Nicole Goodwin aka GOODW.Y.N. is the author of Warcries, and the poetic sequel Warcrimes as well as the photographic essay book Ain't I a Woman (?/!): I Give of Myself based on the five year iterationsof Ain't I a Woman (?/!). They are a finalist for the CUE Foundation’s 2022 Public Programs Fellowship, as well as the 2020 Pushcart Nominee, 2018-2019 Franklin Furnace Fund Recipient, the 2018 Ragdale Alice Judson Hayes Fellowship Recipient, 2017 EMERGENYC Hemispheric Institute Fellow and the 2013-2014 Queer Art Mentorship Queer Art Literary Fellow. They published the articles “Talking with My Daughter…” and “Why is this Happening in Your Life…” in the New York Times’ parentblog Motherlode.
Midnight with the Tear-shaped Pillars
Old Arabia breaths blazes. Its Vulcan ashes attach
to my neck. Mules pull apart our bodies. Heralds
recount all tall tales; grotesque!
Invisible tears caress my cheeks.
Into the cold dead womb, I run.
Into Iraq’s black ocean, I run.
Soothing is the eager lone night.
The stars blanket this warring desert.
I retreat to them in humble prayer.
If this is a church, then let me be lifted.
When I walk the emptied streets,
I feel winter’s chill. In it I hear the
echo of snapping twigs.
The sound bounces off marble walls,
as if propelled.
In my knees I feel it most,
even on the days most sundrenched.
It’s a white noise.
A muffled clamor.
A frosted touch.
An unjust murmur.
I walk on soft paws,
a frightened cat on sheets of ice.
Slowly its underbelly is chipping.
Black and tightening.
Around lips that refused.
Refused the peace of shutting.
As the prisoner moaned.
The “Meal Ready to Eat” bag went,
over his head.
Covering his face.
The temp that day,
had to be at least 110.
No more like 120.
The searing stalked our backs,
even in doors.
Imprisoned within a prison.
“This must be hell.”
Internal monologues mumbled.
Silence. Then the buildup.
Swaying, back and forth.
Agitating the other cellmates.
Shouts in Arabic.
I assumed they retorted,
“Yo’ shut the fuck up!”
‘cause that’s how we all felt.
I wouldn’t be moved,
to fury, however.
I would just sit.
I would just sit, read.
I would just sit, gawk.
I would just sit, watch a movie.
By then, I knew how to live in a hole
where his hollering couldn’t reach.
The other soldiers—female guarded duty.
Boy, how those white girls would powertrip.
Now they had a hold on me.
Gave me the quakes.
Was like waiting for a grenade to blow.
Screeching at the inmates.
Ratting the chainlinked fence.
Hearing those noises,
compulsed inward cringes.
Sounds sometimes paranoid me,
this very day.
I and the other black girls.
Never did that.
Never lost cool.
Not on my watch.
Maybe ‘cause we knew.
How they looked.
They resembled us.
Family distanced by time.
This war separated us by nation.
But shade united us.
Therefore, I wasn’t perturbed.
Not even by the prisoners habits.
How they wiped their assholes,
with their hand—no toilet paper.
I believe it was the left.
They ate only with the right.
Everyone else—unanimous disgust.
I was glad they tried to cleaned with water.
But that one.
That one dude.
Something about him.
Seared through the gray.
Admiring, his freedom.
His uninhibited candidness.
This comes in abundance to those,
who are either blessed or cursed.
Either way he leaned, the road
led in one direction.
He was hated because of this.
He was hated for so much more.
He was hated because he was there.
Hated for being an Iraqi.
Hated for hates sake.
Hated because he could not be controlled.
Hated because he could not be dominated.
Hated because he reflected,
what we had done.
To that nation.
Hated because his spirit would not die,
even though his mind certainly did.
And when the Sergeant First Class’ hands
reached over and put the ziptie on to
Muzzle the howler I was pinched by the irony.
Of one black man enslaving another.
Of this sin I have barely spoken.
Confession—I became accompliced to
This deed inhumane.
I despised this moment of cowardice.
Speak up I did not.
Instead caring about my own hide.
I did nothing.
The man—insane, irritating.
Was still a man nonetheless.
And could have died.
The tape records.
I am volcanic with fear.
Didn’t rock the boat.
Stayed in my hole.
Nothing more to say.
They were bigger than me.