“Where Is Damascus?” from 2012, a long time ago for tourists watching some locals leaving

Where Is Damascus? from 2012, a long time ago

(Old poem from July 23, 2012)

Damascenes can welcome
tourists of many shades,
many kinds of refuge for
adventurous palettes, a

taste of freedom perhaps for
foreign and countryside tourists

From many places
people seek refuge
or adventure in Damascus

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

Shabiha intimidate those
neighborhoods now nearby.

Soon violence may come to
our narrow alleys
mingle among tourists
wrapping up a night wandering

Seems a friend is accused –
disappeared by glass fronts and by street stalls
where walk-by tourists are stalled along narrow ways
on Midan street, and eye the high towers of
baklawa and night-market syrups on
pistachio-and-walnut secrets wrapped in
phyllo dough wrappings and raptured night

Are we to be tourists too
who will mingle with darker nights,
pack up and wrap up the day
flee too when the last
of the grilled meat
oozes lamb scented oil

seeming no time for
sfouf cake, sesame cookies
or crumbly mamoul

going now without tea perhaps
making our way quietly
off the record, secular
and I’d deny I’d ever said that
religion is superstition. Say that

family were kind merchants
who made money honestly
obeyed the state of affairs

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

Saying that perhaps
Damascenes never mention
chic addresses again
where honey-pistachio pastries
seemed to entice
a palette of fantasy tolerance
bought with elite education, where
no one could know

we were pet dogs
and happy to eat until
the countryside wolf
became a tourist

— Douglas Gilbert

Where Is Damascus? (2)

Where is Damascus?

Damascenes can welcome
tourists of many shades,
many kinds of refuge for
adventurous palettes, a

taste of freedom perhaps for
foreign and countryside tourists

From many places
people seek refuge
or adventure in Damascus

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

Shabiha intimidate those
neighborhoods now nearby.

Soon violence may come to
our narrow alleys
mingle among tourists
wrapping up a night wandering

Seems a friend is accused —
disappeared by glass fronts and by street stalls
where walk-by tourists are stalled along narrow ways
on Midan street, and eye the high towers of
baklawa and night-market syrups on
pistachio-and-walnut secrets wrapped in
phyllo dough wrappings and raptured night

Are we to be tourists too
who will mingle with darker nights,
pack up and wrap up the day
flee too when the last
of the grilled meat
oozes lamb scented oil

seeming no time for
sfouf cake, sesame cookies
or crumbly mamoul

going now without tea perhaps
making our way quietly
off the record, secular
and I’d deny I’d ever said that
religion is superstition. Say that

family were kind merchants
who made money honestly
obeyed the state of affairs

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

Saying that perhaps
Damascenes never mention
chic addresses again
where honey-pistachio pastries
seemed to entice
a palette of fantasy tolerance
bought with elite education, where
no one could know

we were pet dogs
and happy to eat until
the countryside wolf
became a tourist

— Douglas Gilbert

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
disappeared.

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