by Claudia Rey
I lived in Baghdad decades ago
when the monster was still there
and apart from killing Kurds
and torturing dissidents
hid safely in a protected place
while sending fourteen-years old kids
to fight his dirty war.
I was always ashamed in Baghdad
because my status gave me access
to parties and cocktails and dinners
but didn’t enable me to learn
how normal people survived
the hunger, the fear,
the lack of freedom and hope.
I only knew that the lady chemist
had been told not to accept
my invitation for a cup of coffee,
that the gardener could not drink
my Coke when he was thirsty,
that the Egyptian greengrocer
was afraid to speak English with me.
I could learn bits of truth
from the cleaning lady or the Swiss baker.
I was often shocked or outraged,
but I was an attaché’s wife:
diplomatic etiquette silenced me
and didn’t allow me to express my feelings.
Even my husband didn’t want to listen.
So now, when I see young people
from Tunisia, Egypt, Libya
who fight for their future,
defy helicopters and bombs and guns
and ride tanks wearing jackets and ties
I worry, I admire their courage,
and in a way I feel redeemed.