Taliban Kill 10 on Aid Trip in Afghanistan

Monday, July 11, 2011

 —New York Times, August 7, 2010

And one thinks, of course, of the evolution
                                    of whales, how they left the sea by dint
            of drift and flow, lived on land for tens
of millions of years, then slipped back
                                    into the warm and shallow waters
of a vanished ocean, littering the heart
                        of Islam with their bones. They were eye

            doctors and nurses, trekking through
                                    the Hindu Kush on foot, with medicines
            and, regrettably, a Bible in the local tongue.
The red-bearded gunmen perceived
                                    no profit in their passing through,
could focus only on that leather-
                        bound miscellany of yarns and spells

            so different from their own. Feet
                                    became fins, tails flattened into flukes,
            the pelvis detached itself from the spine,
eyes migrated from front to sides:
                                    every mutation in blind service
to an underwater song, to the joyous
                        breach and splash of tail against waves.

            What could they be but spies,
                                    and the punishment for spying there
            is death. Their respective books
were no doubt called upon, parables
                                    of God’s mercy invoked, but while Jonah
was saved from the belly of the whale
                        by penitence and prayer, mere devotion

            is no longer sufficient for the killers
                                    or the killed. The land’s now dry
            and mountainous and for a while longer
no one’s likely to see well, though change,
                                    all the stories tell us, all the evidence
of suffering and hope insists, change
                        is the world’s true and only will.

Friday, July 1, 2011