lew watts

Women in Floods

Up to 90% of people killed in Asian floods are women.

This was never formally reported,
only the total toll and towns destroyed
by each monsoonal surge. And when the story
emerged it was denied, was not supported

by “government statistics” - like the way
infanticide of females doesn’t happen
which, if it does, is purely happenstance
or nature’s chance to rid the world of waifs

and worthless wives. But photographs from aid
workers showed the rivers choked with girls,
their frayed sarongs and braided hair unfurled
in swirling streams, their perfect skin turned grey

well before the waters drained and dumped
their bodies on the floodplains - where the blow-
flies would wait for the shameless bellies to bloat
and burst; much better than laying eggs in dung.

I must apologize. Here are the ‘facts’
cited by anthropologists all the time:
Asian girls are not allowed to climb
trees; they cannot swim, or run as fast

as men and boys, especially when their saris
snag the wind or are dragged through slurried mud,
especially when they have to carry their mothers-
in-law on their backs. Accurate, but I’m sorry,

 over half died in their and homes
            stacking beds, stretching their necks,
drawing their last bubbled breaths,
            trapped for lack of chaperones.
The Raintown Review, vol 11.1, 2013

Oasis Resort – Saudi Arabia

On the 29th of May 2004, three terrorists entered the Oasis Resort in Al-Khobar and, over the next 25 hours, killed 22 people.​

Small boys full of hate throw stones and stares
instead of bricks and mortars, as the tail
of the convoy whips and flails the compound’s rim,
sand-bagged against humiliation’s martyrs.

A pair of armored trucks defines the mouth
of a labyrinth of banks of razor wire,
while we run the chicken-run towards the tanks
and guards drawn tight by Ramadan’s dry throat;

then down a shaded avenue between
the old wall and a second outer fence,
to the gate that only several years before
was scaled and scarred by four tense terrorists

who killed the guards and, in the inner square,
were met by someone staring down their guns.
She told them that the heathen were not there.
They spared her before slaying all they found.

Each car is searched with mirrors set on poles
before the gate is raised and a cast-iron
monolith descends into a hole.
We roll into the inner square, a pen

where marksmen’s lasers graze across our hearts
waiting for the second wall to part,
and the motor is the only sound we hear
beyond a mothers’ pulse in the inner ear.

The Asian bell-boy bows and takes my bags
through marbled alcoves draped in gold and silk
to a suite of frankincense and toweled robes
and welcome gifts – a bowl of fruit and milk.

I pull a single date towards my lips
where I can taste and kiss its wrinkled skin
and close my eyes and sense its stone within.
The tongue will set it free. A blade just rips.

The Raintown Review, vol. 9.2, 2011


In Argentine tango, where one person’s foot sweeps the other’s foot across the floor and places it without losing contact; when perfect, it is not possible to discern who is leading or who is following.

The feet lock like two poles of a magnet,
moments held in time, joined at the shoe-hip,
tempting each to move before the magic
slide, as though they were tied by strands of music.

Perhaps he’s helping her across a field
of mines, her mind lost in loss and thought,
or forcing his will until her body yields,
or simply saving the precious bones of her foot.

That’s what he’d like to think, but she is the one
who’s dragging the ego’d foot of a fool towards her,
pulling his leathered lap-dog lust by its tongue
as she leads his love-blinded shoe to water.

first published: The Raintown Review

in Lessons for Tangueros

Cairo Dog

Two blocks down from the mosque—
the flames still rage within me.

In between the chants and rants,
the pity-beggars fat with sabbath coins,
a dog sat burning,

immobile, self-immolating on a pyre,
its legs and scabbard-tail already crisp.

Watching the eyes turn opalescent,
I hear it has been hit by a truck,
hind quarters crushed and tucked up,
slammed into the shape of its birth. This old hag
tells me it dragged itself for days until,
on this glorious morning of he who is glorious,
they placed it on the fire, in desperation.

It needed to be done dog.
And she was grateful for your silence,
that you just sat down, sat down there,
that this was how she’d like her own end,
making up for all the trouble,
the tantrums, dags and scabs now sterilized,
safe in the sanctum’s blistering heat,
beyond the painful touch of children.
Not something I would have thought to emulate dog.

So I ease it off its charcoal throne,
place my hand around its throat, closing out the air,
watching its eyes drop over the fairness
of it all. And the dog smiles dead.

I should have closed your voice
with my own hands, given you the choice
of dignity within those years of blood-breath.
So hear this, hear this promise:
that when it is my own time, in my own time
I will sit down, just sit down there within the fire,
my eyes sparkling in grace,
savoring one last lung of smoke for you.

Adobe Walls, v2, Spring 2011