How much pain can a poem take
and not burst in agony,
fragments burning brains
clean of all rationalization and hope?

Can it gaze at US tanks breaking down the walls
of Al Rashad state hospital in Baghdad
and looters, rapists and firebugs
following them through the hole in civilization?

Even Mad Max wouldn’t rape a schizophrenic.

Resistance was futile.
Rapid repairs were made
but a few weeks later
returning barbarians destroyed
all noble efforts and sparks of sane.

Patients fled the insanity of American liberation.
Going home to their beloved families
where in good time
they could kill their wives and children.
And there are no police to bring them back
and their meds are selling
in a thieves market, anyway.

The hospital administrators asked
again and again
for American protection.

Shi’ites came
but the hell with Allah
turned gangster
selling gasoline on hospital grounds.

The ruin is now guarded by remorse free Americans.

After the museum, the library, the art gallery
and ordinary hospitals and homes
were put to the torch of theft and fire
the poem figured it had survived the worst
of Rummy’s revolution
and could again think of flowers and whales
but instead learned about the peculiar way
Iraq’s insane citizens
were de-institutionalized.

Now wondering
if beauty will ever exist
without unbearable pangs
of guilt.

STEW ALBERT manages the Yippie Reading Room. He can be reached at: