“Do You Hear Laughter, Ramses?”§
Do you hear laughter, Ramses? Perhaps a slice
Of whatever’s left of Kurdistan? The Yemen or Sudan? From the imams
Some slight adjustment in the going rate for poppies in Afghanistan?
Did you believe you were the first? By chance, would it be nice
To be the last?… but then again, there’s something lurking in the dice
And if by chance the six’s multiply to but thrice, the horn of Ethiopia’s
The prize for service with distinction, by default a supra-cornucopia,
Or just another nosegay for an ordinary day? Memories suffice
So far, my friend, and comes the cosmic slap when what was only yesterday
A casual promise warms up yet another Oedipus who in neglect reflects
The ancient legend in the latest model of the child to help defray the odds
On probability that this time, the Messiah’s come embarrassing the gods
Who claim another virgin’s loss an evening or a day’s diversion. Prospects
Multiply like maggots on the carcass of what’s forgotten anyway.
§ The title of this sonnet comes from a line addressed to Pharoah in the film, The Ten Commandments and came to mind as I stood on my balcony facing south and wondered at everything I’ve heard from Irán where just a few weeks ago, in one small village, the homes of the Bahá’ís living in that village were cruelly leveled in an attempt to rid the villagers of Bahá’ís without notice, without due process of law, without arrests, indictments, without any reason in the world except that they were Bahá’ís. I wondered at how anyone in my religion could be considered a threat to anyone else on this earth and particularly the established governments and leaders insofar as Baha’is are absolutely forbidden even to discuss politics and are rendered incapable of being a threat to any government or leader through the very Scriptures to which thy subscribe, and yet, for the last three years, a group of seven men and women have languished in Evin Prison in close and uncomfortable “rooms” or cells with nothing to sleep on but the floor and all this before they were summarily convicted of any crime, denied access most of the time of counsel, cut off from their families, and with their “trial” constantly postponed over this period of time so that even if they are ever set free because there is no evidence of a crime of any kind in any of these people, they will still have been imprisoned without a “By your leave!” with no compensation at all. Of course, I also wondered about the latest news from Egypt which inspires staring in disbelief, from events in Algeria and once again in Irán, from Jordan, Greece, from God knows where throughout this entire worried and worn planet. –Once