Poems from Iraq

Phoenix of Babylon

Honeyed by the lowering sun
walls of Babylon
cluster around history
sturdy leaves and stalks
through rubble
that once enclosed
a queen’s lush garden.
the archeologist walks in
ancient bitumen bricked tracks
and speaks as though
King Nebuchanezzar II
is a recently
departed dear friend,
easily we see how an exquisite
from a golden chariot
could burnish these honeyed walls.
behind him from a crevice in
shaded crenulations
a kingfisher soars
the sun to polish
his azurite, turquoise,
jasper feathers,
spreads a skein of brilliant hues
as he dives to the palm sheltered river.
around our heads in shimmering halos
colours of old Babylon flash
in dust motes of countless millions
from the lives of residents
millennia past
reincarnate in today’s soil.
the rebuilt ancient halls
roofless to the sky and its creatures
echo, echo, echo,
from every patted, stamped brick,
the sweating chants of celebration
of an awesome sun god.
has trickster kingfisher
fooled us into optimism?
the prophet from the Tigris
a return of jewelled splendor.
the archeologist says goodbye
…I will remember you, you knew the bird…
we walk
from lengthening silent shadows
toward a fractured present.