At the Grave of Abdul Hassan, Baghdad

This is not an American cemetery,
grass does not grow here;
the place is centuries old —
wind-scoured, raw as a scratched
thigh, and who is left to mourn
but abandoned mothers —
black crows on the smashed landscape,
heads jutting, eyes half-open, palms
cupped as if expecting water,
but no, instead tears
sputter into vacant cisterns.
The women beat their breasts,
become one enormous wail
and the sun in its gown of rust reflects
on them and the disgust and dread
of nothingness. Here I imagine myself kneeling,
my own son laid like an insult
in the broiling sand, the stench of earth;
it would be finished then;
I would be torn down the middle — so how would I
with my whipped insides blown out,
return to the burning city, to an unknowable
sleep under a barrage
of bullets like a butcher’s cleaver
striking bone? Grief and rancor
would be a heavy chain
riveted to my hands
because I would be sick
of the law of tyrants, of sacrifice,
of blood everywhere, of hope….
No more. Nothing to explain.
Rendered silent, chastised, I would lock the iron gate,
sit against the blind walls
of my house and close the book of Life
if this war snatched my child.


Leonore Wilson

Author: Leonore Wilson

Leonore Wilson's poetry collection,Western Solstice, is available from Hiraeth Press.

1 thought on “At the Grave of Abdul Hassan, Baghdad”

  1. [Author’s note] This poem was based on a photograph I saw in a magazine. I do not recall if the magazine was Time, Newsweek, or National Geographic. The palpable despair of the Iraqi mothers nearly bounded my mouth into indescribable submission, but wordsmith I am, I felt I had to reveal the terrible verity of the moment, for I trust poetry is more often than not a noble subversive act that makes the reader question and blanch.
    I am the mother of three grown sons who could have chosen to go to war but thankfully did not. I have known their friends who have come back traumatized. I am also a neighbor of a family whose son didn’t make it home. He, like my own children, grew up in the country — their bright countenances ignited by the freedom and seeming invincibility of youth. I silently grieve for the mother of this soldier and pray she finds a modicum of solace in nature, in family, and in the kind neighbors that surround her.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.