To Kurdish people of undisclosed lands
that were yours by right of blood, both the kind
that flows and the kind that spills out.
I write as someone who matters nothing
to you; those are the people who will tell
the truth. What the liars will tell you is
the opportunity wasn’t there yet.
You had no idea liberty took so long;
not when you’d first learned of it
riding in on the foaming Gulf
and over the skies of dusty Kuwait.
We really do, really are that liberty
we claim to bring; this is absolutely
the case. It was true for José Martí
when Cuba wanted freedom from Spain.
And when Ho Chi Minh declared
Viet Nam free, he quoted Thomas Jefferson.
Ideas travel like this all the time,
like our most unimportant currency;
one sometimes glances at a penny
and is surprised by how old the date is.
Jefferson and Madison likewise
received it from Europeans.
You had no idea, either, we were
using those words just between ourselves;
it’s how we got each other to play fair.
But nobody thought it included you.
On behalf of one who does not matter,
I’m sorry you had to be another
overhearing what was not meant for you.
But take heed of another saying of ours,
a curious placebo for good intentions
always uttered with a sort of wounded pride:
“Do as I say, not as I do.”