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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Facing Giants

Soldiers on patrol in Iraq

i

the sky is silk here
in Iraq, the wind blows ruffles
into it, the clouds are the colour
of gunpowder, as the night begins
to draw the day
further and further away;

the curfew patrols walk
as little children stalk
them gingerly from behind:
it's a game of a kind -- facing giants;
and the soldiers don't seem to mind --

they are too busy facing their own giants,
so an interpreter shakes his arms, hushing
at the children as though he were shushing
a flock of low gaggling geese --
but the game does not cease,
the patter of their feet
sustains a tambourine two-step beat
against the foreign army
patrolling their street;

ii

a few residents come out to wave
as though it's a photo opportunity,
but one rushes over to a boy I assume
is his son, making gestures as though
he's trying to save him from something;

he wears a white dishdasha;
his long Arab robe flowing
angrily, I stop to look at him:
a cloud ruffled by
the wind in a darkening sky; and
I try to signal for him to see
his child is safe from the military,

but he just pulls his son's ear --
more out of fear than anger --
and says something I don't quite understand,
until he pulls a stone
out of his boy's hand, and
I watch as he drags him back to his stand,
where he sells cheap plastic sandals from Hawaii,
to close up and leave quickly
while still shouting at his boy;

iii

my friend comes to collect me
and disperses the children more easily
than soldiers and interpreters;
the curfew shred to tatters
as they run to their homes,

and I notice how sounds reverberate
downwards in Iraq,
like guitar strings when given slack,
or like brass and fire
exploding in a suicide's mouth;
or like cries coming from the earth,
pregnant with so many dead,

and I speak to my friend,
how from the reports I read,
you would think Iraqis were voiceless,
or that curfews brought immediate silence,
not anticipation more than suffocation,
or the following tread
and attention of their children;

iv

and he tells me how he tells the children
of the ghosts of American
soldiers that wander the streets
at night; the latest version
of the bedtime bogeyman,

and as the wind blows down
the narrow alleys, and the wan sky
hisses its silken rustling,
and somewhere the latest American radio star
sings, while the wailing wind
blows it away towards Mecca; I stand thinking --

how history is about facing giants,
how we are all but David, one and all;
history is the true Goliath,
the only real American after all
that we try to slay alone
with but a single stone.

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