Jump to content
Poetry Magnum Opus

history can kill you


dedalus

Recommended Posts

the-souk.jpg

 

Coffee-coloured gentlemen

in a mish-mash

of dishdash and Western dress

saunter lazily

in the souk, twirling

prayer beads, car keys,

so insouciant, the modern

descendants, many of them,

of the Bashi-bazouk

of the Ottoman day,

mercenaries without pay,

who were lashed and beaten like dogs,

men who unleashed

great fortunes in plunder,

seeking and finding, performing

feral casual rape on the side;

men who went swaggering

down these same narrow

twisting lanes, twirling

severed human heads.

 

Ahh, the good old days.

 

They have been going on,

those good old days

for quite some time:

Sargon of Akkad.

Tiglath-Pileser.

Darius and Xerxes.

Tamerlane, Saladin,

Saddam Hussein....

 

Mountains of skulls,

vast pyramids of burning bodies;

smoke from horizon to horizon,

the wailing wives and mothers.

Some Western optimist, occasionally,

marches in at the head of an army,

some fool with visions of conquest:

Alexander, Crassus, General Maude,

these and so many others, seem

surprised when they leave their bones

strewn across the barren sands.

These hostile arid sun-scorched lands

have an ancient habit

of sucking in foreign armies

and draining them dry.

 

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

 

Even before humble Allenby

entered Jerusalem, on foot,

(unlike the vainglorious

German Kaiser before him)

the European Near East project

was foredoomed: armies

of strangers can bleed and die,

win all the important battles, exult

in transient victories: then history

leaves them high and dry.

 

Cheerio, Johnny Turk,

Au 'voir, la Légion!

Pip-pip, Tommy Atkins,

So long, Yankee Doodle!

Only Israel remains,

an ideal, an imposed

necessity: a nation composed

of Hope and the Holocaust,

thrust deep into the heart

of the Muslim World

like a poisoned dagger.

We defend it in the West,

fretfully, reluctantly,

(more so, perhaps, in America)

through vague strangled feelings

of ignorance and guilt.

 

Those to whom evil has been done

do evil in return. In our secret hearts

we turn away, we think but do not say,

Thank God I'm not Palestinian.

 

Now come the Americans,

untroubled, as usual, by history,

obsessed by numbers, technology

and firepower; unaware (as yet)

that they are not winning, dangerously

out of tune with their surroundings;

unaware that they are stranded

in the original killing fields,

those ancient killing fields

where there is an inherited tolerance

for endless horror.

Edited by dedalus

Drown your sorrows in drink, by all means, but the real sorrows can swim

Link to post
Share on other sites

Ded,

 

As always, very enjoyable read. Colorful, juicy, tone-ous.

History did kill and still will... it talked about the killing from the past to the present, a vicious circle.

The names, places are killers, too, for I got to look them up; but on the other hand they present the poem with authenticity and flair.

The opening lines are a grabber, beautifully composed. Even though I didn't understand all the words, but "Coffee-coloured", " mish-mash", "dishdash" just roll off the tongue so nicely.

 

Regards,

 

Lake

Link to post
Share on other sites

General Maude ...? Died of cholera in 1916. Sorely missed. Things happen. So, it seems, does history. On and on and on and on and on and on again it goes. Until it stops. Not yet.

Edited by dedalus

Drown your sorrows in drink, by all means, but the real sorrows can swim

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 weeks later...

But what are your thoughts on THIS one?

 

And as for this:

 

Now come the Americans,

untroubled, as usual, by history,

obsessed by numbers, technology

and firepower; unaware (as yet)

that they are not winning, dangerously

out of tune with their surroundings;

unaware that they are stranded

in the original killing fields,

those ancient killing fields

where there is an inherited tolerance

for endless horror. [emphasis mine]

I was starting to contemplate this possibility, but it's looking less likely every day. Exactly who wins what remains to be seen, but America's geographic isolation from those "ancient killing fields" is unassailability in itself.

 

Tony

Here is a link to an index of my works on this site: tonyv's Member Archive topic

Link to post
Share on other sites

Peter O'Toole!!

 

I got crap over this poem on other lists ... you always do when you drift into politics. No reason not to, mind. The Americans only came in at the very end and got off reasonably lightly compared to the Bashi Bazouk, the Israelis and the silly old Kaiser.

Drown your sorrows in drink, by all means, but the real sorrows can swim

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Guidelines.