War Stories

My grandmother tells war stories
over the dinner table
or sometimes alongside the evening news,
chatting away with the news anchor on the screen
drowning out his monotone drawl
and filling his mouth with her own words.
She keeps her gaze steady at the fast-flashing clips
the latest bombing, carnage, and wreckage
while her fingers feel out
the easy curves of the persimmon
ripened by the autumn wind,
deftly peel over each layer to expose
its inner skin, sticky and raw.
The knife slices clean into the center
the carnage drops onto the plate
in sync with the flashes on the screen
she strikes
a small fruit fork into the flesh

chocolate simply rained from those military tanks,
soldiers threw them out to watch us
flock like a herd of sparrows
for that sweet piece of humiliation.
but I never ate that chocolate, no, couldn’t
them watching our frenzy with those lit up blue eyes,
and rubbing their stomachs
as if they felt full on their good deed.

My grandmother’s war stories
they’re never about the war.
but how she thought that
meegook must be a rich country
if their pieces of dirt tasted so sweet.
The war is when she learned
how democracy worked,
that voting 17 times for the U.S.-backed president
would feed her family 17 times over.

The war is the way
her mind has been sharpened,
her heart has learned to ache.
The war is in the fact of her survival.


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