Jihad bil Qalam: To Strive by Means of the Pen
Tri-City Action for Peace (TCAP) Anti-War Anthology, Edited by Marc Beaudin, 2004
“This is the strongest anti-war anthology I’ve seen and from page to page I learn things. Remarkable spirits here … Beaudin’s contributions are strong, passionate and come from the center of conscience (and artistry) he’s come to be.” -William Heyen, poet, National Book Award finalist and editor of September 11, 2001: American Poets Respond.
3 AM in Baghdad
by Marc Beaudin
It’s 3 am in Baghdad,
“City of Peace” according to
those stories that lulled me to sleep,
to soft dreams.
How did we lose our childhood enchantment
with this far-off place
of silks and spices?
And yes, it’s true:
the rivers we will soon send gunboats up–
will make to run red with the blood
are those rivers; the Tigris and the Euphrates,
that flowed from the Garden of Eden.
Have we forgotten that too?
It’s 3 am in Baghdad
and I’m drinking water that once,
in the geologic measure of things,
carried holy fish from Eden to Mother Sea
I can taste the tears of Eve,
her black eyes reflecting the death-planes
vomiting out their bombs
while the men at the controls
imagine that she is their cold, blue-eyed mother;
they imagine that God doesn’t hate them for their murder
It’s 3 am in Baghdad
and I want to listen to a Miles Davis cd
but I’m afraid to turn off the radio
I’m sorry I ever paid my taxes
I’m burning a candle in my window
wondering if my neighbors can see it
over the glow of their television sets.
In the middle of Kind of Blue
one can imagine a world where blood
runs through the veins of children rather than rivers;
where oil is kept in the drum of the earth
cradling the bones of our ancestors
and the memories of stars
And now, it’s 4 am in Baghdad:
the deadline of our appointed sociopath
the winds have calmed and the sands
have settled, revealing
the braided strands of stars
silently twisting across the darkness.
Eyes that haven’t slept this night,
that haven’t slept well in years,
look up at that luminous river,
mirror of the Biblical trickle below,
and see the coming storm,
the cleansing rain of fire,
“liberation” from the barrel of a gun.
I hold the water glass to my lips,
knowing that it is made of sands
that once blew across this desert
by winds that held the incense of Arabian nights.
Through its lens I see the
distorted image of a candle burning low,
and its reflection winking back at me from the glass
of the window; also made of these desert sands
and I wonder, how can we ever explain this
to our children?
How can we read them bedtime stories
that speak of a land that
we have destroyed?
It’s 5 am in Baghdad,
city of peace,
the sun should be rising soon
but the night ahead of us is long.
I’ll take a chance and put in Miles–
pour another glass of water
and pray to what I no longer believe in.
–March 19, 2003
Seventh Anniversary Addendum
And children who weren’t even born
when this flag-draped terror began
are now in grade school,
apples and chalk dust, lunches in brown paper bags
And one wonders,
do they begin each morning
by reciting the Pledge
with one hand over their tiny hearts
and the other
covering their eyes?
– March, 2010