I am writing from Normandy, France, where my partner and I are enjoying a "self-funded writers' retreat" while visiting the French side of the family.
We're staying at a remodeled watermill in a wooden glen: It's a lovely place to relax and celebrate the release of my first book!
August 1st is the anniversary of the signing of the Convention on Cluster Munitions prohibiting these dangerous and indiscriminate weapons. As the most cluster-bombed country in the world, Laos hosted the signing of the Convention in 2010. The United States has yet to sign the Convention and continues to use and sell cluster munitions.
In honor of the Convention and my book release this month, I want to share with you a little background for one of the poems featured in the book. This is my favorite of the six poems I included. Here's the poem:
Fieldpoem 18: Children
How do we know our mothers?
If they destroy themselves
her shaking, her falling down
opens herself, her labor
her hollowness without childhood
Seven hundred dropped near the village water pump
In Lao, cluster munitions are often called mee laberd (bomb mothers) and the cluster submunitions inside called luk laberd (bomb children). The action of being dropped from the plane forces the bomb mother open, deploying hundreds or thousands of smaller bomb children over vast areas below. I first heard this set of phrases while conducting fieldwork with an explosives clearance team surveying a rice field. An older Lao bomb technician was carefully digging up a BLU-26 cluster submunition with his hands and a small trowel. He called me over and pulled aside a flowering bush to show me the small, rusty sphere of bomb half submerged in the gray soil. “Ni meen luk laberd.” Here is a bomb child.
You can see this poem in print in the Spring 2019 volume of Consequence Magazine, where it is featured alongside a stunning collection of Iraqi and Kurdish poetry written in response to war.