And now, the words

I struggle with the meaning of the word resurrection:
Go do your work, word, I say,
All the way back to your root. Then return to me
To stand by these children fished out of the luminous sea
So that I could see your face
In horrified eyes, not saved, but filled with almost-life.

I used to be resurgere, rise again, the word says
Sounding like rain on my grandparents’ house.
Remember, it says, dragging your refugee self
Out of the rumble of trains at Roma Termini,
And wanting to once again be free:
These children rise out like admonitions.

I try to remember when the word arrived to me,
From whose mouth, or whose book I’d learned it,
And memory obeys: childhood Easter, Resurrection Mass
With a trail of candles in the night: Invierea, Veniti sa luati lumina.
Coming back to life, come take light. But these children
Fished out of the ancient Mediterranean:

This is my lifetime, resurrection, I say, look how they
Swim away from the cataclysm of war, I see them
Pulled out of water, as if they are being lifted
Into afterlife. Yet this is our life, is this what you mean
To me, in my lifetime, word? Shame burns
On their blue faces, bright like swords.

Put me next to the children, the word says, and I shout:
Resurrect Children. The present opens:
There is no hell but here, no heaven but here—
Their indicting eyes will never leave us.
Here they are before me this Sunday morning, born
On the horizon of nightmare, reaching out with their tiny hands.

Carmen Bugan

Carmen Bugan

Carmen Bugan, a George Orwell Prize Fellow, is the author of four poetry collections, a memoir, and a critical study. Her new and selected poems, Lilies from America, is a Poetry Book Society Special Commendation. Burying the Typewriter: Childhood Under the Eye of the Secret Police was a BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week, won the Bread Loaf Conference Bakeless Prize for Nonfiction, and was a finalist in the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. Her critical study is Seamus Heaney and East European Poetry in Translation: Poetics of Exile, and her book of essays, Poetry and the Language of Oppression, is forthcoming from Oxford University Press.She has a doctorate in English literature from Balliol College, Oxford University, UK. Bugan, who was the 2018 Helen DeRoy Professor in Honors at the University of Michigan, lectures at universities, international book fairs and conferences, and has been a guest on current affairs and history programs on the BBC, ABC, NPR, The Foreign Desk (Monocle, London).
Carmen Bugan

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Author: Carmen Bugan

Carmen Bugan, a George Orwell Prize Fellow, is the author of four poetry collections, a memoir, and a critical study. Her new and selected poems, Lilies from America, is a Poetry Book Society Special Commendation. Burying the Typewriter: Childhood Under the Eye of the Secret Police was a BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week, won the Bread Loaf Conference Bakeless Prize for Nonfiction, and was a finalist in the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. Her critical study is Seamus Heaney and East European Poetry in Translation: Poetics of Exile, and her book of essays, Poetry and the Language of Oppression, is forthcoming from Oxford University Press. She has a doctorate in English literature from Balliol College, Oxford University, UK. Bugan, who was the 2018 Helen DeRoy Professor in Honors at the University of Michigan, lectures at universities, international book fairs and conferences, and has been a guest on current affairs and history programs on the BBC, ABC, NPR, The Foreign Desk (Monocle, London).