Between the two rivers, not far from a garden, two trees
where it all began, a scribe is lining the first poem.
Tell me everything you wish. I’ll write.
Cuneiform marks, stick wedging mud, clay fired to count
pelf, wealth, the sheep of us. My gains abrade me. What
I own is mine to lose, ram by ram, bull after bull.
The Marines de-mined, secured the port, oil fields
to south and north, pounded the Republican Guard sent
from Baghdad by fleeing generals. The B-52’s broke
the teeth of ancient dead. The museum was left to looters,
who took art more precious than bones, which anyone
can leave behind. Mona Lisa of Nimrud,
ivory lips and eyes. Uruk statuette in skirts embroidered
with heaven, her face a circle of astonishment, as if she
can’t believe the savagery of JDAMs, RPGs, even after eons
of invasion, Hittites, Assyrians, Mongols, impunity
of remote control, writers embedded in invading units,
bonding with high-fiving leathernecks. Get some, boys!
Abrams tanks and Bradleys foul desert, fire falling
from the stars as white, crew-cut gods sow hell
among dark ones scurrying like roaches
along the baseboards of killing boxes. Where
scribes once counted stars, no innocence at all,
Nimrud’s Mona Lisa missing and presumed lost.
David Citino is the author of twelve volumes of poetry, most recently The News and Other Poems (University of Notre Dame Press) and The Book of Appassionata: Collected Poems and The Invention of Secrecy (both from Ohio State University Press). Paperwork (Kent State University Press), a collection of essays, was published in 2004. He is contributing editor of The Eye of Poetry: Six Views of the Art and Craft of Poetry (Oxford), and teaches at Ohio State, where he is Poet Laureate of the University.