James Byrne

On Hearing of the Cancellation of the Al-Sendian Festival

                                                                               for Rasha Omran


Where a father laid out

          too soon tips the bird

                    from the olive branch


And the cedar wood

          buckles under wind

                    and laniaries of dust


Gut earth’s blood-lock

          for toy silence in Tartous

                    —the thresh of a sniper


On the mosque scaffold

          blurred and wracked

                    by a prong of stars


Cold coins to the general

          low oud in the courtyard

                    a widow’s cello moan


And the bricked road

          and the red road banked

                    by memorial flowers


The portraits of sons

          missing at the funeral

                    undead at the checkpoint


At the rubbled amphitheatre

          where a soldier looks back

                           from the black canvas


Juniper-eyed at the unmade

          window—a red eagle

                    deadly to the throne




Bones and Blood


Where might the sitting council sit

On Martyrs Road? Will they bud

More lime-green shoots to spout

Over the military garden? No calm

In the hedgerow along the dark mile

Of the street, the bolt of a gunbarrel

Juts from the grills like a baited snake,

The guards remain vigilantly poised,

Wide-eyed in a weft of hammocks.

Why—for over thirty years—a 32°

Chill still pervades the pagoda road?

And why—after years of mopping up

Bones and blood—do the stray dogs

Still cower, lapping at betel juice?






Bilu—who gobbled up children for four thousand years

and stalked Dasagiri through the slopes of Mount Popa

booming the great gong of his voice—now folds/refolds

the blue-red silks of his democratic tie (demon-embossed)

and sends sudden felicitations to Venezuelan diplomats,

engineering execs. from the Koreas and the febrile British.


Bilu fleecing the public bank account as he funnels off rice

in exchange for bottle factories (re-forged from the ghost

of abandoned Socialist factories). His children in the North

spray bullets at a blazing jungle, and in the South, (uneaten,

but wholly devoured), they break rocks with their hands.


Bilu addresses the Western assembly in a tongue of whispers,

of how he has reformed from centuries of piling up bones,

while, in the East, a boy lights the matchbox of a minefield.



Note: A ‘Bilu’ is an ancient ogre or demon character thought to have roamed Burma in 2000 BC.