Only the Flowers Grow Wild
White bearded – green turbaned,
he walks in rubber shoes –
a woollen blanket on his back.
Treads the winding dirt track
to Pagham, his old home-town;
Afghanistan’s royal showpiece,
fifteen miles west of Kabul.
Now, only ghosts linger on.
Razed to the ground, the King’s
villa with its imported Italian tiles
and the Prime Minister’s...
three kitchens and a golf course.
The white arch of triumph reduced
to a paltry pair of pillars; its top,
blown away...elegant, swan-necked
lamp posts rust where they fell.
The pastel pink walls of the Bahar Hotel,
gape at moody, shell-shocked skies;
on the avenue once lined with nut-trees
and with poplars, four Doric columns
mark the entrance to a pile of rubble
where the mosque had stood.
He returns to say his final goodbyes
to his wife, two daughters and three sons;
shot to pieces by a rocket a year ago.
‘Everyone bombs us now,’ he tells them;
the Government, the Malitia, the mujahedeen.
The plume of smoke he saw rise that day,
shrouding fields and apple orchards
he’d tended all his life – a stench
that permeates his every nightmare.
A door off its hinges – a mound of rocks,
and a slender pole on which a green flag
limply hangs, mark their grave...He picks
a bouquet of red tulips, growing wild
on overgrown, mined lawns; so dangerous
few dare walk on them.
Slowly he kneels - the flowers clutched
tight to his chest with frost-bitten hands
from his trek across the mountains.
“Nothing remains,” he says. No anger
in his voice. Only pain.