I didn’t catch you name, as the rain was falling hard
and the heater fan was blowing. I shook your hand,
admired your smile, the glint in your old blue eyes.
I was glad to point out to you the skyline,
honored to pronounce a name you had never heard:
Duwamish. Welcome to Seattle, sir, from Arizona,
whence you came by the will of God, so you said.
You charmed us with your gift of gab, your snow-white hair,
the knowing wink that came along with jokes,
your shiny sateen jacket
from another generation. You start a conversation,
compliment the young banker and his comfy running shoes,
well-deserved, having stood all day in loafers. Your words
were sparks, striking up smiles between strangers,
we who normally ride in silence.
I’m very sorry, sir. Usually I do not yell,
I do not swear at elders.
I began to wonder
when you said calcium was bad for women’s bodies,
that it killed them, but I didn’t blame you.
Each report about our health
is bought and paid for.
The bus arc’d around onto 99
and I felt the conversation turn. Did I hear you right?
That America has prisons prepped
for all the Muslims? I wouldn’t put it past this cowboy in chief,
but I think that’s a little much.
The al-Qaeda, they’re out to get us, just like that September,
only next they’ll go for Arizona, Boston, and every other town.
They’re all around us.
No sir, I tried to say, but I couldn’t get a word in.
It’s all in their religion, you said.
And that’s when something broke.
I’m sorry sir, you’re mistaken.
Al-Qaeda’s just a fraction,
the very smallest portion
of a peaceful people.
No, they’re killers, you said, it’s because of their religion.
How many Muslims do you know?
You only dodged the question.
You, sir. You are al-Qaeda.
You are not like them,
but one and the same, those who only speak of threat,
of danger. You fear your neighbors
but never meet them. You fan the flames
that fuel the tanks. You throw stones
that pave the road to empire. You do not plant,
but only cut the branches
of olive and of laurel. You feed them to the fire
that may broil us all.