Poetry December 2011

Lineage

My father before me, the watchmaker of Herat, used his monocle and gear-tweezers
     to pick a splinter from my ring finger.
Egypt (not Qutb’s, Tut’s) believed this finger bore a vein that drained directly to the heart.
My father’s father before him had irises of a Bactrian hazel, dating back to the third century B.C.
They are the eyes of an ancient rapist who traveled here with Alexander’s army; but they are the
     only keepsakes I have.
His father before him was a mountain man, and came down to Herat only once, to trade a horse.
Herat took his horse at knifepoint and gave him the cough that killed him and two of his brothers.
His father before him shot two British soldiers with a carbine that liked to buck left.
The regiment was all red-coated Highlanders, who brought their bagpipes to the Hindu Kush.
His third shot sparked strange in the breech and peppered his face.
His father before him, a decorator of Korans, bandaged his only apprentice’s eyes.
My ring finger is an inkwell full of royal blood; my language, fired tiles and tessellation.
Today I stand outside an electrified fence and watch a gunship’s rotors spin down.
My generations stand behind me in a row, and the draft sets us spinning in place:
Sufi pinwheels, seizing any wind as an excuse for ecstasy.

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