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At the airport in Nevada, security staff
politely inspect some suspect items
packed inside my suitcase — gifts I bought
for a friend who couldn’t come with me
to Bryce Canyon and the tribal reservations.
It seems the culprit is an 8-ounce package
of authentic Indian fry bread mix
which may appear through an x-ray scanner
to be gunpowder or a pouch of anthrax.
As two officials duly puzzle over
my goodwill purchases, I think of
the Navajo code breakers, those loyal men
whose intricate native tongue
saved our Allied cause, won for us
the Pacific war. No foreigner has ever
deciphered their secret lexicon.
I remember that the tour guide told us
how the code breakers disguised
each usage of the English “bombs”–
by pronouncing instead 
their Navajo word for  “eggs.”
Eggs or bombs? Weapons or food?
Friendship, hatred, or the call of duty–
even in one language, hard to tell apart.
by Therese L. Broderick
(An artist’s statement about this poem appears as the first comment.)

About ThereseLBroderick

Independent community poet living in Albany, New York USA.

One response »

  1. poetryaboutart

    ARTIST’S STATEMENT about this poem
    Fact & Fiction ~
    Most of the statements in this poem are autobiographically accurate. I had packed the gift inside my husband’s suitcase (not mine), but the suitcase was, indeed, opened for inspection at an airport in Nevada after our trip out west. In this poem, the words “It seems” are used with deliberation: I’m not absolutely certain that the fry bread mix was the culprit. I use “may appear” deliberately for the same reason: I speculate (but am not absolutely certain) that the package resembled gunpowder or anthrax.
    Sound & Sense ~
    In this poem I investigate disguises: how much reliable information can we get through appearances? How reliable am I as a tourist in the lands of the Native Americans, as a frequent flyer, or as a friend? I revised several stanzas to achieve a better sound. This poem benefited from the feedback of first readers MM, JG, and JH.


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