The Iraqi Curator’s PowerPoint

Philip Metres

—for Donny George Youkhanna, 1950-2011, Curator of the Iraq National Museum

You can see the footprints around the hole
The Iraqi Curator said. They smashed the head
Because they could not lift it from its base,
This statue of Nike. It’s still missing.
And this is Umma Al-Ghareb, my dig site.
The Mother of Scorpions, it means. Y’anni,

Next slide: more damage by looters. If the eyes
Are gems, they will be made into holes.
If the skin is gold, goodbye. Now this is a sight:
The bodies too heavy, so they took the heads
Of these terracotta lions. A slide is missing
Here. What I ask you is this: base

What you believe on what you can almost see.
For example: you hear the dogs bay
From the outskirts of the city. They head
Wherever they smell flesh. My eyes
Still see buildings that now are holes.
What you see is not what is missing.

Next slide. I’d heard that Etana, missing
For years, was in Damascus. Then in Beirut.
Then, I got a call from an art friend, a whole
Continent away. Does it have a scratch at the base
Of his hand and along his chest I said he said yes
Of course I said and it is headless

And writing on the shoulder beneath no head
And he said yes and yes the right arm missing
And I said my God I said John take my eyes
And let me see. I was blind and now had sight
Though I could not see it. This is the basis
Of art, sadiki. There’s something beyond the hole

Which each must face. Missile sites. Army bases.
The hole in the ground where thousands climbed
Into sky. Missing heads of state. Eyes.

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