First Postcard from Iraq
(For Ted)

My heart bends
with every sway
of the date palms,
their fruit bearing
an aphrodisiac
expelled from the heat
of July's breath.

I didn't hear from you
this morning,
only felt the confusion
of an email inbox
overflowing with empty spaces
where your name should be;
like love poems
written in Arabic
I will never read.

Second Postcard from Iraq

I have yet to see
the Tigris River up close.
It lies just beyond
the concrete barriers
to the east.
Once beautiful,
it was a trade route
where spices were bartered for,
fruit was freely given
in exchange for a smile
or a fresh hello.

During my evening stroll
when I'm feeling restless
and thinking of home,
the mystery of its past
gently pulls me in;
the answers buried in mud banks.

Third Postcard from Iraq

The moon above Baghdad
floats lazily atop a veil
of smoky-grey clouds. Pigeons
sitting on the streetlamps
blend in effortlessly,
shaking another day
of black dust
from their feathers.

They have no desire to fly
in any direction
or converse with a stoic moon.
Natives to the dirty sand, 
both have seen the color of death,
both wish they were colorblind.

Fourth Postcard from Iraq

Another night of interrupted
sleep.  Helicopters hover above
my dreams like giant dragonflies
searching for their prey. 
A collision of olive green
on sand colored skin.

The intrusive rumble of their
buzzing echoes throughout my body,
sending shockwaves of fear
that bounce against the walls
and intrude the private spaces
of my mind.  Each room transformed
into a pile of rubble.

Fifth Postcard from Iraq

The heat of worry
burns my skin at times.
Walking along the palace road,
the monotony of perspiration
overcomes me. 

On my desk,
ylang ylang, in a plastic bottle,
is a reprieve from the threat
loitering outside,
waiting to molest me
with breath of the reaper.

Scent of a tropical flower
may camouflage my worries
for a brief time
but the underlying odor of death
follows me like a shadow. 

Sixth Postcard from Iraq

Sometimes, after lunch,
I will stroll by the birdcages.
Witness the rustle of green feathers
and listen to the sweet language
of the multi-colored lovebirds.

I fill the empty spaces
With morsels of poppy bread.
And I wonder if they are happy
surrounded by walls of wire
or if their wings have become lazy.
The view of the sun and sky
fragmented like a jigsaw puzzle
none of us have yet to solve. 

Seventh Postcard from Iraq

An elderly Iraqi poet
named Sabah, gifted me
with his book of poems. 
144 Pages embellished
with Arabic script, half
circles, wandering dots,
and a page dedicated to one
of his granddaughters;
her name the same as mine.
He told me "Here, we read
from right to left." 
I nodded, realizing he had
just answered my question
about our differences.

Eighth Postcard from Iraq

Two rose bushes reside
by the US Embassy pool. 
One abundant with roses,
the other, bare,
revealing its bones
to anyone who passes by.

There is no privacy here.
Stems rooted in coconut husk
colored soil contort themselves
to feel freedom in the
hollow spaces. 

The same places I search for
when I tire of looking
into a dozen strangers' faces,
a sigh the only conversation
between us. 

Ninth Postcard from Iraq

Look carefully at the ground,
Autumn is here
though the weatherman whispers
it is ninety-five degrees
in Baghdad...again.

A bootprint stamped
in the soil,
veins branching out
towards Seattle or Brooklyn.
Resembles an oak leaf
pressed with precision
behind a deep, glass frame.

Its path diverted
the first time it dared
to leave home.

Tenth Postcard from Iraq

In the evenings,
Picasso speaks to me
from the walls. 
I become the blue nude.
My head turned away
from the black landscape,
exposing my back
to the shadows all around
who constantly tap
and shake my shoulders
when all I want to do
is sleep in peace.

Eleventh Postcard from Iraq

The temperature here
is feverish
but I am not ill.
My t-shirt sticks to
my culturally shocked skin.
Asking "Why did you come here?"
I don't have the answers.
Too busy fanning myself
with my own questions
while beads of sweat
attempt to create a necklace
around my aching neck.
They could be pearls
but the sun over Iraq
won't convince me this soon.
We have six months
to become acquainted.

Twelfth Postcard from Iraq

The loud speaker declares
"Attention in the embassy complex.
Do not be alarmed. The loud
explosion was in the Red Zone."

I turn up the volume on the radio.
Thankful it is quiet here
in the Green Zone.  My ears
deaf to the screams
of widows and children
living just a mile away.
Their voices a memory
like those of the now deceased.

Thirteenth Postcard from Iraq  

Here, in this desert prison,
I imagine time as a condemned man.
Ever dragging the chains
that bind his ankles together.
An unnatural bond
affecting the gait of freedom.
Like him, my fingerprint
has been taken and my prisoner number
etched on silver dog tags.
The only thing missing
are the black and white stripes
where camouflage covers
the drama of uncertainty.

Fourteenth Postcard from Iraq

In my left pocket,
classic cherry chapstick,
icebreakers liquid ice,
twenty-five dollars,
a credit card,
and a folded yellow post-it
with my brother's number. 
This is most what I need
to survive the day.
The only things missing,
my daughter's coy laughter,
my son's broad smile,
and my husband's wet kisses.

Fifteenth Postcard from Iraq

I was a guest
at the opening of Al-Salam
(Peace) soccer field. 
The fertile grass exhaled
beneath the weight
of thick grey clouds.  Helos
punctured their bellies to let
animosity roam.  The green
and white striped shirts
battled the orange shirts
while little Iraqi boys fought
over shiny new soccer balls.
There were no Iraqi girls
to be found.  Did they not
get the memo?