The memory of his slain 16-year-old friend rushed through Emadeddin Fraitekh last night as he rhymed words of protest against a possible war in Iraq.
"Our bombs are smart, but they have no heart," Fraitekh read from his poem, "Love in a Time of War."
Fraitekh, 42, said he wrote the verse while leafing through photos in January, recalling a day in Nablus in 1976 when a fellow Palestinian was killed by Israeli soldiers.
"When I saw her picture in my album, it broke my heart again," said Fraitekh, a freelance writer in the Adams Morgan section of Northwest Washington. "It was just all coming together -- the wars, the dying, the killing."
About 75 people met last night at the Resource Center for Activism and Arts in Dupont Circle to revel in the rhythm of poets' words, a counterpoint to a perceived drumbeat toward war with Iraq.
It was the second event sponsored by D.C. Poets Against the War, which promotes poetry as a medium for political change. Three weeks ago, organizers of the group's first event had to turn away some of the 50 people who signed up to read because time ran out.
"There's a lot of energy for these kinds of creative expressions of our resistance," said Sarah Browning, 40, a published poet and a coordinator of the group. "There has always been a tradition of poetry being involved in the social conditions of the day."
Last night's event brought together lyricists and performance artists, poets in dress shoes and Chuck Taylor sneakers, and audience members in leather pants and khakis.
Substitute teacher Don Wilson, 27, likened the political landscape to the National Football League in a poem called "NFL Politics," using team names to describe policymakers and a gridiron march toward conflict.
"You don't have to have Eagle eyes to know [President Bush] is a Steeler," Wilson said.
Dan Logan, a retired Senate speechwriter from Alexandria, read from his own poem: "Let's have a war in poetry. Metaphors instead of missiles. Similes, not smallpox."
Afrika M.A. Abney, 26, a Columbia Heights artist, implored: "Let Us Heal America, with our energy of peace and light."
Kate and Robert Wilson came at the behest of their daughter Maura, who was home on spring break from the College of William and Mary. Kate Wilson said she came to spend time with her daughter but also is "certainly wary" of war and said "there's got to be a better way."
While many there last night were "like-minded," Maura Wilson, 22, said she urged her parents to drive from their Arlington home because it's important that people express themselves in a positive manner.
"It's wonderful," she said. "You can sit down, write something and share it."