Tuesday, January 3, 2012

What We Sign Up For: Poems by Lisa Siedlarz

For years, I've been teaching Lisa Siedlarz' first book of poems (I Dream My Brother Plays Baseball) in my War Stories class.  The book deals with her brother's tour of duty in the Afghanistan War and how his time there has shaped her.  It's an excellent book and always one of the high-points for me and my students.  Lisa's poems touch us all and tell us things about the post 9/11 wars that we all need to know.  

Lisa's new book, What We Sign Up For, builds on her previous book in ways that seem natural and necessary--adding more stories about her brother, herself, her family, and her friends and what we all sign up for when a loved one goes to war.

Here's one of the poems from What We Sign Up For, a persona poem about a friend of Lisa's who served in Iraq and has PTSD:

Don't Paint In Camels

Amazing creatures, really. The color of
heaped dunes, scorch just rolls over them.

I’ve marched their waveless beach, mirages
of smiles disarming and deadly. Those camels

marched knock-kneed and steady. Even under fire
they did not flinch. The mind is treacherous.

I see camels in stitches of multi-colored coats and falling foliage.
In burning bushes of autumn, red is an exploding oil well,

black clouds, souls of those who will never come home.
I’m fi ne now. I know I’m home when I hold my paint brush

and canvas, a good bottle of wine. I listen to the ocean’s
music, become grounded. I will not drown in the legs

of this merlot. Will capture spray of ocean on rocks,
paint a picture of a life not mine.

Bury me in the sand and I will envy how clouds move on
like breath. Cold doesn’t faze me, having walked

through dust-deviling hell where thoughts of winter saved
me from suff ocation. Here I sit on this beach, sand

slipping through my open fi ngers to reunite with kin.
Sand is color-blind. Drinks blood as if it were water.


To read more about What We Sign Up Forclick here.  
To read my blog post about Lisa's I Dream My Brother Plays Baseball, click here.