( This poem was written while I was deployed to Iraq in 2006.)
The half-moon swells into a phenomenal scarlet sunrise
sustained by indigo skies. Against the heated horizon,
a deep, solemn mourning reverberates longingly,
and the warm land's people begin their graceful, harmonious bows.
Their ruminations intently turned towards Mecca
with heads faced piously down and palms laid graciously on knees
on an earthen mosaic of hardened mud, smooth and jagged stone, and parched terrain.
Their eyes shut, drawing in the sorrow and jubilation
of a long, proud heritage, slick, onyx veins that thicken underneath furrowed soil,
silhouettes of rugged arcs and smooth dunes that line vast, desolate tracts
once traversed by nomadic tribes and shepherded flocks,
and their hearts absorb the exquisite turbulence of the Euphrates flow,
as an utter stillness ensues.
The bold, austere shapes curl into supplicating arches,
grey shadows impressed upon alluvial, russet plains
rimmed with gaping stone mouths that swallow,
fusing the tragic, yet delicate song of the unplanted land into the intense fabric
and opus of their strikingly chaotic ancestry,
a myriad of deeply embedded cultural faiths
clashing intricately within borders once ruled by great sultans.
In the distance the momentum of the prayerfuls' sad chorus intensifies and broadens,
and then dispels somewhere deep in the heart of the desert sand.
In droves refugees flee from their once captivating, war-ravaged homeland
fiercely clutching their livelihoods by the strands of their hair and makeshift sacks,
the weight of years spent watching their country crumble,
marked in the creases of their brows.
Children play hide-and-seek in the skeleton of a bombarded building,
streets usher a tangle of cars,armored vehicles, and native amblers,
while veiled women hold their infants and children close as they manuever briskly
through the throng of bodies and smoke.
A semblance of normalcy teeters somewhere between uneven market lines,
busy or empty shops, broken homes, and inside sacrosanct mosques
where even the faithful fear the hooded men more than their god.
In the distance down an unpaved road where jaded and weary soldiers
lay concrete, mid-morning is torn apart.
The earth seemingly splits, buildings cave, and the air shatters.
Women pull their hair out by the roots in anguish, hovering over husbands, motionless in the streets.
Children sob uncontrollably, pulling at the garments of their mothers
as they breathed their last breath, gripping dates from the market in their hands.
The wounded and suffering moan and lament laboriously
while the beautiful facade burns in shards.
Overhead the steppe eagle and juvenile kestrel fly
where once lush, emerald gardens were thought to have blossomed