Monika Zobel: The Duration of War

The Duration of War

The first year dogs slept in my room.
I held a ticket, an imprint of missing
at 11,000 feet. To travel between

a man’s sentences and turbulences,
I traveled at all cost.

My first year abroad people covered their faces
with newspapers to see the truth
behind words.

On a screen your letters yelled
changes spelled don’t come back.

I pictured you in white sneakers—
large enough to raise suspicion
at airport security lines.

And your face, your face was still
on my most wanted list.

If I make it through this craziness, I’ll check
for a purpose in my left pocket,

I promised and stitched my pockets shut.

My first year abroad I mistook tragedy
for a verb and ran with it.

Home got stuck between two countries at war,
so I prayed to my waltzing grandmother
who never lost her teeth.

I yelled at the TV, some asshole stole
my mind, another our generation.

Just between us, there were words
that couldn’t be alone

—but, yet, not—

in a room nails pointed toward
all the blanks, naked bulbs.

The first year of war was the first year
dogs kept me company, the first year

I collected synonyms for missing, and memory—
what a country imagined.

Monika Zobel is the author of two books of poems—An Instrument for Leaving, selected by Dorothea Lasky for the 2013 Slope Editions Book Prize (Slope Editions, 2014), and Das Innenfutter der Wörter (edition keiper, Graz, Austria, 2015). Her poems and translations have appeared or are forthcoming in Nimrod International Journal, RHINO Poetry, Four Way Review, Redivider, DIAGRAM, Beloit Poetry Journal, Drunken Boat, Guernica Magazine, West Branch, Best New Poets 2010, and elsewhere. A Fulbright alumna and a Senior Editor at The California Journal of Poetics, Zobel recently returned to the US after having lived in Europe for six years.

Photo by Daniel von Appen