Photo by JOHN VATER
first week in iowa city
First week in Iowa City
On the sixth day,
a white graduate student tells me
my English is strong.
I meant to say, that's just as well,
I'm an English teacher,
but didn't, because why the hell
should English still be the gold standard
to measure race relations,
On the second day,
they took us grocery shopping.
There was a McDonalds outside
the store. And outside the McDonalds
were two flags - the bright yellow 'M'
flying a little higher than Stars & Stripes.
Even America wraps itself up in cliché sometimes.
On the fourth day,
I was watching a Youtube video
of a press conference,
where the Indian Home Minister,
in the seventh week of the curfew in Kashmir,
said that the use of pellet guns caused 'least damage'.
I am beginning to think words
change their meanings in Kashmir.
I am trying to square 'least damage'
with hundreds of children blinded, with
the paramilitary forces' own admission that
they used 1.3 million pellets in over four weeks.
'Least' is the last word
to change its meaning in Kashmir,
in the long line of words,
that includes 'Childhood', and also
On the third day,
I meet a poet who writes of
the missing children of her homeland,
those no longer on the swings,
those no longer on the beaches.
Those eclipsed like
meanings from words.
The map tells me that
from Iowa City to Palestine
is 6327 miles, and
that from Iowa City to Kashmir
is 7127 miles.
I realize how close
Kashmir is to Palestine.
On the fifth day,
we go to a house party
and I find out what sort of houses
University professors can afford to live in in Iowa.
I don't compare.
On the first day,
later, as the evening swept the sky,
we drove from Cedar Rapids airport to our hotel,
and the one thing that I gasped at
- and I did not think I'd gasp at anything in a small town -
was the size of the moon.
It seemed the highway held a moon
ten times bigger than I'd ever seen back home.
This was a beginning,
I told myself,
and if the moon can multiply its size,
what is not possible, then, here?