Baghdad, when a church is bombed
Where glass rains down, splattering shards in cobalt drops across the dusty steps
The haggard eyes of witnesses red-rimmed, blackened, staring, fists balled, throats hoarse from shouting at the sky, from begging God to stop the rain.
There's a city around this city, its rings of squatters camps long since leveled, sown with salt, rebuilt in regulated rows; reordered into neatened grids of cinder blocks in modernizing city schemes
Old byways turning in adobe bends toward the leafy cool of shaded canal-side gardens, now erased in one bold sweep of urban engineering.
Rings gone, the grids, the straight long streets now turning nowhere, leading nowhere, encircling all the same, with a prowling hope imported from the long-gone squatters camps without, now a marching, lockstep ache within.
There is a city around this city: it hides, it shields, it breathes a desperate grasp for turnings, coolness, a place along the Tigris banks, a place no more outside, a place no more the Arab street;
a place no more the clothes the speech the furious and futile pride of a second city a made city a city forced and framed from rural remnants still despised
and now displaced by space and time from old ancestral lands and ways.
There is a city around this city. It shuttled once from night to night in black sedans--black cars, hot cars, big cars, red cars, four-wheel armored SUVs, red sports coups, battered beaten orange and white and dented rusty taxicabs—
shuttled, roared, crept, sped, through the beaten, brutal nights from Palace moat to Palace basement; from torture cells to satin beds.
It chokes today, a smog of fear, hovering along the concrete ribbons that ring and cross and exit but never never leave; that hang above, a dusty pall along horizon hinterlands.
There's a city around this city. War rooms, tents, and offices; HUMMVs, EWACs, Tactical Commands; a soldier-city, a city of soldiers, they hover, glide, ride, patrol, surround, transgress, withdraw: a web, a cage, a deliverance from thirst;
distractions; terrors, a band of brothers; a company of friends:
A city they are too, of crime and hope and fear and boredom; of jobs well done and duties shirked as many and as variable as the city they surround and barely comprehend.
There's a city around this city. In it pipes, and out again: electric grids and oil pipelines and air supplies and boiler parts; satellite dishes like rooftop mushrooms, like bracket fungus stepping up the sides of concrete urban forests; plastic flip-flops, computer chips; highway truckers, convoys, road trains feeding, bleeding: money, imports, spare supplies; technicians, merchants, engineers.
There's a city around this city: of industry and land fills; glass factories and furniture repairs; a dying city, a trying city, a city under attack, assault, explosions, mortar rounds, assassinations, kidnappings, shortages, scandals, extraordinary efforts, high stakes, past profits, future fears.
There's a city around this city. Where window glass rained down to cover twenty New York city blocks, in a pyroclastic flow of office trash, screaming jumpers, smoke, and ash, and burning fuels: The haggard eyes of witnesses red-rimmed, blackened, staring, fists balled, throats hoarse from shouting at the sky, from begging God to stop the rain.
These witnesses, this city, seen and wrapped around the globe.
[Now Published in: Excavations: A City Cycle]