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Letter From the Water at Guantanamo Bay

By Sara Brickman

They do not want me to be a river, but I am unstoppable.
                 I am the perfect instrument. Capable

of every sound, but here the only sound you hear under
                                         me is No. Is, Please. The men

in uniforms strap them to the wood
                 and call it water-

boarding, like drowning is an amusing summer sport.
                                         They hood them into darkness, and tilt their heads

back, pour me up nose and throat until they can't breathe without sucking
                 me in. Inside the prisoners' lungs, I see only panic,

and mothers. The men in uniforms say they do this
                                         to get   “the information.”

I do not know what this   “getting”
                 means. I only know swallow

and crush
                                         undertow and rip-

tide. I have been
                 the moon's wife, but here I taste of mold

and rust.
                                         They line me up

with their scalpels, their chains,
                 their American pop music

played all night
                                         to drive the men crazy, to get    the information

I do not know what desperation
                 feels like

but I imagine it is why the water in these men
                                         crawls out of their eyes to say hello


Strange, isn't it? To be 58% a thing and yet
                 recoil             when you hear its rush—
Don't you know this? Silly human
                                         with a dog-tag hanging round your neck,

that you are made of me? Connected
                 to all the humid rot in this dungeon air—

how you make a puppet of the current
                                         in you, soldier.

How fast you make an ocean into a gutter
                filled with blood and shit—

looking for answers? Like you could find an oracle
                                         in more death

you drainers
               of the heart. I made you.

Do you think the first creature crawled out of me
                                         to invent                                       torture?

I understand why you do this.
                                         I know what it is
               to close your eyes and see only the thousands of dead

someone has laid at your doorstep. You have filled me
                                         with shipwreck and slave-hold but still

you holler bold
               with your proud, American heart and I wish

                           I could stop flowing in you.

Wish I could return to the clouds,
               to kiss the lightning with my wet throat

but I am locked in your muscle
                          as you beat each man
                                         for praying in a language that looks

like waves. I have
               one muscle,
                          and it wraps around the entire earth.

It is a vengeful storm
               and I have learned from you how to cleave
                          waves from the marrow

how to lick clean.

Added: Tuesday, January 20, 2015  /  Brickman's poem is the First Place winner of the 2015 Split This Rock Annual Poetry Contest, generously adjudicated by Natalie Diaz.
Sara Brickman

Sara Brickman is an author, performer, and activist from Ann Arbor, MI. The 2014 Ken Warfel Fellow for Poetry in Community, Sara is the winner of the 2014 Split This Rock Abortion Rights Poetry contest, the recipient of a grant from 4Culture, and  an Artist Trust EDGE fellow.  Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Bestiary, Hoarse, The New, Alight, and the anthology Courage: Daring Poems for Gutsy Girls. A teacher with Writers in the Schools, three-time member of the Seattle Poetry Slam Team, and the 2013 Rain City Women of the World Slam Champion, Sara has performed her work at venues across North America. She is the founder and curator of the living-room reading series The Hootenanny, which showcases groundbreaking writers and performers. She lives and writes in Seattle, WA.

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