By Patricia Keegan
I published my first poem, For the Iraqi Children, in late 2002, just before the U.S. launched the Iraq War. That poem is reprinted below, followed by my second and most recent poem on the Iraq situation. Mere words cannot express my sadness for our country, for our soldiers and their families, and for the Iraqi people who continue to suffer and die. May the innocent be protected, the warriors calmed, and the healing soon begun.
For the Iraqi Children
Oh land of Abraham, and Ur, where Moses rose
Between the Tigris and the Euphrates.
Oh land of Noah’s great flood,
Where once you sank beneath the waters,
And now you call again upon the Sky God,
The Moon God, but it is the God of the Wind
Who carries your voice across the world
To this new land, Where deep inside the hearts of millions
A hallowed voice is heard.
It nags and nags and nags; It says, 'Thou shalt not kill!'
Once the capital of the world for two centuries,
Baghdad looks faded now,
Burdens of weariness etched across her face.
But children come and go and skip along in innocence
To school, to dance, to play,
While mother’s watch and wring their hands in fear.
And mornings come and go and still they rise
To put the coffee on, put on their shoes,
Then warily turn the front doorknob,
An opening to the naked sky.
Yet, still they wait, the moments drag...
Six thousand miles away
Debating voices rise...
YES, WE SHOULD BOMB IRAQ --
NO, WE SHOULDN'T.
Unseen in their chaotic world is the glorious perfection
Of the Iraqi children,
Their newborn skin, their shining eyes,
A tiny hand reaching for a father
To lift them up,
To view the wonders of the world.
For now, they are the fortunate, with precious moments left.
For others, all was lost through deprivation.
Victims of sanctions, 5000 die per month, their Fate
Carelessly tossed aside like random weeds.
And will we send our sons and daughters
To press cold buttons on laser guided bombs
O’er hospitals, schools, factories, bridges and mosques,
And think they will return to us the same?
Their minds, if not their eyes, will forever
Journey backward through the path of destruction,
Seeing bodies strewn in the lingering hell of half-death.
Oh Sky God, Moon God, Wind God, God of Abraham, God of Moses,
And all who have the power to turn the world away from war,
Stop us, Stop us, before we hear the cry:
Forgive them God, they know not what they do.
-Patricia E. Keegan / November 2002
From the author, The following poem was published in November 2006.
To the People of Iraq -- I'm Sorry
Your unending anguish breaks across my eyes,
Beats upon my ears, Searing its stamp of sadness on my soul
As I stand by and watch your proud world crumble.
Five thousand miles away, detached,
My world is orderly.
In cleanliness and comfort I drink the water,
Switch on the light,
Moving through my day with confidence.
While taut and alert you stand, sacrificed,
Wedged solidly between the vise of violence and victory.
Have I forgotten you?
I hear my voice whisper weakly through the darkness,
And to that sorry, I repeat louder,
I am sorry!
Today I saw your little girl -- Fragility,
All splashed with blood upon her dress,
Her shoes, and in her eyes bewilderment.
And now the sorrow builds, and I cry, louder --
It echoes back to me, and no one hears.
And what was started still moves on in madness, day by day.
Men, women, children fall, as innocent victims
Of the powerful Ares.
Blood flows more clear and clean than water,
Seeping its way through ancient soil,
Buried with shocked spirits
Who once looked up to us with hopeful eyes.
The web's self-installed spider,
finding no way out,
Gropes blindly for the exit.
What can we do
When sorrow's not enough?
Should I dip into the blood
Of our dead soldiers,
And write across the sky
For all the world to see,
I'm sorry for America's mistake, or
Should I have shouted louder, Stop this war!
Then speaking for Iraq's proud people,
You sadly tell me that apologies are as futile
As wisps of saffron flung like the wind
Across the heads of burdened lives, who'll walk
Forever grasping tiny rays of hope;
Devastated, desolate, ravaged, yet unafraid!
-Patricia Keegan / November 2006