Cooking Gyros For Swat Valley (February 2009)

Cooking Gyros For Swat Valley (February 2009)

I made several versions of this in 2009. At that time I didn’t know how bad things would get. It was based on an article in the New York Times about the Swat Valley in Pakistan. It seems odd now. Apparently in hindsight, different parts of the government were both for and against the Taliban. They wanted to placate the US and have an anti-India position in Afghanistan.

The February 19 version includes references to President Barack Obama and Richard C. Holbrooke, Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan or special envoy.

Cooking Gyros For Swat Valley (February 2009)

We used to be
the Switzerland of Pakistan
many orchards
much fruit
much minding.

In my mind I see
the mulberry trees,
see much fruit, the
plum of the valley
minding apricots, damson
cracking walnuts like jewels
minding a fig leaf
a grape, the jujube
minding these and the olive tree
in my dreams of Swat Valley

We thought
like fruit flies
insurgents could be thwarted
could be swatted

In exile, an
Obama for peace
seemed hopeful,
one making pieces of harm
come together in compromise

Oh the strutting about,
the grazing on tables where
all the world’s a
Joe Biden stage, confused
the size of Delaware
the size of Swat
valley of rotting fruit.

Stand up for Swat Valley
the Switzerland of Pakistan

The Taliban
have kidnapped
my Father, and

from New York in refuge
I work to earn a ransom; the
flowers of my Swati meadows
are in my mind, my eye

Oh Pakistan,
for every truce I die,
while Richard C. Holbrooke
fiddles with Sharia at the door.
—————
For some reason on February 21, I took out the specific references. I suppose, at the time, I didn’t think it was that relevant. And maybe it’s a smoother poem without the names. But now it’s startling to see Biden in the early version. This is the revised plain version:

We used to be
the Switzerland of Pakistan
many orchards
much fruit
much minding.

In my mind I see
the mulberry trees,
see much fruit, the
plum of the valley
minding apricots, damson
cracking walnuts like jewels
minding a fig leaf
a grape, the jujube
minding these and the olive tree
in my dreams of Swat Valley

We thought
like fruit flies
insurgents could be thwarted
could be swatted

In exile, my
restaurant work is a meditation
chopping lamb into chunks
into pieces, coalescing
thoughts for peace
charcoal broiled
hoping coalition forces will
bring a peace home, but I
am mashed chick peas
and tahini: the skeleton of
the sesame seed, fallen, my
kernel floated and crushed
feeling pasty, stuck in New York
rolling out an unfamiliar phyllo flat
with pistachios and honey sadness.

Oh the strutting about,
the grazing on tables where
all the world’s a
thoughtless stage, confused
the size of Delaware
the size of Swat
valley of rotting fruit
and war.

Stand up for Swat Valley
the Switzerland of Pakistan

The Taliban
have kidnapped
my Father, and

from here in refuge
I work to earn a ransom, the
flowers of my Swati meadows
in my mind, my eye,
the charcoal smell of my
burnt house wafted in a nostril

Oh Pakistan,
for every truce I die,
while every envoy
seems to fiddle
with Shariah at the door.

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