By Brandon Marlon


The fighting is heavy, intense, chaotic,

territory at times swapped like liras; yelling for Allah,

die-hard holdouts holed up in hideouts

delay the inevitable with suicide bombers

advancing on coalition soldiers as mujahideen

retreat into hidden tunnel networks

or disguise themselves as noncombatants

to catch kafirs off guard.


Exurbs, suburbs, districts, and neighborhoods

fall after overnight airstrikes and fierce clashes

by day, desperate fanatics offering stiff resistance

to Syrian Kurds, Arab militiamen, and US special forces

who manage to cut off all escape routes

from the occasionally caliphal capital.


But now the four-year caliphate is being rolled back,

rolled up, a tattered prayer mat.


In this final phase of pangs and throes

the order of the day is surrender or die;

only the deluded or dehydrated

fail to recognize this fateful hour

as the last stand of the damned.


Half the Abbasid city is rubble, its streets strewn

with civilian cadavers, madness' mute witnesses.


Among those internally displaced, intrinsically traumatized,

tentative selves emerge, emancipated

from oppression and burqas

involuntarily donned and rapidly doffed,

imprisonment's humid metonym.


Black flags topple from minarets,

though tomorrow remains uncertain,

victory's eve uncannily mundane: as ever,

night clothes the heavens with darkness...

...and the Euphrates caches her secrets.




Brandon Marlon is a writer from Ottawa, Canada. He received his B.A. in Drama & English from the University of Toronto and his M.A. in English from the University of Victoria. His poetry was awarded the Harry Hoyt Lacey Prize in Poetry (Fall 2015), and his writing has been published in 200+ publications in 27 countries.