpses rot in the streets.
The little starving girl
wants to tell the mama
holding her desiccated body so tenderly,
wants to tell the papa
gently stroking her beautiful black hair
that she wishes to return
to the house inside her chest
and wants them to come with her
but finds it too much effort to form the words.
She wants mama and papa to know
how much she loves them
and tries to tell them with her bottomless eyes
as they close for one last time
and the little starving girl
walks once more through the door
to enter the house inside her chest.



Yemeni girl who turned world’s eyes to famine is dead [New York Times]

Buff Whitman-Bradley‘s poems have appeared in many print and online journals.  His most recent books are To Get Our Bearings in this Wheeling World and Cancer Cantata.  With his wife Cynthia, he produced the award-winning documentary film “Outside In,” and with the MIRC film collective, made the film “Por Que Venimos.”  His interviews with soldiers refusing to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan were made into the book “About Face: Military Resisters Turn Against War.” He lives in northern California.

Photo by Watari.

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