Chemical Attack at Halabja, 1988


i. “Everything I’ve collected is gone.”
-Saddam Hussein

The canisters weren’t filled with gas
but polaroids and when they burst
on dirt roads and green fields and
mud homes the children ran out
with nets to catch the photos –

ii. “I have made my evaluation of the demon.”
-Saddam Hussein

Or the gas smelled like apples
and slunk to the earth, more dense
than air, and where it touched
the grass the grass grew greener –

iii. “The foundation cracked
under the weight of its walls
when the heavens burst forth.”
-Saddam Hussein

Or the families napped together
in the ditches because the sun
had stayed up all night with them,
dancing halparke to celebrate
the new year –

Tracy May Fuad’s father left Kurdistan before Saddam’s genocidal campaign against the Kurds, but the collective memory of it has left a deep mark in her psyche. She does feel there is an obscenity to bearing witness, especially to horror that isn’t your own. There is the impulse to look away, or to turn towards fantasy or the absurd to escape. But under the surface, the reality remains. Fuad does fear it could happen again. In her project to understand, she became obsessed with Saddam Hussein, and learned he published several novels, one of which, an allegorical romance, is quoted here.

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