By Lois Roma-Deeley

I am a useless human being.

Tanks are rolling toward a city–
the name of which I remember only from my childhood–
old stories told on an old phonograph.
The Thief of Baghdad?
Ali Baba? And the Forty Thieves?

I have done nothing

but watch TV with the sound turned off.
Sip Temple of Heaven tea from a tall glass.
Press the heating pad against my back.
Pull the covers over my feet. Then I look away,
look out the window and wonder
how the rain brings the Bougainvillaea
into such sharp focus.

I have been doing this for two days now.

Remembering my parents’ basement on Long Island,
the smell of mold and rotting wood. That bare bulb
with a metal string I stood under, waiting,
like a prisoner of war for the inevitable
creak of the door opening. Now

on the screen, a dead child lies in the dirt.
Her head is turned to my left,
one arm is bent upward, the other points down–
her small body takes the shape of an iron cross.
Now a woman with a narrow chin, a rhinestone pin
in the lapel of her red blazer, moves her lips.

Now I know I will never understand a thing.
The world talks only to itself.
Rain to war. Child to dirt.
Bougainvillaea and TV.

Today’s poem was originally published in northSight (2016), Lois Roma-Deeley, and appears here today with permission from the poet. “Bougainvillea and TV” The 2003 Emily Dickinson Award Anthology, A Commemorative Edition of the Best Poems of 2003 and Emily Dickinson Award in Poetry Competition winner, third place (Universities West Press), in addition,“Bougainvillea and TV” was paired with the visual art of Beth Shadur, “Witness” and featured at the Chicago Humanities Festival (Poetic Dialogue)

Lois Roma-Deeley, winner of the Samuel T. Coleridge Literary Prize, is the author of three collections of poetry, Rules of Hunger, northSight and High Notes, a Paterson Poetry Prize Finalist. She has published in numerous anthologies, including Villanelles (Pocket Poets Series). Further, her work has been featured in nationally and internationally in numerous literary journals including, The Transnational (forthcoming), Windhover (forthcoming), Spillway, The Wallace Stevens Journal, Bellingham Review, 5 AM, Water~Stone, and many others. Roma-Deeley was chosen by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching as the U.S. Professor of the Year, Community College for 2012. Since 2004, Roma-Deeley has been collaborating with visual artist Beth Shadur, founder and curator of The Poetic Dialogue Project. They have collaborated on various works for more than 10 years.

Editor’s Note: There are times–or is it always?–that poetry better articulates the human experience than we ourselves are able. When the world breaks, when the world crumbles, when we feel helpless and hopeless, overwhelmed. It is in those moments that we most need poetry. That poetry best serves us. At the moment, it seems as if every day is one of those days. The breaking days. The days when we must “watch TV with the sound turned off.” On these days “I know I will never understand a thing. / The world talks only to itself. / Rain to war. Child to dirt. / Bougainvillaea and TV.”

Want to read more from Lois Roma-Deeley?
Profane Journal – Audio of poem and interview
The Citron Review
The Good Men Project


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