I’ve Never Been to Damascus

By Rachel Bradley


I’ve been to college and around a few places

But I’ve never been to Damascus

Where poetry seems to write itself

But poets garden fruitfully, exquisitely.


You could no more sell romance to Syrians

Than snow to the Inuit.

In Damascus, where houses lean across

Like sisters with secrets.


I’m from Wisconsin, which is not like Damascus

(Where angels loiter and tip generously

And you can find walled gardens like paradise

You might go between Heaven and Earth as you like).


In Green Bay, they know their business up there.

And we know ours down here, thank you

And the two have no truck, except children’s nighttime prayers

Grace at dinner, funerals, and midlife regrets


Up in a Midwestern sky, clear and cold blue

The clouds are crisp and white

Like the petticoats of great ladies

And the flesh of all apples.


We have no eternity.

We have soccer practice and PTA meetings.

We have teeth-chilling orange slices at halftime.


We have no ecstasy.

Just commutes through a gray, moist dawn

And finger sketches in the window frost.


In Damascus, a grandmother’s hands have a fine wrinkle

For every time they would give their lives to see their children’s smiles.

The soft looseness of skin for grandchildren’s kisses and wiping their tears.


Such a dense canopy of feverish care.

And kinds of sweet words enough, as many as there are creatures in the rainforest,

for ways to say “God” and “I love you”


All fattened on the reins of poetry.

Consider then, what camels we are:

A grandfather, tossing about his giggling spawn of spawn,

Glimpses in all-impossible geometry, a snowflake caught

Between her eyelashes.

It may suffice for decade.


Rachel is a teacher and writer living in Istanbul