The fighting is heavy, intense, chaotic,
territory at times swapped like liras; yelling for Allah,
die-hard holdouts holed up in hideouts
delay the inevitable with suicide bombers
advancing on coalition soldiers as mujahideen
retreat into hidden tunnel networks
or disguise themselves as noncombatants
to catch kafirs off guard.
Exurbs, suburbs, districts, and neighborhoods
fall after overnight airstrikes and fierce clashes
by day, desperate fanatics offering stiff resistance
to Syrian Kurds, Arab militiamen, and US special forces
who manage to cut off all escape routes
from the occasionally caliphal capital.
But now the four-year caliphate is being rolled back,
rolled up, a tattered prayer mat.
In this final phase of pangs and throes
the order of the day is surrender or die;
only the deluded or dehydrated
fail to recognize this fateful hour
as the last stand of the damned.
Half the Abbasid city is rubble, its streets strewn
with civilian cadavers, madness’ mute witnesses.
Among those internally displaced, intrinsically traumatized,
tentative selves emerge, emancipated
from oppression and burqas
involuntarily donned and rapidly doffed,
imprisonment’s humid metonym.
Black flags topple from minarets,
though tomorrow remains uncertain,
victory’s eve uncannily mundane: as ever,
night clothes the heavens with darkness…
…and the Euphrates caches her secrets.
Brandon Marlon is a writer from Ottawa, Canada. He received his B.A. in Drama & English from the University of Toronto and his M.A. in English from the University of Victoria. His poetry was awarded the Harry Hoyt Lacey Prize in Poetry (Fall 2015), and his writing has been published in 225+ publications in 27 countries. www.brandonmarlon.com.