Monday Poem

“But in 2500 B.C. Harappa,
who cast in bronze a servant girl?
No one keeps records
of soldiers and slaves.”
… —from At the Museum, by Agha Shahid Ali

In Jerusalem

I’ve learned a new word:
asafoetida, or asafetida,
which is a gum ground from
Near Eastern plants of the genus Ferula
which smells fetid

…. and was used once as an antispasmodic,
two qualities which seem apropos
as news grinds down days from Gaza
to Homs to Aleppo

pulverizing both Us andThem
between a wall that wails
and a dome-sheltered rock
in Jerusalem which, by god,
is ever spastic and nothing
seems regretted

…. this new word came in a poem
of an Indian poet
who ran his pen across a page
to tell the fetid bitterness
found in bond of slave to lord,
bitterness cast in bronze in which,
by sculptor’s art, blood and pain
were vetted

Jim Culleny, ©5/23/18
*The earliest mention of asafoetida in the historical record dates from the eighth century BC, when the plant was listed in an inventory of the gardens of Babylonian King Marduk-apla-iddina II. Not long after that, in Nineveh (near modern Mosul, Iraq), asafoetida was included in a catalogue of medicinal plants in the library of King Ashurbanipal.