The Rage of George
Rattling of Sabres
The Gods of War
In the Clouds
The Tyrant Flees
Out of Order
Doing the Patriot Act
The Little Prince
Ichor of the Gods
The Price of Peace
Dead or Alive
Across the Border
Summer in the City
Wolf and Jackal
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and The Idyossey?
within the confines of an isolated cave
On the edge of Afghanistan’s mountainous range,
Osama sits upright on a rounded cushion.
Hands curled in the folds of his tattered caftan
Legs crossed underneath him, hidden far from view,
His eyes closed in meditation.
His solitude is interrupted by an aide
Who enters and walks forward on his knees,
Stopping six feet short of the bearded sage before him.
Clearing his throat he bows his head in respect
Awaits the perfect moment to utter his few words,
“A long-awaited visitor just arrived.”
Outside, Dan Rather cools his heels.
Another scoop for CBS is almost in the can,
He can nearly taste the ratings.
First Saddam and now Osama! His February
Interviews put CBS back on the media map,
CNN and Fox can only watch and weep.
In the cave the bearded one lifts heavy lids
Revealing dark deep blackish pools with
Pinpoint spots of light. Reflected flames of candlelight
Seem from within his orbs themselves -
Piercing the darkness, a tiger’s eyes
Flickering towards doomed prey.
“Speak,” he says. His aide straightens.
“He’s arrived,” he intones, “and waits outside,
Scarf around his eyes, equipment searched.”
“Bring him in, but the equipment must stay out,”
Osama removes his hands from the caftan’s folds
Reveals long fingers, with clean nails.
“And bring us tea,” he adds, “Darjeeling, please.”
The aide departs, finding it harder by far
To walk backwards on his knees than forwards,
His garment immodestly slides up his legs.
He shifts from side to side, pulls at the cloth
Afraid to look inept in the presence of the master.
Dan Rather rehearses a script long planned
Should an interview with Bin Laden come to pass.
Rejecting homilies and Texas countryside expressions,
Dan won't talk of Roosters, Hunting Dogs or Flapjacks
But instead of 9-11, Western Values, the Koran
As topics of his prime time special.
Footsteps approach, muffled voices speak,
Then hands about his head are gently pulling cloth,
The wraps removed, he blinks, eyes adjust
As the sun begins to hide behind the ragged horizon.
“You may come,” a voice close to his ear says softly,
“Your equipment must stay behind.”
“But,” Dan sputters, “the equipment is quite safe,
It’s been inspected inside out four times today.”
“The equipment must remain outside, that’s it.”
The turbaned face but inches from Dan’s ear,
Hot breath warms the side of Dan’s face as the sun
Completes its dip behind the distant peaks.
“All right,” Dan sighs, as he’s led to the small entrance,
Up a rubble-strewn well-worn path used by
Local chiefs and men for tens of generations.
One path to one of thousands of such caves,
A complex hive ruled not by Queens but Kings
To house Islamic armies massed to fight Infidels.
On all fours, Dan is led into the cave, head
Bowed low less in reverence than protection -
The blood-stained edges of rough-hewn rock
Mute testimony to the armies of Allah that
Use these caves as home and school and mosque,
As deadly battles rage outside.
In a larger space, a few candles shedding light,
Dan sees Osama sitting at the far end of the cave
Arms outstretched in greeting, slight smile on his face.
“You are welcome, Mr. Rather,” says Osama,
His voice soft and higher pitched than Dan expected,
It reminds Dan of Aunt Jenny back in Texas.
“I appreciate you letting me see you,” says Dan.
His hands in Osama’s vise-like grip, he feels others
Pat down his sides and back. He thinks of
“The Godfather”, Lucca Brazzi, held in such a grip
While a garrote round his neck, eyes bulging
Lucca breathes his last for the Corleone Family.
But Osama lets him go, turns left,
On a wooden table inlaid with mother-of-pearl
Sit two glasses and one steaming pot of tea.
“Before we talk, we must have tea,” Osama’s voice is
Almost childlike, as he looks for Dan’s agreement.
“OK,” nods Dan, “two lumps, if you don’t mind.”
“My pleasure,” says the Sage, and hands Dan a cup.
Warm in his hands, it offers comfort from the cave,
Where coolness has prevailed for ten thousand years
Despite intense sun and often broiling temperatures.
Dan's glass of tea shakes in his trembling hands,
Small ripples that Osama notes, without comment.
“Ask your questions - I will answer,” says Osama,
His straightforward manner catches Dan off guard.
“I have nothing to hide - it is already revealed
And has been for more than one thousand years.”
With that his eyes close and he waits. Dan pauses,
Then arrives at his first comment.
"I didn’t know you could speak English,” Dan says,
Realizing for the first time since hearing his voice
That Osama’s English has a hint of Texas twang,
Though where that comes from Dan could never know:
The Special Forces Aide assigned Bin Laden in ’92
Was raised just down the road from Crawford, Texas.
“Of course I can speak English,” Osama smiles,
“And I read it, too. To know an enemy, his
Language and its meaning must be understood.
To say it like Dan Rather, when it comes to English
‘This dog can hunt.” Osama grins, Dan spills his tea,
Warm wetness spreads quickly in his lap.
“Sir, the first thing I must ask, all America
Wants to know, the first thing I must ask is this –
About 9-11, what do you know, what did you do?”
With this Dan’s sweat begins to run, he
Swallows hard, unsure what to expect, afraid
He'll be dismissed, or worse, be shot.
“I knew you would ask me this…relax,”
Bin Laden hands Dan a silk napkin and uses one
To dab his own brow, even though his forehead’s dry.
Dan wipes his lips, notes the subtle gesture,
Knows this man is no brutish fighter,
But educated, complex and bright.
Refilling Dan Rather’s cup with tea,
Osama speaks. “9-11 was an iconoclasmic event,
Designed to resonate on many levels." Dan
Looks confused. Osama goes on, “Let me explain.
Iconoclasm involves destroying images or symbols
Deeply intertwined in the roots of any culture.”
“Western culture is replete with symbols
Despite your Second Commandment prohibition.
You’ll find far fewer icons within Islamic culture,
Though I’ll concede that ornate decoration
Often takes its place - always naturalistic -
Reflective of man’s place in paradise.”
The interview is going wrong, Dan thinks, he wants
Sound-bites he can use, not lectures! Osama continues,
“This war of symbols, cultural destruction, goes back
To the Crusades. Mosques were destroyed, dismantled,
Replaced with cathedrals devoted to western values -
Decadence, exploitation and money.”
Bin Laden breaks for breath. Dan interrupts.
“George Bush says you are Evil." Dan
Senses furtive movements to his left, Osama
Waves to the dark and it stops. "You attacked
Us by surprise and killed innocent civilians.”
At which Osama answers: “They are now in heaven.”
Dan sits and blinks, new
Understanding of this man dawns on him.
Osama whispers, “This life is nothing,
Window-dressing, a stage set by merciful Allah.
And all who die in service to Allah are martyrs.
Victims, martyrs...they are all welcome in paradise.”
Dan's heart speeds up, forehead gets clammy.
As a boy he’d often felt this way at revival meetings,
Talk of afterlife and redemption made him dizzy -
Walking hand in hand with Jesus, God’s endless love,
Apocalypse, souls rising, non-believers left behind -
He’d get nauseous and throw up.
“I don’t feel well,” says Dan, “I must be getting ill.
I’d love to talk some more, perhaps tomorrow.”
He turns and rough hands lead him out. There’s
A murmuring at the far end of the cave, and
Through the sounds of exit he hears Aunt Jenny’s voice,
“In-s’Allah Dan Rather, In-s’Allah.”