Global Algorithm 1.8: Bosnia: Epicycle

Children see the men who've been hung
from trees in Srebenica;
the workstation is a restless abyss
and I'm not quite myself these days;
tonight, the inner city streets evoke a hot
backwater Sarajevo with no coveted resources -
we have colonized our own country.

A baby stares up at the open sky on a cold night,
her empty stomach a small prayer for the mother
separated from her in midflight: Gorazde.

The nerve to make the difference
between work and "a work"
my obsession is rising;
sometimes I've wanted to tear my family
album into tiny pieces the shapes of stars;
I'm not sure why the horror of rape camps
often makes me feel flushed and dizzy.


I awake in the middle of the night and feel
palpably divided into myriad "parts"
trying in vain to commiserate;
accounts of bloodbaths and atrocities in minor nations
may make us feel morally superior
while providing a safe outlet for our suppressed,
unadvertised malevolence;
machines increase in complexity,
yet productive output lags, and human suffering
is rampant.

I am the family of six living in a cardboard box
in Bombay;
I am a twelve year-old girl slaving
in a stadium-sized sweat shop in Malaysia;
I am the battered and abused Muslim woman
about to be executed in Herze-Govina;
I am a starving, bloated toddler in Eritrea;
I'm a fighting mad Chechen rebel
running between bombed-out buildings dodging
Russian artillery,
and I'm also the middle-class couple with child
nesting in the hills over San Francisco, unknowing,
unmoved or, caring but unseeing or unprovoked,
afraid to move.

Children see mothers get hung
up at work playing career gymnastics;
I grate my teeth and the sound it makes
is that of tank guns creaking upward
to point like fingers at a clawed sky;
the fluorescent stars on the nursery ceiling
have faded, and the baby fitfully
tosses in sleep.

My father is in the background of a number
of old photos gleefully chasing and cornering
an alarmed kitten;
it's midnight and the blackened paint
above my cast-iron radiator
transforms into shadows of vaguely familiar
faces in flame;
just before dawn near the "safe haven",
the tanks wheel back, form a broken wing,
and stay, rigidly strung
like black falcons.

John Noto lives in San Francisco, where he is Editor-in-Chief of Vatic Hum Press. His work has been published in Caliban, Juxta, Asylum Annual, Fiction International, Central Park, and First Intensity. He is a regular contributor to CTHEORY.