The Dress of Battle

The battle is lost and
I have not saved anyone.
She left with
nothing to wear
and nothing to say
when I sent her away.

Empty wars she said, and
she is not rescued nor am I.

How do you know if
the sun will shine
when the night is dark
and she has left forever

It is so cold alone
to be naked in the night
interrupted by bombs

Why dress for death
when lost blood is warm

How am I to bleed well
when she doesn’t love me anymore
and there is no rescue. Honor?

I don’t think the sun will rise
and I have no clothes
but her memory

Cooking Gyros For Swat Valley

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.

Why Did You Plant Flowers?

Why did you not go
when I told you
the tanks are coming.

Why did you go
into the garden, when
I told you there are
never flowers.

I wanted to send you away
but I was too weak when
you wanted to stay with me

and I said hide, but
you wanted to plant.

Why did you not go
when I told you
the tanks are coming.

Why did you go
into the garden
where there is no rain

and a bomb
fell on you.

Fish Watching Paint Dry

Far off and oddly near,
deformity inheres a storm, where
the sanguine slosh of war reigns

a bellicose rain with thunder claps
applause in one-sided prayer cheers,
a dear victory one day at least apt

Power on
power off
power who

Some fishy things are left standing
a shard of a city, a hope façade

Too long the fish have watched
the decrepit peeling walls
from their tank barely maintained, but

the turret tanks have left in retreat
and the rebels have won a day
with a song, a prayer, and a slog

Time to paint the walls for now cheery
those celebration colors on the cheeky walls
where the fishys don’t mind if I move them
now that the power is back on for a slosh

Though soaked in fish water and paint
I can brush victory colors on the wall, and
now finally take my long hot shower, soapy
in soothing melodrama upon the
skin of fantasy and the caress of peace, but

fish can not go back to the tropics
anymore than I could go to the North Pole
to mourn the memories frozen in agony

Where Is Damascus? (2012)

Damascenes can welcome
tourists of many shades,
many kinds of refuge for
adventurous palettes, a

taste of freedom perhaps for
foreign and countryside tourists

From many places
people seek refuge
or adventure in Damascus

Shelling in Idlib, Homs and Hama.
None of our business. People
seek refuge in Damascus. OK.

Shabiha intimidate those
neighborhoods now nearby.

Soon violence may come to
our narrow alleys
mingle among tourists
wrapping up a night wandering

Seems a friend is accused –
disappeared by glass fronts and by street stalls
where walk-by tourists are stalled along narrow ways
on Midan street, and eye the high towers of
baklawa and night-market syrups on
pistachio-and-walnut secrets wrapped in
phyllo dough wrappings and raptured night

Are we to be tourists too
who will mingle with darker nights,
pack up and wrap up the day
flee too when the last
of the grilled meat
oozes lamb scented oil

seeming no time for
sfouf cake, sesame cookies
or crumbly mamoul

going now without tea perhaps
making our way quietly
off the record, secular
and I’d deny I’d ever said that
religion is superstition. Say that

family were kind merchants
who made money honestly
obeyed the state of affairs

What are we to do
with the art works in our house?

Saying that perhaps
Damascenes never mention
chic addresses again
where honey-pistachio pastries
seemed to entice
a palette of fantasy tolerance
bought with elite education, where
no one could know

we were pet dogs
and happy to eat until
the countryside wolf
became a tourist