BIT BY BIT
Bit by bit we learn the world and our hearts
we try a word that weights equally on all lips
like the word mother
like the word bread
like the word comrade.
We dress broad beans and peel potatoes
we carry rocks and water
we take turns in cleaning the toilets and
we push the cart with our tiredness uphill.
For this our hands have the same movement
they grope for the silence and death during the night
they coil in fists inside the pockets
they study the lines of a rifle
as they once studied the body of a woman
they tie themselves on the mast of the flag
like they suckled their mother’s breast.
For this our eyes meet at the same spot gazing
at the sea
as if we had no water for three or more days
and the water truck isn’t coming
and patience bites its hands.
At that time the same angry ship passes through
a ship we know well
loaded with water pitchers and flags.
Then we don’t talk at all;
the eyes understand without words
only the feet kneed the mud harder
to make bricks, to pile them around the tents
to protect ourselves from the winter, the rain and
These bricks look nice made of reddish soil
a whole army of bricks, square, drying in the sunshine
quiet, austere, thoughtful.
Our words have to be this way, I’m thinking,
kneed with reddish soil and sea
kneed by the strong, angry feet of the thirsty comrades
left to dry up in the sunshine and the wind
so we can build a lot of songs to protect our hearts
from the rain and the cold.
We don’t talk.
The day before yesterday a comrade bit his tongue not
to betray anything
another one cut off his hand to avoid signing his confession
yesterday they took 14 others to the military court.
At night I think of the words a cut off tongue could say
words a severed hand could write
some words, everyday words like bread on the lap
of a hungry exiled
like the curse the unjustly treated keeps in his mouth
during the night
like the ah of a mother who lights her oil lamp over
the empty beds of her three children,
like the bitten bullet in the palm of a democrat.
The moon falls in through the hole of the tent like
a severed tongue.
We’re still unable to talk.