Symphonic Expanse

By Ange Mlinko Ange Mlinko
If you’d seen
the Gaillardots’ mullein in the Cedars of the Shouf;
if you’d seen the Aleppo dock, red with iron,
in Bcharre where the Adonis River’s said to run as red

with what was
thought his blood; if you’d seen the bearded oat in Burjein,
the rayed white horehound in Tripoli; or maybe
the milkwort in Ehden, as often I saw the strigose bellflower

and the cyclamen,
you might have been the more awed by a mallow-leaved
bindweed in Aley on your way to the brunnera in Baalbek.
The Mediterranean poppy in Nabatieh, Beirut mullein

in nearby Baabda,
connate Alexanders in Qadisha, fodder vetch in Zgharta,
white rocket in Sour, Gypsywort in Marjeyoun,
headed Ziziphora in Baakleen, bladder skullcap in Barouk.

The viscid catchfly,
ah, vying with bats at evening in Zahle—for these the earth
of continuous habitation since the Chalcolithic Age
salivates at dawn. But not a reed grows where no grave is.

In Sacandaga Valley,
two thousand bodies were trans-buried by the boneyard gang.
They ceded the pitted ground to the dentist gang,
whose jackhammers drilled the rock beneath.

Powder monkeys tamped
the holes with dynamite. The beaver-tooth gang’s axes
and cross-cut saws cleared the trees. Bush burners followed.
The fires burned for two years. The patience of dam builders

built a force
equal to the water: It flooded the ashes, the railroad station,
and a train, which I saw transposed in the steely swells,
or so it seemed. But iron turns a torrent red.

Source: Poetry (February 2011).


This poem originally appeared in the February 2011 issue of Poetry magazine

February 2011
 Ange  Mlinko


Ange Mlinko is the author of three books, Shoulder Season (Coffee House Press, 2010), Starred Wire (Coffee House Press, 2005), which was a National Poetry Series winner in 2004 and a finalist for the James Laughlin Award, and Matinees (Zoland Books, 1999). In 2009, she won the Randall Jarrell Award in Criticism. Mlinko was born in Philadelphia, and has worked in Brooklyn, Providence, Boston, and Morocco. She has taught poetry at . . .

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