My daughter was born the day the Long War began. In the quiet times during labor, I listened to the explosions, wondering as I drifted into five minutes’ sleep whether the bombing had precipitated the contractions, or whether she was so remarkable a child that her entrance into the world should cause a war, a rearrangement of planets not entirely her own.

  We are used to war in this country. I mean, we are used by war, as wood is used by flame. Trees have no knowledge of fire in their inner parts until the forest is ablaze, or until they are cut into kindling. I cannot imagine that one gets used to combat or that trees accustom themselves to burning.

  I say “we” as if I were a native, but I was then and am still a registered alien. Nearly everyone here is foreign, immigrant, here because they're starved for land and space in which to breathe—but in wartime the air is thick with the smell of chemicals and the dust of blasted buildings, and all the land one can claim, even temporarily, is that. on which he stands or lies.

  I am as foreign as the ones who drop the bombs. I came here, as the invaders say they come, looking for peace. Yet I could never get it into my head to move away from this crowded city which is always the first hit, giving the rest of the country time to mobilize and start sending supplies—blood, drugs, food, young people. This is a city which is always being rebuilt after the last raid. Of course it is never rebuilt.