Friday, October 12, 2007

The Midwife of Fallujah

This is a broadside by Weam Namou, a poet that is part of the Mutanabbi Street Coalition. Mutanabbi Street is a historic bookselling district in Baghdad that was bombed in March 2007. It will be part of an exhibition of broadsides celebrating the literary and intellectual community of Mutanabbi Street from October 19-November 21 at the San Francisco Center for the Book, in collaboration with the University of California Press. The opening is from 6-8 pm on October 19th.

For printing, we used Crane's paper and paint thinner dropped onto a linoleum block. Each broadside was individually inked and then run through the Vandercook. It actually took us a long time to develop a design that seemed fitting for the poem, so the resulting print run was very small, and most of that went to the poet.

The Midwife of Fallujah
by Weam Namou

Everyone knew Amti Hassina, a Christian,
who lived alone in Fallujah,
after her husband went missing in some war,
and left her to raise a little boy.
The midwife and nurse of the city of mosques and history,
which was inhabited for many millennia,
most recently those of Sunni ancestry,
Amti Hassina was called upon by all.
Repaid with money, live chickens, fresh eggs, dried dates and figs,
she lived like a queen, although there, she wasn’t linked by lineage.
I never met Amti Hassina’s patients in real life, nor in pictures.
But last night I think I did, and they cut apart my heart.
These images might be graphic, warned the Internet.
Still, I clicked the mouse on each seventy-two of them.
I couldn’t eat my club pita sandwich afterwards,
But I had to view, or else it meant no recognition for the tormented.
I thanked Allah Aunt Hassina wasn’t around
to see Fallujah an empty ground,
to weep over men and women she might’ve once treated, or given birth to,
lying in their beds, swimming in their blood,
faces blown off, hair and skin scalded, bodies partially eaten by dogs, birds and

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