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Writings by David Smith Ferri

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We Know

Ghulamai tells a story

We all know
the metal gate
that separates our yard from the street
is a thin skin.
At any time
violence could extend its claws
and draw blood.

This morning,
I loaded a rusty wheelbarrow with bulging trash bags,
and leaning into it
rolled it across the yard,
through the gate
and onto a pocked, unpaved street,
heading for the neighborhood dumpster.
The sun shone on another dusty day in Kabul.
Nothing could have been more ordinary
or more forgettable
until four young Pashto boys on bicycles approached.

“Can we go through your garbage here,”
they asked me,
“before you dump it?”
Bent to their work,
they pulled out scraps of stale flatbread, crumpled pieces of paper for fuel.
One of them pointed to a nearby residence
where a member of Parliament lives.
“Look at how the people in that castle live,” he said,
“and how we live.”
The boys finished their sorting
and thanked me.
As they walked away,
I saw that a thin metal gate stands between us
and they are already bleeding.

Palestine Poems after Operation Pillar of Cloud

From a forthcoming book

Operation Pillar of Cloud

The Israeli military’s eight-day assault
on the people of Gaza
was no downy pillar of cloud
no feathered wing
moving lightly across the landscape
defending its chicks
leading the way
to life.

It was iron talon and hooked beak.
It was switchblade and brass knuckles
a heavy metal club in the dark
from behind.
It was panes of glass
falling from the sky
opening arteries
severing limbs.
It was piano wire and guillotine
a child’s blood on the walls.

Against Odds

by David Smith-Ferri
October 8, 2012

Here in Afghanistan, survival – physical, cultural, and psychosocial – is a pressing and inescapable reality, a day-to-day struggle against odds for many people, especially as the harsh Afghan winter arrives, and necessary preparations for it are compromised by poverty, violence, and displacement. Women and children are at the front lines of the struggle.

Every morning, at the Afghan Peace Volunteers’ (APVs) home in western Kabul, sixteen women come to a tailoring class where they learn a valuable skill and dream of forming a sewing cooperative. Most of these women are mothers, coping with care of children and a household. Everyday, like their counterparts throughout Afghanistan, they struggle to feed and clothe their children, to support them in school, to obtain timely health care for them, to shepherd them into adulthood. In a country with thirty-six percent unemployment and widespread poverty, the dangers to women and children are real. In a country where one in eleven women die in childbirth, where psychological trauma from violence and the threat of violence is the norm, where the child mortality rate is among the world’s highest, and acute malnutrition is a shameless and silent thief robbing mothers of their children and robbing children of their minds and bodies, the dangers are clear and present.

We, Too, Are Underdogs

May 11, 2009

AMMAN, Jordan - On the first Saturday in May, at Churchill Downs, the underdog, come-from-behind, runaway victory of Mine That Bird in the 135th running of the Kentucky Derby thrilled people across the world. Racehorse victories are attributed to team efforts: credit the jockey and the trainer for winning. And the trainer in this case - Bennie Woolley - was as much an underdog as Mine That Bird was a long shot, having never previously run a horse in a stakes race before Saturday.

This Is Not Old News

Amman, April 2009

Under a sky so light and remote it threatens to drift away
and abandon these homes,
we follow Abu Hassan wordlessly
up yet another shattered walk,
deeper into another anonymous neighborhood,
past feral cats who pick through garbage
and draw silently into shadows or behind walls,
waiting for us to pass.

This is where the invisible live,
the faceless and voiceless, the nameless.
People without papers.
People without a present or future.
The people with only a past.

Being Faithful: Ruqayya and Ihsan need our friendship and support

February 11, 2009

Relationships with Iraqi people who resist the corrosive effects of war and violence have inspired the work of Voices for Creative Nonviolence and the work of Direct Aid Iraq from their inceptions. And faithfulness in these relationships is part of what has helped us find our way over the years. It is the thread of light we have followed, leading us down a path we sometimes couldn’t discern very clearly, showing us where to put our energy and efforts and reminding us that this work has always been a partnership in the most ordinary sense: a friendship. Our relationship with Ruqayya and Ihsan and their young children, Mohammad, Ahmed, and Zaineb, is one example.

Building Peace in Iraq

October 6, 2008

Recently I had the opportunity to spend two weeks in the state of Colorado, giving poetry readings and speaking to communities about a unique American-Iraqi partnership called Direct Aid Iraq.

POEM: The Eyes of These Two Children

Author of Battlefield without Borders: Iraq Poems

All proceeds from the sale of Battlefield without Borders: Iraq Poems (all but $2.00 of the sale price) goes directly to Iraqi victims of this war. For more information, including brief portraits of the families we are assisting, visit www.battlefieldwithoutborders.org or e-mail the author at david@battlefieldwithoutborders.org.