Renewal of the Pledge

      stand trembling among the frenzied millions,
                         loosened in the glittering streets of a festive Damascus –
                            streets already cluttered with
                                                    colored signposts,
                                                                 photos of you, sir,
                                                                                         and banners.

                                      (Thousands upon thousands of  eloquent,
     and downright mediocre-sounding banners.)

              I stand quivering and alone among these millions,
                                 by fear and sycophancy,
                                                                     let’s be honest, sir,
                                               rather than

                                       (For that has long indeed become our historical trademark, hasn’t it?)

      I stand shuddering, sir, shuddering among the millions
                    with their
                                                       your way
                                                                 to a rather dubious form of glory and fame.
                                 Renewing their pledge
                   to you, sir, to you,

                                                           (for ours is still a time
          when an entire nation is still required,
                                   and still quite willing, in fact, sir,
                                                   in spite of the shame of it, sir,
                                                                    in spite of the shame,
                                    to pledge herself, her whole self,
                  for the well-being
         of a single man.)

                                             Declaring their wish for a

                       “fifth springtime,”

                                                   under your auspicious,
                       if not always successful,
                                                             command –

(a springtime which had always,
                                             in our rather extraordinary case, sir,
               had more power to mortify
                                                rather than

                                          Avowing, quite sincerely, sir,
                                                       oh yes, quite sincerely,
                                                           if you could believe that, sir,
                                                           if you can really believe that,
                                                                                                   to protect you, sir,
                                                                                                   to protect you,
                                                                          to fend for you,
                                             with their very blood and soul,
                                  if necessary,
                        with their very blood and soul.

(like the rest of your obedient flock, their not-so-beloved compatriots,
still entombed, at the moment, in their homes,
awaiting their turn
to be dug out.)

                                      So that you should be
              the only one left, sir,
                                             one eventual eye-opening day,


                                                               in the country,
                                                                in your palace
                                                                    on top of the Mount,
                                     where you think you can oversee everything,
                                          a solitary symbol,

(but of what?)

                     a leader of corpses,
             a president
    of a cemetery,

(assuming that you aren’t already,)

                            full of dead and buried hopes, not to mention men,
                                           which is indeed your just due, sir,
                  which is indeed your just due.

I stand shivering among the millions, sir.
   I stand alone. All alone.
                    For someone, sir,

                                                no matter how humble and insignificant,
                          no matter how young and foolish,
                                 no matter how wrong he could otherwise be,

                               has to save
                                    the face of this putrefying


                                               that is Syria, sir,
                                                                     that is my home –
                                                             my bittersweet,
                                   and downright


 February 3, 1999

Note: Written on February 3, 1999, amidst the organized celebrations taking place  on the occasion of the upcoming presidential referendum, which was initially scheduled to occur on February 8, and was later postponed until February 11 for coinciding with the funeral of the late King Hussein of Jordan.