Monday, February 4, 2013

New poem by John Curl

American Qatar
(for Mohamed Ibn Al Ajami)
By John Curl
I will leave my cares behind
and fly on a magic tapestry
to lush desert Qatar,
a land of sun-baked fantasy
where dark-eyed houris,
in voluptuous perfection,
lounge in open tents
by camel race tracks.
I will circle the seemingly barren countryside,
once the poorest of Gulf states,
noted mainly for pearl diving
and long-horned, leaping oryx antelopes,
until I reach Al Udeid Air Base,
US Central Command’s Forward Headquarters,
regional Combined Air and Space Operations Center,
responsible for all US military actions
in the Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia,
including Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran,
then tour the vast oil and gas fields,
15 billion barrels and 800 trillion cubic feet,
which brought to the Al Thani family fabulous wealth,
and to the working population,
95 percent foreign workers,
involuntary servitude, bonded labor,
vicious conditions,
restrictions on movement,
arbitrary detention,
physical, mental, and sexual abuse.
I will relax on the peninsula shore
with Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani,
absolute and hereditary monarch,
and his lovely wives, siblings,
nephews and cousins,
sipping cardamom-spiced coffee
from thimble-like cups,
while the sheikh’s daughters feed me
rose water and pistachio pudding,
a hundred variety of dates,
then dine on a whole lamb roasted on a bed of rice and nuts,
a richly spiced machbous stew of lobster,
crab, tuna, snapper, shrimp,
and body parts collected after drone raids
sizzling in a broth of human blood.
I will visit Doha Central Prison,
count the roaches and rats in the filthy cells,
listen to the screams
at the interrogation room door,
leaf through the forced confessions
of imaginary crimes against the state,
watch prisoners flogged and stoned
in the prison yard. I will
look for you there in your tiny cell,
Mohamed Ibn Al Ajami,
sentenced to life
for a poem criticizing the
elite ruling family
of thieves. If we could break you out,
we would not hesitate, but all we can
offer you today is a glass of clean love
and the world’s ear.
Satiated, I will head to
the Family Fun tourist
Amusement Park of 1001 delights,
by the water’s edge in Doha,
called the Kingdom of Aladdin,
with thrilling games and rides suitable for all ages,
and GIs on leave,
Ferris wheel, carousel, bumper cars,
go-karts, trampoline, air hockey arena,
video game arcade. I will
stand in the front car
of the Thunder Bullet roller coaster
and violate Articles 130 and 134 of the Penal Code,
invoking many years in prison
or even death
for speaking truth
about the Emir
and prophesizing the downfall           
of his crime family regime,
propped in place by American imperial might.
I will stand in the front car of the roller coaster
and speak your poem.

And as I speak I will listen
to the Gulf waters lapping softly
against the gentle beach
and hear their echoes
in the deep heart of the people,
beyond oppression’s reach.

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