Graveyard of Empires

A Vimanagram for victims
               unknown of lands unforgiving—


               Go to your god like a soldier,
for the meaning of life is that
     we are its end.

               Too far north to be India,
too far east to be the Middle
     East, too far west

               to be China, and too far south
to be Russia; here at the world’s
     uttermost, this

               graveyard of empires never rests.
We were told that Alexander
     the Great and his

               army had managed to cross this
same pass, but not without a third
     of his bold men

               diverging one afternoon out
onto the road less-traveled, so
     to speak—local

               superstition perpetuates
the frayed, but strangling cluster-fuck,
     of a yarn that

               that ominous third of self-made
warriors fell into sudden
     martyrdom, downed

               like infidel suns by some cloud
none had seen coming, all of them
     marching off of

               a cliff into a wide abyss
already ancient as it lay
     below, waiting.

               i. Shanbeh
                         [Dari, “Saturday”]

To bring you all my solitude
     as an offering, fire that tears
     through time’s flesh with scalding teeth truth
     succumbs to, nothing I do can
     remove from the situation

     its capstone, a monument to
     failure that finally seems so
     comforting, no century with
     a whisper too distant to be
     heard here, not where bones and dreams and

     soldiers disappear, lingering
     beneath thick air, waiting for her
     appearance—another empire
     to ravish, to impale itself
     as the desert’s thick air impairs

     her destiny with its crippling
     misogyny of misfortune,
     sand claiming her dead metaphors
     as its own, morphing aborted
     missions into something more than

     loss, collecting collective thought
     into a chorus of stale breath
     hotter than a thousand gorged suns
     arguing after devouring
     some nation’s nameless men, fighting

               ii. Yekshanbe
                         [Dari, “Sunday”]

their own instincts, their most solar
     of influences, over an
     inheritance of storms, sweating
     indifference as foreign sons
     find Hell’s entrance opened wide in

     Afghanistan’s oblivion,
     lush nothingness excavating
     itself finds something shallowly
     placed in the splendid substrate from
     which grows an opportunity,

     splendidness unfurled as if caught
     crawling from corpses’ fists, treasure
     living among thorn bushes of
     perpetual futility,
     wisdom himself unforgiving

     of those who fail to glimpse his lips
     as wind sculpts a valley, a path
     through which Alexander’s army
     had crashed before acquiring its
     fabled elephants, but on its

     way to them, passing caution with
     hubris so foolish that Cynics
     later would recall their missteps
     as fuel for their polemics—
     for this place I sing my epic.

               iii. Doshanbe
                         [Dari, “Monday”]

I was hired to document our
     demise, because society—
     so-called—called on me, desiring
     a fiery-minded poet
     to apprise the future of this

     final view of a world whose few
     adventurers were fighters too
     uncultured to greet its torture,
     with words to paint what saints run from,
     flying to civilization’s

     end, only to find prayer itself
     insufficient to ward off all
     temptation to oblige shadows
     their call to die, bullets swallowed
     like sparks of light by the darkness,

     white confusion taking over
     reason and consciousness, lost rites
     exchanging ancient mystery
     for our automated brightness,
     if only for a cold moment

     before blinding us, firing rounds
     of silent suicide into
     the night, this graveyard of empires
     where those go who wander between
     life and death, souls interstitial,

               iv. Seshanbe
                         [Dari, “Tuesday”]

-stitious but not super, falling
     into this space-between-spaces,
     Limbo a myth of doctrinal
     abyss dogmatists wished to prove,
     yet of all destinations, this

     desolate place challenges its
     supernatural existence,
     a final destination reached
     by the spirit before flesh flees
     its jurisdiction, destruction’s

     wings swift to crush them who defy
     peace, receiving against their weak
     heads a piece of torment thrashing
     them each with initiation
     into shame, that same sore brand

     of misery of which such brave
     soldiers are all-deserving, war
     that same tired old story they are
     rehearsing and reinforcing,
     performing patrimony as

     terribly as they are their marred
     imperialism—that is to
     say, pure murder—with such pronounced
     indifference on much purer
     persons hurting for something far

               v. Chæharshanbe
                         [Dari, “Wednesday”]

better than subjugation, more
     than mere irradiated soil
     at stake here, sour poison laid where
     rivers carried cultures, temple
     chambers repurposed for torture

     in a land of deep secrets where,
     of all bittersweet ironies,
     humanity itself began,
     ‘He had a gun…’ now an anthem
     sung when a poet approaches

     a villager, tears telling me
     of the ones causing theirs, those who,
     though differently dressed, armed men
     with uniforms varying in
     colour and cut depending on

     the decade and not the season,
     had come not to see, but conquer—
     threatened their families and homes
     with those semi-automatic
     weapons too loud for more polite

     poems, and like rabid jackals
     Canuck, ’Merikan, Soviet,
     Briton, Persian, and some learnèd
     Macedonian, delighted
     in marching over ancestral

               vi. Panjshanbe
                         [Dari, “Thursday”]

memorials, mortaring their
     mosques with intercontinental
     patristics before anyone
     could offer surrender, and to
     national holidays making

     mythical heroes, if not kings,
     of these unholiest beings
     no more than hired mercenaries,
     every kind of reward and
     honour was shown and continues

     to be, immortality bade
     these worst desecrators as they
     returned, if not bodily, then
     in nominal form, arriving
     at their safest native shores short

     of jeweled, but no less medaled
     for turning into violence
     this land many millennia
     of wisdom had nurtured as its
     bosom friend, its hands severed in

     the thieving name of lost empire—
     Afghanistan where slaughter sees
     no end, and am I its future’s
     starry messenger? So what, then,
     of a past that seems only to

               vii. Jom’e
                         [Dari, “Friday”]

repeat itself? If the prophet
     says of a people such as these,
     ‘Blessèd is he who reads aloud
     the words of the prophecy, and
     blessèd are those who hear, and who

     keep what is written therein, for
     the time is near…’
what, then, of he
     who speaks of endless suffering?
     I spin words out of light, threading
     my works with stitches of verse that

     stick to the soul as the heart does
     to its hot gridiron of ribs,
     roasting the world I witness in
     truth which both burns and marinates
     existence—the trick is to take

     poetry by its tits and lick,
     tasting the sweet innocence she
     drips, thoughts kissing lips like hot wax,
     sealing the parts of ourselves we
     can never love, opening up

     what was once wounded, rewriting
     destiny, while righting a pained
     history too long enslaving
     the wronged is possible if we
     would listen before dropping bombs.