Abu Grahib Prison

Suzanne Pharr February 27th, 2008

(This piece was written during a two-week stay at Windcall, a place for social change activists to restore their energy and ideas in a beautiful natural setting. In it I reflect upon having seen a picture of Lynndie England that looked very much like me as a young tomboy in rural Georgia. Abu Grahib Prison still haunts me as a symbol of the US war on Iraq.)

I think I know you, Lynndie England,
you with your proud bright face
flashing two thumbs up
before a naked Muslim man
who tries to maintain dignity
as the flashing camera lights
record this small moment
of world domination
bannered in red, white and blue
on cars back home.

Back home, not so long ago
in your one stoplight West Virginia town
you were the kid
they called tomboy and smiled
when you dreamed of chasing tornadoes,
you flying along behind,
trying to lift up and be free.

How many times your President said,
“a war against the uncivilized.”
You were civilized.
You married a friend.
You were not queer. No.
Eleven months and a divorce
and you could catch the tornado tail
of the Iraq invasion,
a tomboy girl ready to be home
among guys, just as tough,
just as right for the USofA.

I think I know you, Lynndie England,
your face so like my own five decades ago
when I on my Georgia farm,
a tomboy among house dresses,
tried to travel through books
to some other place, brave and free.

How many times my Governor said,
“Bar the school doors from
the uncivilized Negroes.”
I could not be civilized enough.
Playing with boys and loving girls,
I found chance and scarce opportunity
joining the giants of the 60s
to set me free.

Who would we be, Lynndie England,
if tomboy spirits in country towns
could fly their dreams on rushing winds
where no soldiering, hiding or hating
were ever masked as freedom?
Where would we be if civilization
were defined as expansiveness of heart?

You and I, Lynndie England,
are made of the same country dirt,
sometimes green and growing,
sometimes racked with rocks,
always, always bearing history,
you and me.

July 2004

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