:: Friday, April 04, 2003 ::

BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Arts | Poet laureate writes Iraq lament

Regime Change

Advancing down the road from Niniveh
Death paused a while and said 'Now, listen here.
Your see the names of places roundabout?
They're mine now, and I've turned them inside-out.
Take Eden, further south: at dawn today
I ordered up my troops to tear away
its walls and gates so everyone can see
that gorgeous fruit which dangles from its tree.
You want it, don't you? Go and eat it then,
and lick your lips, and pick the same again.
Take Tigris and Euphrates; once they ran
through childhood-coloured slats of sand and sun.
Not anymore they don't; I've filled them up
with countless different kinds of human crap.
Take Babylon, the palace sprouting flowers,
which sweetened empires in their peaceful hours -
I've found a different way to scent the air:
already it's a byword for despair
Which leaves Baghdad - the star-tipped minarets,
the marble courts and halls, the mirage-heat.
These places, and the ancient things you know,
you won't know soon. I'm working on it now.'

Andrew Motion

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