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Midnight

I am looking at pictures of Palmyra.
The astonishing before
the devastated after.
If Palmyra was a ruin –
uncut jewel in the palm
of time –
what is it now?

The agora has been raided, again.

Palm trees looped the city
like a dancer’s arms
the smell of lemons
drifted to the theater
and the chorus lifted
its curtain of sound:
praise
and warning –

Upon my curled legs
a small child sleeps,
lashes long as a peacock’s
tail, fine and glistening
with fever.
It is midnight.
Her breath steady
as a tidepool
and her small body
(all scuffed knee and rounded belly)
is a living shadow of Love,
Divine and Perfect
as a memory.

I read this:
our skin, the flesh underneath,
is imbued with stardust,
and once a child arrives
in her mother’s womb
it is the same: cells within
cells, so the blood remembers
what the mind cannot.

Within the dead
shines the deathless particles,
a passage
through time
and the secret arc
of history:
Aramean to Greek,
Roman to Arab,
mother to child,
to star
to ruin.

– – – for Khaled al-Asaad

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