Anis Shivani

The Abu Ghraib Images

The Abu Ghraib Images (appeared in Poetry Northwest)

The zero seconds in the pulses
animating Goya’s Third of May
have ceased: it is how we hood
the crimes of the past, how we
steal from classical conceptions
of pathos, irrefutably current.
Guernica doesn’t do this justice.
Nor Milgram’s prison experiments.
Something about the dark
solitaries crowding the ghost-rooms
of the imperium, something
about the thumbs-ups, the wide
grins, the signal-choked embraces
of the iced detainee, the textbook
postures (wires trailing from genitals),
is beyond instant recall, even if
familiar like the hair on our wrists:
we find this night slit open like
our favorite poet’s suicide,
anomaly piling on anomaly,
making us afraid of shadows,
which linger inside these doors.
And the benign names – stress
position, sensory deprivation,
“fear up,” “ego down,” “futility” –
deprive us of rational bearings:
it is how we viewed the barbed
wires of our fortress cities
from the distance of fiction.
I hear in the pyramids of naked
men, piled in easy symmetry,
the accordion of religious zeal:
finally the equality of sexes,
the equalization of man and beast,
the erasure of borderlines,
we have been seeking
since Luther nailed his theses,
heralding the climax of eros.

Anis Shivani

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