Ode to Baghdad
Baghdad, I will always remember
the cobalt slide in your neighborhood park,
your multi-storied, brick apartment buildings,
rows of stores on concrete streets and muddy roads,
flowerbeds in shades of periwinkle, crimson,
aquamarine, tangerine, and yellow topaz,
alabaster statues of Sheherazade’s Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves,
your mazaars, burial tombs of ancient Islamic leaders
whose lives intertwined with yours, as has mine.
I will never forget your Hanging Garden
of Babylon, its stone stumps and short walls,
remnants of an ancient wonder;
the arid mountains of your Kurdish north;
in summer, sand, and in winter, snow;
hidden waterfalls of Beikhal and Gully Ali Beg;
your Tigris and Euphrates rivers;
and your “city of two springs,”
Mosul, built into the hills.
Baghdad, I have not forgotten your Arab storekeeper
who sold brown bags of sookkar,
salt, and other seasonings to my mother
when she shopped there every other afternoon;
the old woman who rushed us into her house,
cried Yallah! Imshee! Imshee! Hurry!
as sirens screamed outside: bombers from Tehran.
My mother and I ran down the stairs
to the woman’s basement where she fed us
loaves of thick pita-like khobooz, and stayed
until the sirens stopped and the bombers returned home.
I can still recall a bearded young man
and the tall boy who passed me as they walked
down the tunnel’s stone steps, and I waited
for my father to return from the bus stop.
They pointed at me, laughed, and called out
as I, a three-year old toddler in brand-new, thick, black
specs stood wide-eyed beside my mother.