Thursday 3 April 2003

Regime change

A poem by Andrew Motion on Iraq

Advancing down the road from Niniveh

Death paused a while and said 'Now listen here.

You see the names of places roundabout?

They're mine now, and I've turned them inside out.

Take Eden, further south: at dawn today

I ordered up my troops to tear away

its walls and gates so everyone can see

that gorgeous fruit which dangles from its tree.

You want it, don't you? Go and eat it then,

and lick your lips, and pick the same again.

Take Tigris and Euphrates; once they ran

through childhood-coloured slats of sand and sun.

Not any more they don't; I've filled them up

with countless different kinds of human crap.

Take Babylon, the palace sprouting flowers

which sweetened empires in their peaceful hours -

I've found a different way to scent the air:

already it's a by-word for despair.

Which leaves Baghdad - the star-tipped minarets,

the marble courts and halls, the mirage-heat.

These places, and the ancient things you know,

you won't know soon. I'm working on it now.'

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