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Though I Haven't Been to Baghdad

Excerpts from Chloe Yelena Miller's in Verse Wisconsin



How does a mother bear a child's deployment and second deployment to war? Rozga turns to grammar in a number of these poems. She uses it as a tool to comprehend the grandness of what is happening. Instead of emotionally breaking down in words, she carefully considers them, their tense and punctuation as a metaphor for her experiences. This theme enters into a number of poems and explicitly shines in the longer poem "The Grammar of War." Each section of this poem, with titles such as, "Concrete and Abstract Nouns," or "Syntax," brings us closer to her experiences. For example, when her son emailed her about the difference between "who" and "whom." In the fourth section, "Unsaid, unasked, almost unconceived:" she writes, "Do questions of grammar make war go away / Does it cease to be about him? / This is no longer a question of mother and son. / It is a question of who and whom."


There are nightmares in this book. Rozga writes in a striking line in "Beyond Fort Hood," "This is the genre of grief." She develops her own rules and moves punctuation to the beginning in the poem "Second Deployment." She writes, ".She punctuates before each sentence, to spare herself getting involved in the thought, to close the thought before it opens". The reader feels the emotion as the author reorganizes reality in order to comprehend it.






Sample poem from Though I Haven't Been to Baghdad --


Beyond Fort Hood


November 7, 2009



The son phones, hesitates,

names the place the mother already heard,

names the name the mother may or may not remember,




Names her friend and his, Kristin, like Amy from Kiel

so the mother suspects she and Amy

may have crossed paths, pacing, waiting

in the same Sheboygan crowd to welcome

the son, the friends, home from Afghanistan,


safely home, as if safe knows its place.


He does not talk numbers.

They are the stuff of news.


Beyond numbers,

high school best buddies, old roommates, friends of friends,

concentric circles pulsing across the country.


This is the genre of grief.


Its metrics: what rules?

Its boundaries: who knows?

It would call at the door of heaven but knows God

is not so simply housed.


Neither is grief.


It cannot be lined up and inoculated. Nor

can mothers, sons, fathers, daughters

grandparents, the pregnant, the high-risk

not even the everyday healthy.


It arrives without warning, leaves


the living, to go back to normal

at least back to work what passes for peace.