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?
a.m., May 10th, the ancient city Al Basra.
Arana Hafiz is awakened by the cries of her child.
Katara Hafiz, now eight months old,
Only daughter of Arana, should be asleep;
Instead she is awake, and obviously not well.
Her mother turns to comfort her.
Arana’s husband has vanished.
Captured by the British in the
Short bitter fight for Basra,
He was led away with others,
Hands bound with plastic handcuffs,
Blindfolded, driven into the dust.
Arana, alone to fend for herself and Katara
Depends on her in-laws for food; her
Own family is far away in the north.
Communication during war is hard; besides
Her relatives are poor, with
Many people to support.
Her hand on Katara’s forehead,
Arana is alarmed at the heat of her child.
The fever has increased, and she worries;
Katara’s skin is dry and hot, she’s dehydrated,
Will not feed, rejecting food when last she tried.
Katara in her arms, Arana sings a melody.
It’s a home-town lullaby about a spring lamb:
How the mother licks her newborn young,
Nuzzles her nose and cheeks,
Inhales deeply of her smell,
And how when the sweet baby nurses
She and the mother lamb find love.
Just as the song ends, a kiss planted,
Katara wails, watery stools soil the bedding.
Alarmed, Arana leans to the water bowl, dips rags,
And wipes her child clean. A dampened cloth
Becomes a cold compress. Arana
Decides to rush her daughter to the doctor.
As she leaves she prays to Allah for protection.
The hospital is fifteen dangerous blocks away,
Streets littered with garbage and debris, and
A woman alone is an easy target. Banditry
And violence have spread faster than disease.
Afraid, she grabs a knife.
Cautiously, Arana scurries
door to door,
A lone car rumbles past, exhaust fills the street;
Its occupants peer from open windows, silent,
Not seeing Arana hugging her small bundle,
Crouched and hidden behind
The charred wreck of a Mercedes.
She trudges on, Katara quiet.
A stray cat leaps across her path; startled,
She pulls the knife from beneath her garments,
But relaxes as the feline grabs a mouse
And runs on. With only five blocks left,
Arana begins to feel safer.
Suddenly a figure jumps out and blocks her path,
“Stop woman!” a man’s voice insists.
Her grip tightens on the kitchen knife.
The bundle that is Katara attracts his attention,
“What do you have there?” he demands,
He reaches forward to grab it from her arms.
Arana pulls out the sharp knife
And swipes down hard. The steel blade
Slices quickly into the extended hand,
Blood spurts from the wound, "Aii!" he screams.
Reeling back in pain, her assailant
Turns and runs.
Arana also turns and cuts across the street,
She drops the knife, frightened by her own ferocity
Afraid that she will be pursued. The
Last remaining blocks pass quickly,
Approaching the hospital, she sees lights
Fed by generators provided by the British.
The steps are crowded, people shove and yell.
Her daughter is still breathing, but her
Tiny face is pale, her lips are dry.
Arana races to the entrance desperate
And exhausted. A British soldier stops her,
“There’s a line ahead of you,” he says in English.
Arana does not understand. She pushes forward.
The soldier grabs her arm, and opening her blanket
She shows him her sick child. Tears
Stream down her face in frustration;
After all her effort and travail, she has arrived
Only to be stopped.
Seeing the small sick child the soldier relents,
Lets her pass through the doors. The
Space inside is filled, coughs, cries,
Moans and yells of confusion fill the room,
Bodies piled on seats, spilling across the floor. And
At the far end, one man in white surrounded.
Cholera has overtaken Basra,
Vibrio cholerae bacteria runs rampant;
Spread by contaminated water in a city
Desperate with thirst, the disease has become epidemic.
Stripped by looters following the allied advance,
Basra’s purification plants stand idle.
Arana backs to the wall and slumps, sobbing.
The stress of her effort finally catches up.
She hugs her daughter and softly cries in despair.
To her left a man with his hand crushed
Faints hard to the floor, no one helps.
Arana buries her face in Katara’s blanket.
At 10 a.m., bright sunshine streaming in,
A hand shakes Arana, she awakens, confused.
Lifted to her feet by two men in green, she’s
Led to an open door, the crowd parting.
Dazed, she comes to rest in a chair.
Her dead child is removed from her arms.
In Washington, the press corps attends a briefing
On Iraq. Rumsfeld announces the situation’s improved.
Reports of violence and anarchy are overstated,
Order and basic services are being systematically restored,
“These problems are just,” he pauses for a sip of water,
“Temporary and unfortunate results of war."