The School for Ancient Music

The School for Ancient Music stands in a desert sand mounding against stone
mistrals blowing between the walls, notes and melody sounding above the wail and moan —

the pillars of the entrance arch are carved with script we do not remember
with words on the left that do not appear in poems of war
and words on the right that are not read in poems of love

we wait for the ancient music to tell us something new
about love and war — something we still pretend we do not know
the ancient music drums our blood as sharp as blowing sand,
as mellow and smooth as sun-warmed honey

ancient music telling again and again
of wars in deserts fought for a god, a belief

of sheltering towns and villages made of mud
and cities of antiquities as ancient as time pulverised from above

of women sent as emissaries for peace
to make friendships with yesterdays enemies

telling again and again of families fleeing
crossing mountains   shadows passing borders

and leaky boats with venal traders drifting to beaches and harbours forever foreign
island prisons remote and lost sung into memory with oud and lute

Sandra Renew

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