Zahiruddin Mohammed Babur’s Tomb, Afghanistan
(A Found Poem)
Sarcophagus of white, black and pink marble, the empire
builder beneath stones. Our guide reports: A favorite picnic
spot for Kabulis, its sprawling banks of iris, hollyhocks, zinnia,
pansy, marigold and rose. Prewar.
(alluvium: Venetian beads, Greek coins,
unearthed by farmers’ plow, looters’ shovel.)
On the Silk Road oasis of Bamiyan, a peasant fingers
fragments of ancient Torah. We cross ourselves before
minefields, warlords, militias, and embrace the blizzard
An afghan enshrouds a dead prince.
Babur’s grave open to sky, rain, snow—his wish for wildflower
or sapling to penetrate his flesh and come forth.
‘…this mosque of beauty, this temple of nobility…for the prayer
of saints, the epiphany of cherubs…this highway of archangels,
theatre of heaven, the light garden of the godforgiven…’
When they were here, the Taliban cut down the ancient
trees, the gardener tells us. When we tried to keep the flowers
alive, they put us in prison. Next year it will all be beautiful again.
I believe in the chimney swallow and its long black tail. I believe in the yarrow, the rose campion and the peonies bowing to earth. I believe I’m a pagan after discarding my garden gloves and plunging my hands in anthracite, rich, loamy soil. I believe in the house sparrow, the wren, nights without sodium lights, and a harvest moon. I believe in the porch step, the balcony, the stained glass window. I believe in lace, wood floors, antique plates, second-hand furniture, two-family homes and the wild iris. I believe one day no one will realize the yarrow is gone, or the frogs. I believe in worship of flower, worship of sun god, and light. I believe lacquer is a coat of lies, no one touches me like you do and when your hands are deep inside me you can feel earth itself. I believe in white drifts of petals on the driveway, fern, and that we all need a cool place on a humid day. I believe nothing good will come of this. Nothing.
The Tulip Thief, Mi Amor
At first it was an ember; its glow I nursed
like a welt after the open wound you left
in the row. Anger, yes, but what is anger
if not passion? Sparks, if not chemistry?
A lab of mulch, calyx, and bitterroot. Your
neat snips—kitchen shears?—selective: not
the first in the row, yet the second and today
the third. My pretty girls, my charming
darlings. Oh, the hours I conjured their hue
of red—for cheerful and its stain of glamour.
Tulip, native of Asia, sister of Geisha—
petals demure, dainty and closed
each evening. I’ve contemplated a linger
in the eaves with a shotgun. A friend suggests
a garden hose. And like a misunderstood lover,
I harbored plans—one with a black alder
and epoxy—discarded for mercy. Your ache
for beauty much like my own dogma. I know
the gasp of a red petal on the asphyxiated
heart—how it jumps! Perhaps, your wife
has packed and paid for a ticket to the gas
station where the attendant grows Iris—
so violet—clearly, a man who knows
how to tend. You saw my tulips and thought
to dazzle her back with scarlet; it’s the true nature
of violet, pure. I like to think my tulips save
your marriage—you’re off to Niagara Falls
for a wet second honeymoon and surprise
baby. This, I understand. Sometimes we need
lucid and reckless acts to see each other again.