Thursday, July 07, 2005

182. history can kill you (rewrite)

photo by Alastair MacNaughton

coffee-coloured gentlemen
in a mish-mash
of dishdash and Western dress
saunter lazily among
the souks, twirling
prayer beads, car keys,
descended, perhaps,
from the bashi bazouk
of the Ottoman day,
men without pay, and beaten
like dogs, who unleashed
great fortunes in plunder,
with a bit of casual
relaxing rape on the side,
and went swaggering
along these same narrow
twisting lanes, twirling
severed human heads.

ahh, the good old days

they have been going on,
these good old days,
for quite some time:
Sargon of Akkad;
Darius and Xerxes:
Tamerlane, Saladin,
Saddam Hussein....

Mountains of skulls,
vast pyramids of burning bodies;
and from horizon to horizon
wailing wives and mothers.

Some optimist, occasionally,
marches in from outside,
some fool with visions of conquest:
Alexander, Crassus,
(these, and so many others)
and many leave their bones
strewn across the arid sands: these barren
sun-scorched lands have a habit
of sucking in armies
and draining them dry.

You win the first war rapidly, then slowly lose the second.

It was long before Allenby
entered Jerusalem, on foot,
(unlike the vainglorious
Kaiser before him),
that the European project
was foredoomed: foreign armies
bleed and die, win or lose a few battles,
then politics pulls them out.

Cheerio, Johnny Turk
Au ‘voir, les Bleus
Pip-pip Tommy Atkins

Only Israel remains,
an ideal, an imposed necessity;
a nation composed of hope
and tribal vengeance, thrust
into the heart of the Muslim World
like a poisoned dagger,
supported (glumly) overseas
by vague feelings of ignorance
and guilt.

Now come the Americans,
untroubled, as usual, by history,
obsessed by numbers, technology,
and firepower; unaware (as yet)
that they are losing, dangerously
out of tune with their surroundings,
unaware, also, that they are stranded
in the original killing fields
in the ancient killing fields
where there is tolerance for endless horror.