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Poets Corner: Orange Alert

Orange Alert by Haale Gafori

We're on orange alert again I hear as we cross the East River and the winter sun beams its blinding white light across the jagged surface of the water Orange alert. Orange alert? So am I to be on the look out now for a suitcase that ticks, for a turbaned man, a veiled woman, a shoulder belt of rockets? Shall I suspect all Mohammeds today? Or Shall I envision my escape through the office hall, the bathroom window, through the shaken streets as ash rains down and my morning coffee gets cold? I am tired of terror. Orange alert? Really? How about a russet alert? a coral alert a sienna alert a burnt ochre vermillion alert a salmon pumpkin persimmon alert a rust carrot apricot alert, I want a saffron alert! Give me a saffron alert! Take me to the rugged mountains of Iran and let's get down on our knees and pluck the saffron threads from purple crocuses that paint a belt out to the blue sea Let's stand in the bazaar over a burlap sack stuffed with it and inhale its aroma of honey hay and steel Saffron alert! Give me one glimpse of the powdery grains the color of flames of my Great Grandmother's mortar and pestle they stained a luminous yellow of Cleopatra's tinted bathwater or the saffron robes of Buddhist monks meditating as the first sliver of sun appears on the horizon Saffron, the color of illumination Give me a saffron alert! Or give me an orange alert but make it a citrus alert! Naval, Valencia, Satsuma, Blood Glowing spheres of trapped sunlight I hold in my palm Their yielding skin and the fragrant spray of summer wakes me through the winter Clementines, Desert lime, tangerine, citron, Tangelo, bergamot, pomelo, mandarin The juice is dripping down my fingers, this is a citrus alert! And if tomorrow is a red alert, then make it a ruby alert, a pomegranate alert, a full-bodied Bordeaux alert, a blood alert! Our blood—Alert! Our blood—our sangre, our khoon, our dam*--- This magical medium pumping through us, Carrying oxygen, glucose, and amino acids to our muscles and our hearts and our minds Alert us to the magic of our blood! This is a red alert! But red alert is a maximum terror alert they say again and again So what am I to do now? Shall I avoid all close quarters, elevators, buses, and subways? Shall I walk over two bridges to get to work, or stay home, lock my door, lay on my sofa and consider the tears of a boy 6000 miles away, just orphaned Streaks of red dripping down an Iraqi's man's arm, an American soldier's arm Children sleepwalking in bodies rigid with trauma Red alert indeed! For who experiencing such agony wouldn't consider revenge? This is a red alert, an orange alert, a human alert Under that veil a woman, Under that turban that cap that beard Under that skin the color of pyramids, the color of sand dunes, the color of lions is a soul Under that veil the color of tar, the color of crows, the color of the sky on a moonless night is a soul And under that ink blue business suit walking up the bone white stairs of the Capital is a soul And under that US army camouflage the color of my skin is a soul Alert me, alert me to that possibility as I cross the sacred, wretched, swirling river


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