Thursday, 5 April 2012

Mohamed Atta faces the Statue of Liberty

For Ben Cornford

Now I’ve seen you, Freedom
I know your style, the cut
of your sandal; know your
ten percent smile, a triumph
of might, how a country
was only born by the force
of your pawns, how your
golden flame can ignite
the tinder-passions of most
heartfelt night (Mona Lisa’s
cards were never played so
tight); I have a sense now
of your wile, these planes
that bear us, pregnant with rage,
you too-much-loved lady in green.
Unlike most, this I held obscene:
to stand, an ideal rebuke
of all I am; to frame
my flight, your Majesty, and
so outlast my javelin-ride;
and, though all that stands
must fall, in time you’ll come
to recall, how my flames burn
only the trees of this archiforest —
yours’ll drive the war.

Lady Liberty responds.  Mohammed,
do I detect more huddled masses
bound this way?  By just
what means do you propose
to find your peace with me?

Attah answers.  Gold are the leaves
in your gardens now; one day
they’ll be oil.  I can’t tell you,
though, if still your torch
will burn, or if — no:
on second thought.  On turning away
from blankness, we chose to drill
for rhyme, a capped-off, ripped-out
punchline, a crime that still attracts
the heaviest of fines in these
benighted times — what, with
recent world events being
as they are.  Yes!  We reel
the rhythm in.  This plane
is slowing now, now lowing
for land in thicker atmosphere.
Can’t you smell me?  Mark
the sweat of sweet jihad-line?
That smell is war, Francina.
Absolutely nothing can turn us away.

Again, she turns to say
what’s on the minds of millions
soon.  I remember things of all
their years ahead.  Yes, I recall
how it all ends: a hatred
that knows no bounds, followed
by years of monstrous weather;
the fjords turned to deserts – just
think! – with ice upon new sands;
the cruelest of burning-men
sends his coals of rage out
broadly, smouldering, flashing
in the great leap forward; while
all the ornatest chess-pieces
lie, awaiting rebirth, in
what remains of cool, green grass.

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