Original poem reprinted online here: "Shanidar, Now Iraq" by Sarah Lindsay
Originally read: January 28, 2013
More information about the Poet: Sarah Lindsay
When I reread this poem, I thought the images were odd, but felt strong which offsets the burdening of heavy baggage words. "Tower" has become one of those words. And, I feel for a very long time, "Iraq" is one of those words as well -- at least in the context to American politics and literature. Yes, America did invade Iraq, twice. And like all wars, there are always people that want to do something about the situation. However, the title, "Shanidar, Now Iraq" has brought in a historical context.
Ah, now I see.
Anyway, I'll get to that in a bit. In the first stanza I wrote, "The surreal opening line sets up a surreal tone, duh, right, but it's not over the top surreal -- anthropomorphizing bones and flesh." And so the first paragraph goes about bones.
Then the second paragraph shifts time and intent which adds to the surreal in the poem, "someone or all of them laid or threw on the grandfather's chest" (emphasis mine). The speaker of the poem is trying to decipher the intent of "the oldest rules we mostly follow." Note how different the verbs "laid" and "threw" connote -- a individual/group caring/not caring about the dead.
In stanza three, there's a really hard point, "Now we have everlasting bouquets of plastic / now we have hundreds a day to bag and box and pickle / to re-cross the Atlantic." Past me wrote, "There is a certain speed and anger in this part." But current me realizes this:
What if the poem is playing with the shifts in time and context? What if the line "now we have hundreds a day to bag and box and pickle / to re-cross the Atlantic" could be talking about the war.
The images serve a duality then for past and current. So even though I thought the above (first read) images referred to an archeological dig -- trying to understand history. Maybe the poem is trying to understand the dead from the war -- trying to understand the now. Or both. The lines I quoted above certainly over-tip the sentiment.
The last stanza does something I haven't seen in a while -- play with smell images through the same image -- for this instance "smoke":
Regrettably, something of the smell
is of bodies suddenly buried in fallen stones.
But some incense, pinches of pulverized Baghdad rising
in ceremonial smoke:
This line carries a lot of technique: shifting smell images, allusions, and alliteration. I feel the list at the end to define the smoke is a bit too much to summarize the techniques used, but I could see why -- the list is like an exclamation mark that everything is connected and, me as a reader, should know this.