|Photo: Khaled al-Asaad in 2002. Marc DEVILLE / Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images via NBC News.|
Small birds, protected, flutter ceaselessly
in trees behind our house. Even the deer
serenely ravage gardens as they feed,
browsing their peaceful way from yard to yard.
Kingdom of thunderstorm and thistleseed,
each day leads to another without fear:
no rifle shots resound from our far shore.
But somewhere in a desert there were more
unjustified mortalities today.
Each life’s worth every other, but one man,
devoted, spent his days among the scarred
Palmyran ruins. He opposed a plan
to steal every relic, would not say
where what he’d found was hidden. After prayer
they hung his body in the central square.
As warning? Advertisement? To recruit
new followers? I hesitate to guess.
That mountainside is littered with the charred
relics of warfare: columns, motionless,
have seen such things for centuries, the fruit
of ruthless battles pursued endlessly.
W.F. Lantry’s poetry collections are The Structure of Desire (Little Red Tree 2012), winner of a 2013 Nautilus Award in Poetry, The Language of Birds (Finishing Line 2011), and a forthcoming collection The Book of Maps. Honors include the National Hackney Literary Award in Poetry, CutBank Patricia Goedicke Prize, Crucible Editors' Poetry Prize, Lindberg Foundation International Poetry for Peace Prize (Israel), and the Potomac Review and LaNelle Daniel Prizes. His work has appeared in Asian Cha, Gulf Coast and Valparaiso Poetry Review. He currently works in Washington, DC and is an associate fiction editor at JMWW.