In Jerusalem

wailing wall and dome

“But in 2500 B.C. Harappa,
who cast in bronze a servant girl?
No one keeps records
of soldiers and slaves.”
……………… —from At the Museum by Agha Shalid Ali

I’ve learned a new word:

asafoetida, or asafetida,
which is a gum ground from
Near Eastern plants of the genus Ferula
which smells fetid

…. it  was used once as an antispasmodic,
two qualities which seem apropos
as news grinds days down from Gaza,
to Homs to Aleppo

pulverizing both Us and Them
between a wall 
that wails
and a dome-sheltered rock
in Jerusalem which, by god,
is ever spastic and nothing
seems regretted

…. this new word came in a poem
of an Indian poet
who ran his pen across a page
to tell the fetid bitterness
ground in bond of slave to lord
cast in bronze in which,
by a sculptor’s skill,
and pain
were netted

Jim Culleny


*The earliest mention of asafoetida in the historical record dates from the eighth century BC, when the plant was listed in an inventory of the gardens of Babylonian King Marduk-apla-iddina II. Not long after that, in Nineveh (near modern Mosul, Iraq), asafoetida was included in a catalogue of medicinal plants in the library of King Ashurbanipal.