Free Verse in Baghdad

On the road reporting in Iraq. Image by David Enders. Iraq, 2011.

On the road reporting in Iraq. Image by David Enders. Iraq, 2011.

My colleague Rick Rowley, a talented filmmaker, has on past trips to Iraq greatly impressed me with his blank verse. It strikes me as a particularly apt way to capture the contradictions of this fractured place that has been so scarred by war, political oppression and fear. Inspired by his efforts, I decided to give it my best shot.

Baghdad to Baquba, Oct. 16

Another dust storm brews
Another foreigner told me
He used to relish
the choking dust.
It gave him a chance
to walk the streets
The weather
Is one of the few things
That doesn't ask permission
Of some armed group.

Thursday I used
the opportunity
of such a storm
to go shopping.
In 2003, I found
camera shops
a great pleasure,
full of well-preserved

There was
a romance
to a place
that hadn't
gone digital.

Eight years ago
the same man
behind the counter
sold me a stolen
Nikon d1
with a manual lens.
I still carry it.
people make fun of the combination.
I just tell them it's the Baghdad Special.

Now I kill
the hours
in the car
on my phone.
Personal wire
services on tap
but I need more
than 140 characters
for this place.

In the front seat, Salam
puts down his phone.
The police will meet us
on the Diyala border.

We hope everything
will be


I promise myself
I will learn Arabic
So the next time
I come back
I can work
without a middleman.

Every Iraqi Is a Security Consultant.

“Take off the glasses”
Salam says.
Perhaps he hasn’t noticed
the same glasses, knockoffs
and the real thing
are available all over Baghdad.

No one guesses
An accident of
a Detroit Arab mother,
abetted by
two months of
Mediterranean sun.

As though
the only
people who
die here
are foreigners.

At the checkpoints
police still use
the car bomb wands
as fakes
three years ago
by the
crooked contractor
who peddled them.

is only
in your

Salam is nervous
but I sit back.
I did this road twice
two weeks ago
in a taxi.

Maybe one day
I won't live
to tell about it
but so far
I always have.

There but for…

One day
I will tag
a google map
with all
the places
I've nearly