Nomi Stone: Two Poems

Iraqi role-players are weeping over a bodiless coffin in a remote American wood.

In a pre-deployment simulation some military contractors call “The Crying Room,” the women perform for three days straight, howling their lamentation for successive units of training US soldiers. In this quadrant of rooms in the woods, the role-players are hired to enact mourning or bargaining, chatting or suffering, as Arab others might. They act out a kaleidoscope of archetypes: Corrupt Mayor; Insurgent; Imam; Mourning Mother. These poems are a tiny document of war and empire, and of the four-chambered ache where the simulations were staged.

I became an anthropologist for my poetry, to extend my seeing. Enter here: A fake wound is applied to the chest of an Iraqi role-player who nearly (actually) died when he worked as an interpreter for the US military in Iraq. An ambush is scheduled; I stand in the middle of a field of wild onion, between the curls of grass-scent and weeping. Soldiers who pantomime death are lain shirtless by the fire. Come closer: they are murmuring to each other, writing each others’ eulogies. Inside these woods, the world breaks and breaks again. Anne Carson writes: “The nation stirred in its husk and slept again.” How to awaken, to call ourselves to account? As Sandra Beasley puts it: “A poem as tinder.”


Lost Object

Former 2003 Iraq War interpreters,
Current role-players in War Game

To taste it would make me
North++++Where is that acre of sweet
marrow Bone-meadows
snowier each day green
curls into knife

Iraq is ripe we carry
it through the simulacra of the woods
At this time of year, you could wash
orchards in the icecreek till your wrist
aches cold and absolutely the mouth

of knowledge++if your neighbor
learns about what you’re doing with
the Americans—careful now, this is
war—he might eat you you
are the last fruit left on this street


War Game, Mock Middle Eastern Village

When dead, lie shirtless
in a clearing whisper
your eulogy to your partner
until the blinking

blue God-
Gun reboots us just as
the sun comes up.

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 Guernica, Plume, Blackbird, and elsewhere. She is currently working on Kill Class, a collection of poems based on two years of field work within combat simulations in mock Middle Eastern villages erected by the US military across America