Where Is Damascus?

Where is Damascus?

What is there to write when so much is unclear and every outcome is frought with the possibility of introducing a new problem. One tyranny replaced with another — not known. Many mixed motives, and many groups. Assad must go and then who will take charge. No one knows. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/18/world/middleeast/syria-hardens-response-to-clashes-in-damascus.htmlI rushed ahead with something but don’t know how to refine anything. Maybe next week I can get a better focus. I don’t know where to go with this. I’ve fallen into polemics and I don’t know how to do something poetic, but anyway, I’m putting down some scrap notes. Maybe I’ll do something else next week. I don’t know. I should think of some metaphors or something. I don’t know.

Where Is Damascus?

Shelling in Idlib, Homs and Hama.
None of our business. People
seek refuge in Damascus. OK.

Shabiha intimidate those
neighborhoods now nearby.

Soon they come to
our narrow alleys
with the violence
we thought was foreign to us.
A friend accused

Where are we to go now.
We have made our way quietly
perhaps, off the record, secular
and I’d deny I’d ever said that
religion is superstition.

I think our family has
high moral standards:
we are kind merchants
who have made money honestly
under the dictator who kept
the barbarians under control, but

as what we thought were fanatics
infiltrate our neighborhood
we wonder about the brutality
of our defense. Can this be
our choice: slaughter outside
goes into old stone houses, and
the bustling Jazmateyeh food market,
packed with food shops, and
chic addresses
for Damascenes where
honey-pistachio pastries entice
a palette of tolerance
imagined in the fantasy
bought by a silence
of prosperity and education
that allows the efficient silence of the elite
who little know they are the pet dog happy to eat
while the wolf must fight.

What to do about
the two kinds of savages?
Each has its irrationality, and
each is devine in intention

Each can be savage
in the anger of application.

What belief is safe
while a revolution explodes

Is it safe to cry
without an allegiance
to helicopter gunships

What are we to do
with the art works in our house?

Are we more foolish than
the 300 United Nations monitors,
trapped in their hotel rooms?

My children have been to London.

— Douglas Gilbert


4 thoughts on “Where Is Damascus?

  1. That picture in that article breaks my heart…that poor little boy.
    There are so many strong lines in your poem…it’s a mess over there right now. I just read that 4 of Assad’s top guys are dead in the latest attacks. The honey pistachio pastries sound yummy…are they talking about baklava? is that where baklava is from? Never mind…i looked it up. Wikipedia says many cultures claim baklava. I haven’t had that in years…it must’ve been when i lived in Lexington – the guy who owned the coffee shop next door to where i worked, let me have a piece of some homemade baklava a few different times…i’m not sure if he made it or not but it was delicious. Well i better hurry up and start getting ready for work or i’ll be late…

    1. This is so complicated. I don’t know where to go with this. I was just thinking about elite families who have never been involved in politics and were just trying to live a quiet life. BUT some in their group were involved in horrible government atrocities which I suppose by their silence they allowed to happen. In the distant past their group was discriminated against but that doesn’t justify what has happened recently. Yet, in their comfortable ignorance they have pride in their group.


      In the past the Sunni’s attacked them. Then Assad had a coup in 1970 and made his group, the Alawi’s dominate. Also wrong.

      Everybody has been wrong at some point in history. Well, I suppose this is why dicatorships are always so bad regardless of who wronged who in the past. Revenge and counter revenge. Never stable. Always crimes on all sides. Everybody seems to be terribly wrong at certain points in history. Pick a point and pick a hero or villain. It’s ridiculous and impossible. Everybody is wrong. There’s no one to praise or champion. There is sadness for everyone. How do you right anything when in the course of history everyone is wrong. Well, I suppose, one might say that the dictator and his psychopathic henchment are always the most culpable, but what of all those conveniently manipulated with bribes, prides, hatreds, revenge instincts, defense of family and ethinic group instincts and propaganda entrancements. Can you blame those who only wish to go to work and protect their families, don’t wish to protest and get tortured and arrested, and are seduced by ethnic pride, not wanting the dangerous “others” to disrupt their routine? This seems like an impossible thing to espress if one is to be on neither side and every side, just having coffee, serving coffee and coming home to a family that only wants dinner, entertainment and a kiss. Must one take sides? Hmm, seems like any theory is evil in application… all of them have failed at one point. There’s nothing to recommend, not even anarchy or order. Laughter seems sensible but I don’t know how you would build civilization from there… Good grief: back to the drawing board… no poem to see here or maybe take snippets from this diatribe… we’ll see. Incoherence: seems like a good topic… or not. Ugh.

    2. But anyway, here’s some innocent stuff from before all hell broke loose:

      And isn’t this a coincidence — they have that mastic ice cream that they have also in Greek Chios that we talked about before. Gee, if everyone would stick to good food and ice cream, gummy or not. Hmm, we should have a world government of Tree Resins: mastic ice cream and maple syrup, pan cakes and pistachios, casual cashews, peas and peanuts, a grain of salt, honey in tea, and a Honey in every home, sweet as a newborn and beyond the tangy of the sour lemon into the pucker of the kiss that invites the heaven of the ____ [lost my train of thought… almost got somewhere]

      1. That is quite the coincidence, she mentioned all sorts of stuff that we’ve talked about and that ice cream looks awesome…the way it was like a frozen roll or tube/circular shape in the bowl. mmm mastic ice cream with pistachios pounded in. I’d love to try that. I’m so tired…had to work every day this week but it’s so nice to come home and read your traveling thought trains…Yes, tree resins government, i can just imagine it all now…with honey and a Honey and all of that other deliciousness how could one not be happy? i wish i could finish your train of thought, hmm, i will think more about it as i go to sleep…i’m so drowsy feeling, i’ll come back in the morning if i come up with something and i wanted to reply more to the other reply you left…but i’m sooo sleepy.

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