Poem introduction

'The Yellow Palm' is a poem that really describes my experiences on Al-Rashid street in Baghdad when I was walking up and down Al-Rashid street in 1998. It's a ballad, it's an Audenesque kind of ballad with Audenesque rhymes.

The Yellow Palm

The Yellow Palm

As I made my way down Palestine Street
I watched a funeral pass -
all the women waving lilac stems
around a coffin made of glass
and the face of the man who lay within
who had breathed a poison gas.

As I made my way down Palestine Street
I heard the call to prayer
and I stopped at the door of the golden mosque
to watch the faithful there
but there was blood on the walls and the muezzin's eyes
were wild with his despair.

As I made my way down Palestine Street
I met two blind beggars
And into their hands I pressed my hands
with a hundred black dinars;
and their salutes were those of the Imperial Guard
in the Mother of all Wars.

As I made my way down Palestine Street
I smelled the wide Tigris,
the river smell that lifts the air
in a city such as this;
but down on my head fell the barbarian sun
that knows no armistice.

As I made my way down Palestine Street
I saw a Cruise missile,
a slow and silver caravan
on its slow and silver mile,
and a beggar child turned up his face
and blessed it with a smile.

As I made my way down Palestine Street
under the yellow palms
I saw their branches hung with yellow dates
all sweeter than salaams,
and when that same child reached up to touch,
the fruit fell in his arms.

 


copyright © Robert Minhinnick 2006, used by permission of the author

Recordings

Robert Minhinnick Reading from his poems

1St John's Sunflowers

2Sageflowers for Charles Saatchi

3The Yellow Palm

4Twenty Five Laments for Iraq

5Madonna in Porthcawl

6The Cormorant

7Paradise

8The Fox in the National Museum of Wales

9Eavesdropping

10Tickertape (from 'La Otra Otrilla')

11The Castaway

12Section from Lives of the Saint

Books by Robert Minhinnick