Back to Issue Seven.

The Lions of Babylon



"Sand rains down and here I sit/holding rare flowers in a tomb."
—Layne Staley


The second war is more beautiful
than the first, lush with living
gifts for the dead, a small Eden.

Flowers. Fruit warmed on windshields.
Palm fronds draped over barrels
of salvoed tanks—Leningrad’s,
Lions of Babylon.

Once, in Baghdad, you heard
a storm blow through an Oud’s rosettes,

You said it sounded like men
moaning, but more beautiful—
men, in that moment, reborn as lutes.

What comforts can soldiers
give the dead? Stacking bodies straight
as fish, a silver harvest reaped
from rivers, left to dry on hot sand.

Brother, be here again. I am
slowly writing everything down.

Baghdad is more beautiful than the insides
of fish.



Brandon Courtney was born and raised in Iowa, and served four years in the United States Navy. His poetry is forthcoming or appears in Best New Poets 2009, The Journal, The Raleigh Review, 32 Poems, and The Los Angeles Review, and has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He recently received an Academy of American Poets Prize, and graduated from the MFA program at Hollins University.