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Special Effects

By Merna Hecht

In tribute to Abdi Sami, filmmaker, peacemaker, and poet; July 22, 2012, Aurora, CO, Batman movie, the morning after

This morning I am remembering you, how as honored guest
you talked with my students who had recently arrived in America
from refugee camps where borders are stacked with blood and bullets.

Remembering when you told them you were a founder
of Dream Quest, winning academy awards for special effects,
how their faces remained blank,
until you spoke of the film you made
in the land of your birthplace, Iran,
after the earthquake, and a man you met in a cemetery,
how with no special effects, but because of grief
he looked older than the crumbled stone, the rubble,
how the two of you wept together.

This morning you and I would weep together
because last night in America, with its monstrous appetite
for special effects and its hairline border crossings
between reality and horror, thirty minutes into the latest blockbuster,
a young man with gas mask, explosives
and loaded guns went on a killing tirade.

My gentle friend, you loved to create
films daring with special effects, but if I could reach for you
on the other side, I know you would stand with me
when the young men and women who came here as you once did
from where war raged, would ask us to explain what happened
in real time, in real life, after midnight, in America, and what would we tell them?

I have no words, no story, to meet the moment.
I am less a stranger to your untimely death,
or an imagined place where the dead might drift,
or a shot zooming on a war-torn border,
than familiar to my own country. I am drowning in the deep
pools of permission given by the big money, the big screen, the big guns,
the President and the pundits who will not say the dark night has risen
even as the semi automatic was fired and the hair dyed red
and the Joker lost his mind, and for several moments
no one was certain where stood the border between the shadow and the light.

Added: Monday, July 7, 2014  /  Used with permission.
Merna Hecht
Photo by Tim Aguero.

Merna Ann Hecht, storyteller, essayist, poet, and teaching artist, founded and co-directs the Stories of Arrival: Refugee and Immigrant Youth Voices Poetry project at Foster High School in Tukwila, WA, one of the most ethnically diverse high school in the U.S. Her years of extensive work with youth facing trauma and loss are a major influence on her writing and teaching about the consequences of war, forced migration, and separation as they affect children and adolescents. She works to bring the voices of young immigrants and refugees to mainstream awareness to help dispel xenophobia and dehumanizing rhetoric. Merna teaches humanities and social justice courses at UW, Tacoma. Her poems and essays appear in numerous journals and books including Drash: Northwest Mosaic; Teachers and Writers Magazine; Our Food, Our Right: Recipes for Food Justice; & Waging Peace: An Anthology of Writers on War and Peace; and WA 129: An Anthology of Washington Poets. She is a nationally known award-winning storyteller and a recipient of a King County 4Culture individual artist grant.

Other poems by this author