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The Mutnabbi Street Bombing
March 25, 2007
In the moment after the explosion, an old man
staggers through the cloud of dust and debris, hands
pressed hard against his bleeding ears
as if to block out the noise of the world
at 11:40 a.m., the broken sounds of the wounded
rising around him, chawled and roughened by pain,
while a young man runs past, shrieking
at the unspeakable, a water-pipe still in his hands,
its tube and mouthpiece bouncing
like a goose with a broken neck.

Buildings catch fire. Cafes.
Stationary shops. The Renaissance Bookstore.
A huge column of smoke plumes upward
fueled by the Kitab al-Aghani,
al-Isfahani’s Book of Songs, the elegies of Khansa,
the exile poetry of Youssef and al-Azzawi,
religious tracts, manifestos, translations
of Homer, Shakespeare, Whitman, Neruda.
Book-leaves curl their darkening tongues
in the fire’s blue-tipped heat, verse by verse,
the long centuries rising over Baghdad
for all to see.


As the weeks pass, sunsets
deepen over the Pacific. Couples
lie in the spring fields of California,
drinking wine, making love in the lavender
hues of dusk. There is a sweet, apple-roasted
smell of tobacco in the air. We sleep.
We dream. Then wake to the dawn’s
early field of lupine—to discover ourselves
lightly dusted in ash, with the poems of Sulma
and Sayyab in our hair, Sa’di on our eyebrows,
Hafiz and Rumi on our lips.

In memory of Mohammed Hayawi