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Sparrow’s, Poet’s Deaths

October 1, 2010

by Christine Rhein

Competing News Stories, November 2005

Number on number—
over four million dominoes, one hapless
flight through an open window. Praise the
protective system, deliberate
gaps that limit the toppling—
no problem to reassemble
“Domino Theatre of Eternal Stories”
once the rifle was aimed into the rafters.
The sparrow will be displayed
in a Dutch natural history museum,
feathers realigned, body hollowed,
perched atop a box of dominoes—
“Traditional Matching Game.”
Dead bird has triggered protests…
a spokesman’s lament,
I only wish we could channel
the energy for this house sparrow into
saving the species
Hundreds at her funeral,
girlfriend remembering their
Golden Needle Sewing School,
line of burqas, hunger for air,
Shakespeare hidden in straw baskets,
the Taliban overlooking fabric, thread.
Her poems, rippled with sorrow,
I am caged in this corner…
My wings are closed and I cannot fly…
Nadia Anjuman, twenty-five years old,
her words bringing shame to the family—
I am an Afghan woman and so must wail.
Husband admits beating her.
He claims she took poison, doesn’t allow
an autopsy, wants to protect infant son.
Smokey Flower, first book, just published—
If you are looking for stars in my eyes,
that is a tale that does not exist.

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Note: In November of 2005, there were very few news reports about Nadia Anjuman’s death and the brave crowd at her funeral. At the same time, news stories about the domino world record attempt and the sparrow were abundant, in part because the killing of the sparrow launched several street protests in The Netherlands. The disparity in the levels of both media coverage and criminal investigation prompted this contrapuntal poem. More information about Nadia Anjuman is available at UniVerse: A United Nations of Poetry.

Christine Rhein is the author of Wild Flight, winner of the Walt McDonald First Book Prize in Poetry (Texas Tech University Press, 2008).  Her work has appeared widely in literary journals and has been selected for Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, The Writer’s Almanac (2008, 2009), the Laurence Goldstein Poetry Prize, and Best New Poets 2007. A former automotive engineer, Christine is at work on a new poetry manuscript in Brighton, Michigan. More information and links to other online poems are available at her website.

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  1. October 2, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    Any word about this poem would be paltry. Sparrows and a poet? What else could be more poetic, expressive of fragility, sorrow and finiteness? Thank you Christine.

  2. October 5, 2010 at 5:09 pm

    Thank you for telling me about Nadia Anjuman, her remarkable life, beautiful work and tragic, outrageous death. But thanks most of all for writing this so exquisitely and fiercely.

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