DoveTalesA Writing for PeaceLiterary Journal of the ArtsSummer 2020, Issue IIIThe Shades of Bla

Nine minutes. Long enough for history to unfold before the eyes

Long enough to squeeze forgetting out of collective sleepy lungs

one breath at a time

Enough to display the scenes hidden behind the dust

the murders tucked in two-page reports in a folder in a cabinet in a room in the basement of some

guarded fortified courts.

Nine minutes. Long enough to slash open the cocoon

Long enough to wake the giants in the caves

Long enough to stretch from pole to pole

circle around the equator—like a mouth

opened aghast, nothing to say except

I can’t breathe

Nine minutes. Long enough to melt the layer of paint coating the murals we’re told to obey

Long enough to reconstruct the faces of the secret servicemen who stood by the door of my college dorm

Long enough to whisper the names of the girls, slain in the name of honor in some faraway kings’ lands

Long enough to recite the voice of my instructor

Go back and learn English, he said, 30 years ago

Go back, where? I should have asked. I am an American citizen now

I had more than nine minutes to say something then, but I didn’t

I now speak

of the shields of wrought-with-privilege skin

Nine minutes

Corpses of rebels dragged on the street of my hometown. Dictators wearing blue and guns.

Nine minutes

I see all the resumes ripped in nine seconds before being read:

the name doesn’t sound right.

Nine minutes you push a baby out of your birth canal

and she screams and she cries. There is no going back

Nine minutes

The face stares at the camera while pushing Life out of another man

Cold stare to boil nations to burn cities to cleanse brains to move mountains to yank roots

from roots and turn the skies upside down.

Nine minutes. My daughter will never be pushed behind a boy

Nine minutes. My accent will not drag my face in the mud


Nine minutes to erase color signifiers from the brain

Nine minutes. Free the people of shackles and nooses

No cries of tortures in prisons. No rape behind fancy titles. No resumes in the trash because they

hold a foreign name. Not again.

Nine minutes: the collar the iron bit the whip come to life

Not all lynching uses ropes

One can be killed without hanging without burning

killed by smothering breath, opportunities, and potentials

Nine minutes. Long enough to measure the distance between “white only” and “colored” bathrooms

the chasm of the mindlessness between the front and the back seats of a bus

between two water fountains on the same block

Nine minutes is longer than 50 years passed.

Different disguise. Different script.

Nine minutes. Long enough to plow into

murderer fathers, rapist uncles, beating husbands, abusive school teachers, killer cops, dictators,

kings, instructors. All have blood on their hands.

All kneeled one time or another over a helpless neck to squeeze out lives


Nine minutes.


Let the oppressed rise. Source: https://writingforpeace.org/rana-bitar/

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