by Tamsin Smith
This poem was written to mark the 10th anniversary of the bombing of Baghdad’s famed literary corridor Al Mutanabbi Street on March 5, 2007.
Your voice modulates the radio. And everything near.
Leaning, I imagine you, to keep from falling.
Wherever we are, we are always up against whatever else remains.
As separate lives go, sameness sits in atoms alone. Yet I hold you up and know you better than those passing, careless in their casual comforts.
You are in me like a spine.
They took your father. Your brother, your sons, your home. They took your city and its alleys. Parks. Poems. People. Swept litter.
Sideways in a shed without a roof, You lie blinking at the sky. One need not disbelieve in time or distance to find our eyes meet.
Together we follow as they gather, memories coefficient, fueled as fire drinks air.
It’s only been an instant. Story and history fanning out and up. You were speaking of a bird in a cage. One possession that hadn’t been destroyed. You’d been asked about hope. Do you still have it?
Of course, you said. Because, the bird.
We think of freedom as escape. But you hold it on your lap. The warmth of your inner world soothing hope through filigree reed as a mother’s ribcage held the first dream of you.
The dogs are loose on the darkling plain.
But you are the wind. You the flame.
You because you. The bird.