This poem depicts the horror of the lingering economic embargo imposed on the people of Iraq after the first Gulf war of 1991.

Basra Has No Tears

This is Basra

     the city, the woman, the inner eye,

all grieving the loss

under palm trees in a hospital courtyard

in the Arabian oasis of southern Iraq.


Hassan’s emotions hold Basra tightly

as he stands two feet away.

She nods to his whispers

in compliance,

her voice restrained by etiquette

and choked by grief.

Basra’s Bedouin black grief

clings to shrouds of whiteness,

its bony frame,

a bundle relieved in silence—


The physician’s hands are tied

with the embargo

in a place burdened by sanctions

with no trace of sustenance:

no food, no milk,

not even medication.

All held back

by the deadly murderous

long silence.


Thousands forgotten,

unforgiven sanctioned deaths

of mass destruction

with no names.


Basra’s glance

lingers on a trail of coffins

in the final resting gardens

where countless tiny fresh mounds

tranced the Innocents’ last hideout.


She entrusts her last glimmer

to the dim depth of the casket.

Basra, shaken to her bare bones

stands engulfed in grief

her one tear dried by the shock



no more


They hoped this last one

would survive.

Zaman Stanizai