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Enhanced PDF, 77 pages
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powerful documentary, War
Rug—like Eliot Weinberger’s What
I heard about Iraq before it—detains the language of the perpetrators
of global military aggression and redeploys it to indict them. From J.C.
Penny catalog copy to counterintelligence manuals and autopsy reports, War
Rug is a fierce yet unfortunate reminder of the absolute horrors of
our age.” —Mark Nowak, author of Coal Mountain Elementary
Rug is a work of documentary poetics in the form of a book length
poem. Multiple interwoven narratives explore life within zones of conflict
as viewed through the lens of current warfare. The narratives range from
passages inspired by journal entries, firsthand accounts, and news reports
to poetic constructs collaged from military doctrine, Freedom of Information
Act released government documents (like CIA interrogation manuals, and
detainee autopsy reports), and numerous other sources.
This enhanced eBook contains the author’s notebook with hyperlinks to access additional content like books, web sites, audio, and video that inspired and informed the author’s creative process. It is distributed in Portable Document Format (PDF) and is viewable and printable on virtually any platform – Mac OS, Microsoft® Windows®, UNIX®, and many mobile platforms, including the Apple iPhone.
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the author: Poet, translator, and new media artist Francesco Levato is the executive director of the Poetry Center of Chicago. He is the author of three books of poetry: Elegy for Dead Languages; War Rug, a book length documentary poem; and Marginal State. His translations of the works of Italian poets, Tiziano Fratus, Creaturing, and Fabiano Alborghetti, The Opposite Shore, are forthcoming from Marick Press in the spring and fall of 2010. His work has been published internationally in journals and anthologies, both in print and online, including The Los Angeles Review, Drunken Boat, The Progressive, XCP: Cross Cultural Poetics, Versal, and many others. His poetry-based video artwork has been exhibited in galleries and featured at film festivals in Berlin, Chicago, Italy, New York, and elsewhere. For more information
please visit www.francescolevato.com.
from War Rug
body reduced to beads of glass
fused in sand at the blast point’s edge.
the lace of an exposed cheek
over tooth and jaw;
space between light
and the rush of sound that crushes breath
from Kevlar and rib;
moment of clarity
the market erupts, before
Humvee pitches, then drops to its side.
a thickening of scar tissue, the absence
of expression, of an eardrum,
Complete surgical removal of the eyeball.
Surgical removal of the contents of the eyeball
retention of the sclera or cornea and sclera.
Surgical removal of all the eyeball contents
may include the removal of the eyelids.
Prosthesis: A plastic or glass fabricated eye
replaces volume of the enucleated eye socket. ]
It begins with a photograph and a rug; that so much can be woven
into both, one in dyed wool, the other scar tissue against the undisturbed
surface of her hand. It’s in her eyes. I know it’s cliché but
look, there is
something there—unsaid. Resignation, resolve, or just “God
we’ve planned this since high school, you will not take
this away from
me too.” She is in white, he a dress uniform, three-quarter
view. The eye
facing the camera is glass—impenetrable.
The rug is tribal, meant for prayer. It is one of the few things I kept.
They say the weaving of bombs into its borders, machine guns and tanks
began during the Russian occupation; now the images are of planes en route,
buildings on fire, the flag—American.
How do you move 1,000 pounds of concrete,
separate bodies from debris,
as steel bar
at the exposed edge of a wound;
the expanse of aftermath, broken pieces
a uniform shade of red,
do you know your own;
how do you reconcile
the hand held is no longer attached, phantom pain
is the body missing limb, not the reverse;
you still wake in your clothing
between adrenaline and exhaustion,
the year begins as it ended, will end
as it began?
The T-shirt reads Kill ‘em all. Let God sort ‘em
out; skull on black cotton,
3XL. They say 20,000 to 100,000 were killed, the exact number in dispute.
What makes this a crusade, what number a massacre? In 1209 AD crusaders
asked how to tell Catholics from heretics—the response,
from the Latin,
Kill them all. God—will know his own.
of the victims with corpses
al-Kindi hospital. ]
[ Emergency Condition Responses
Green: cut hand, scrape, broken arm, nausea,
Yellow: decreased level of consciousness,
pain, unconsciousness for unknown reason,
of feeling/motor skills in an extremity.
Red: penetrating trauma to the torso, severe
of blood, severe head injury, and chest pain
Blue: no breathing/no heartbeat.
Black: Rigor mortis, Post mortem lividity,
decomposition, etc. ]
ash from a burning car
color of lung tissue, of sutures,
dried blood where glass
ribbons of skin;
it is what deepens over ribcage,
tells of fracture, of the grind
bone against bone;
it is a body wrapped in cellophane,
packed in ice, the bag
which it is zippered,
the color of digging to the height of a man,
of clawing one’s face, that of soil
tightly in hand.
[ CARTRIDGE, 7.62MM, ARMOR PIERCING
in rifles and machine guns against personnel
and light armored or unarmored targets;
a hollow cinder block, both sides of a car body,
walls, partitions, plaster, floors, ceilings,
office furniture, home appliances,
bedding can be easily penetrated. ]
Bedding. Penetrated. The Bushmaster Chain Gun™ meets the warfighter’s
needs. The brochure tells that it is more flexible, reliable than others;
among its attributes—scaleable lethality.
Again black; the background of a magazine ad, glossy stock. It reads
Over 120 models with one thing in common... inspired by the human hand.
The image is of fingers curled around nothing, suggesting the grip of a gun.
Is it the gloss, the implied wetness that is allure? Or the fingers on the verge
of tightening—the spasm that would follow.
Ten paces from this doorway
a hollow of stone
so much shelter
as a wall against which
to flatten my back
a breath of a pause, six round burst
second hold, one
twenty more paces
this wall to his body,
his body to doorway, my back
to that wall.
The tissue through which the projectile passes,
which it disrupts or destroys.
Cavity: The volume of space once occupied by tissue
has been destroyed by the passage of the projectile.
Projectile pieces or secondary fragments of bone
are impelled outward from the permanent cavity
may sever muscle tissues, blood vessels, etc. ]
– First published in XCP: Cross Cultural Poetics
Forthcoming in LUDWIG (translated into the Italian)