Asia / Poetry

A Poem: Sometimes When I Miss Iraq

Recently, the Adelaide Advertiser reported the death of an ex-student of mine. His name is Abdulhassan al-Nossayri, and he was caught in bomb blasts in Baghdad while he was visiting family and friends. I taught many Iraqis when I worked at the University of Adelaide’s English Language Centre, and their stories and joie de vivre had a profound affect on me. This news was coincidental because I’m now writing a chapter focusing on my time with them. Below is a poem I wrote during this time for my Masters degree.

Sometimes when I miss
the chinking swirl of long-haired women
– with their hands held up like
they’re pushing underwear off with their feet –
I remember my woman
and I meeting secretly
before we got married, under
the perfectly still concrete
arch over the River Tigris.
And the way we were at odds,
though completely enamoured,
and kissing our hands,
breathing in whispers

Sometimes when I miss
towers of dolma sweating in oil
– with each child’s hand reaching
out for their favourite vegetable –
I remember the hiding,
seeking a tin to relieve
fasting (opposite Ramadan),
an amalgam of hunger
and a thirst to create again.
And the way you’d suck your lip,
worried that the sky had gone,
covering your face
not for God but
the light from
fleeing through tears
out into darkness.

Sometimes when I miss
the streets filled with people conversing
– with their hands gesturing
inside a window made by bodies –
I remember explosions
and the patter of falling
debris like sudden heavy rain –
or very sick birds flying,
dodging missiles, shitting themselves
from the same fear we had the time
I drove you during curfew
to the hospital
avoiding snipers


And sometimes I take my raft to Kurdistan in the honeymoon mountains, at the root, to take the route down through the cradle.

And sometimes I imagine Enki, water god, pent up with the gift of sustenance and semen, abruptly erupting; long life-cable.

A fable.

Like a run off from Eden.


Sometimes when I miss
the hubbub and the halal, I pray
– with my hands clean, prostrate
and white: reaching north-west, murmuring thanks –
I remember that day
the museum was looted
and my favourite tablet taken,
and the first conversation
with Yankees in shattered English,
asking them if they could stop
the siphoning off of art
to tributaries:
superficial streams.

And they said a jumble
of sounds, and I fumbled
to understand who they
meant when they referred
to Uncle.

And now I’m the student
trying to speak through it:
a megaphone to
communicate with the

And sometimes I float into the Shatt-al-Arab, the convergence: the point of a crescent that gives food to the table.

And sometimes I walk the banks and sing a circular melody: remembering a time when things were less unstable.

Like Babel.

Or Babylon – I think.

And sometimes when I miss Iraq
and the remaining friends who have yet
to die and come with me
– farewell hands waving and touching my face –
I remember their anger
and will to make it better;
and how in a tumult of troops
and a helipad built on
the ruins of my character,
you and I can light a flame
on gas, and with a saucepan
keep the heart alive,
and return there later




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