Days of Peace
There weren’t many birds
in the hills of South Lebanon
when I was a peacekeeper,
they were never a feature
of the historic landscape
that I can remember
except for the vultures
circling up high on summer thermals,
the smaller creatures had all been killed
by the time the spring had ended,
nothing to stir poetics in a future poet.
But there were times during days of peace
when villages came to life
with the call to prayers from ancient minarets
when the local people spoke
of a recent Barhah – a gift from God,
the moment when they personally encountered
a new born child and the Adhan was recited –
the first words a baby hears
(a call to prayers whispered into the left ear),
and I think now how abundant the skies must have been
before the crusades
and how many times since
a new born child
has encountered that same call to prayers.
Children of the War
Peacekeeping in Kosovo
Once, on the outskirts of a future memory,
we stopped our convoy
on a narrow road
near a fallen tree.
I was in the lead vehicle
bringing supplies to a forgotten village
the war had touched,
our first time on that ground.
The tree blocked the route
as if booby-trapped.
There was movement in the woods
as we pushed through,
we didn’t shoot.
It was good to see them,
we drove by and they came in to view
hands raised high- begging.
The ambush turned out
to be scared children
weary of uniforms,
we gave them chocolate
for their little victory.
There was nothing to fear
though they didn’t know it
when they saw us coming
and in the long run of things
their tactics worked –
their smiles keep me awake sometimes.
Nectar of War
The ground could feel them,
returning to nests with the arsenals
of their colonies,
rotors vibrating the air
on convoys of black silhouettes
dozens of helicopters
like eager wasps,
tail-booms jutting out
like giant stings
with artillery pieces,
heavy mortars and vehicles
slung beneath their painted bodies
like sacs full of the nectar of war.
Old Man’s Tears
Wandering through ashes and misery
of memories daily desired,
landscapes of loving existence entwined
to a day of infamy fired.
Why graves in back garden we enquired
through interpreter we witnessed tragedy,
for old man’s tears trapped on beard
told a story of brutal savagery.
Burnt shell of home – on hurting ground,
daughters and wives ravaged within sight of sons.
All put to death by order of state
in front of old eyes,
no more to sire ungrateful children.
Kosovo, Winter 2001
Burnt out shell
Would not be helped