Wednesday, March 10, 2010

375. An Overture

A pall of smoke and drifting ash
hangs above the battered ruins of Baghdad;
for four long days it has hung above
mounds of corpses and the humming
sounds of blowflies. It has cast a shadow
on the wide meandering river, but by now
the impassive horsemen, their work done,
have casually moved along.

From an oven built of bricks, which takes up
corner space in a smouldering cellar shop,
emerges, from cavernous thick cool depths,
a child, wary and uncertain. It is a boy,
tousle-haired, perhaps about nine or ten.
He gazes upon the surrounding wreckage
and sees the charred bodies of his parents,
his two sisters. He climbs up to the street.

Tied to his robe by a thin rope is a pouch
containing scraps of stale uneaten bread,
an empty flask of water, four small silver coins.
The street is grey and blurred under falling ash
but the heat and the stench, as they come on
so suddenly, cause the child to cough and gag.
He mutters a quick prayer, Allah, not that his
mind, unformed, truly believes in any God.

Nothing moves. The collapsed huddled shapes,
heaped, blackened and bloated, line the alleyways,
and show themselves to be his neighbours,
the people he has known since he was born.
How … how could this have come to happen?
It doesn’t seem right that complete strangers,
people he has never even seen or heard of before
can ride in on the wind and do such things.

Go HERE for background