Your only son is a stat in the war.
Our U.S. flag will grace
his coffin coming home.
Royal blues inside the cloth
become a permanent bruise of grief.
Your nightgown weeps down
dumplings of your swaying hips —
his father sits in twilight on the patio
replaying games of chess he lost,
the house a place of hollowing.
No message from a general
can mitigate the darkness here.
off-key and singing all the same.
Talons gripped the olive branch;
it splintered into gray remains.
Time to dye white towels green.
Surrender is impossible.
You leave his room just as it is.
A rush of tenuous joy
attacks the statue of Saddam
now hollow and approachable.
Iraqis spit and throw old shoes.
Roads of dust are wearing
signs of renaissance rising
to meet the gluttonous smoke
of battle as it’s winding down.
From citadels of easy street,
it’s strange to witness such applause
as tanks roll in to stake their ground.
Then again, I haven’t seen my brother
hanged in circles of a village square.
Blend this with the tortured voice of a man
imprisoned for eight long years,
beaten and burned for “praying too much.”
“Let me take you on a tour …”
he rails to a camera lens.
A warren of cells, no light, just filth,
a cockroach train for company.
This is just a trickling of mud along
the River Styx applied to earth
by terror’s heavy choking hands.
If horror has a Louvre,
these would be the hallowed halls.
Human contact was a whip.
No wonder men are kissing
soldiers on the cheek, clapping
to the sounds of music
right behind the bullet fire.
There were souls of sacrifice
who didn’t stay at home —
in labyrinths of their
comfort zones — did not leave
this bruise of pooled blood
to fill the oceans of the East.
*First Published in Poetry Magazine.com
The DOW spikes up, banking on
a dwarfish draft of Armageddon gloom.
Our president will speak at five.
No casualty is casual.
It’s hard to match a suit and tie
to splatter of the coming blood.
Ahmed, a driver in Iraq, says:
“This is a miserable life.
We spent it shopping for war
or hiding from bombs.”
He recites his summary
as if his time is finished as a boiled egg.
All eyes red from pressing
night’s extended weight.
Justice spelled so many ways our alphabets
no longer know their proper forms.
Iraqis seal their windows shut as if a roll
of tape will come between the fragile glass
One moment he’s pruning a wayward branch;
garden tools rest happily against
the brick like spoons in soup.
You wonder how it stayed this warm.
An ancient sun is baking leaves, raisins
in a rising dough of seasons on a schedule.
He edges grass the way he’s always
sculpted love — by doing things
in steady gestures like the rain.
A seizure, then a surgery.
Then solitaire so suddenly.
Feet aren’t there to track rich soil;
welcome mats have lost all words.
I bake two pies and take
two pieces down the street.
It’s a short walk and a long hill
up to the crown of thorns.
I whisper her name aloud —
you tug at a chair to gather your coat,
pet the dog and say goodbye
before a question
kicks you in the tender groin.
Your eyelids curtsy once and clench —
a mirror of the coffin’s hinge.
I’d like to follow roads you take,
through briars of the fruitless vines,
down sharp, dry cliffs
that crumble at the slightest wind.
Our silence is my orphanage,
but you don’t know the windows
you have blocked from light.
Hand me just a sweater’s sleeve,
some syntax, context, anything
that spells the way she made the bed
into a novel packed with lust
and happiness now cherry pits.
“What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish?”
T.S. Eliot, “The Wasteland” — 1922
As locust of grief gathers its legs
for the pounce and traffic spins
in its clotted grave,
answer escapes by channel of fog.
I am seized by the question’s thrust–
turn toward ways you fanned a purse
and opened it on Christmas Eve.
A man with his face inking a sign
marked homelessness, dotting
your “I” with a tear of having more
than your heart required in wallet clutch,
pushed you to extend your gift.
You dropped $5 in his lap.
He smiled the way a cock must crow