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

 

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.