Archive for July, 2007


“I am Iraqi”

Last Sunday, the Iraqi national soccer team defeated–astounded is more like it–Saudi Arabia by a score of 1-0, giving the people of this war torn country something it doesn’t get very often: something to smile about.

But this is more than just a victory in a sporting event. It’s a victory for all those, especially the people who have to live there, who decry the sectarianism which is rending this country apart. Midfielder Nashaat Akram said “This is a gift to the united Iraqi people, to the different spectrums of the Iraqi people.” Laborer Muhammed Hussein said, “They (the players) showed us what the real Iraq is and how we can work hard to be something. These players are what the Iraqis are”.

It is reported that t-shirts encouraging an end to sectarianism with the slogan “I am Iraqi” have sold out everywhere.

Of course, this is still Iraq, so it comes as no surprise that the day was also somewhat marred by sporadic bloodshed. Police shot some asshole attempting to drive a car bomb into a crowd in the south Baghdad neighborhood of Sadiya. Luckily the car exploded and no one but the suicide bomber was killed, which I guess made it a good day for everyone, including the suicide bomber.

Earlier in the day police stopped two Saudi Arabian nationals attempting to detonate cars packed with explosives in the eastern neighborhood of Zayuna. And I thought Yankees fans were sore losers.

But let’s focus on the good stuff for a minute:

In the northern Kurdish city of Irbil soccer fans waved the Iraqi flag, while dancing the debka, a traditional Kurdish dance, arm in arm in the middle of the street or atop moving cars, while In Kirkuk, a northern oil city known for its melange of ethnicities, Sirwan Rasheed, 55, a Kurd, said he erected flags in the team’s honor with friends of various sects and ethnicities — Sunnis and Shiites , Turkmen and Christians. Sounds kind of like Boston in October of 2004.

What’s important here is the example being set by this soccer team. The team’s leaders include both Sunni and Shiite Muslims, who work well together and talk publicly about overcoming sectarianism. People, especially young people, look up to sports heros, and the Iraqis are no exception. At a time when sectarian tensions between Shiites and Sunnis have worsened in the Iraqi government and on the streets, the soccer team, known as the Lions of the Two Rivers, may have some part in helping Iraqis understand the benefits of putting aside sectarian hatred and working together to make their country a decent place to live. Sports heroes are role models, and Iraq certainly needs a few of those.

The strife in Iraq, and the rest of the world, for that matter, will never end until the people living there decide for themselves to choose peace over war, to choose understanding over hatred, to choose life over death. Can a handful of athletes, who seemingly have already made those decisions, be a catalyst to peace?

I believe they can. After all, I’m a Red Sox fan. I’ve already seen one miracle.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I borrowed liberally from this article for this post.)



Who with empassion’d breath, a poem

More fun with the sonnet form.

It’s only Spring who sings to me this morn,
With hair like honey gold and cool blue eyes.
The Winter ravaged fields she’ll soon adorn
With buds that wait for rain drops from the skies.

Seeds that lie beneath the ground in death,
Before Spring’s fertile sister will rejoice:
Hot-eyed Summer, who with empassion’d breath
Dances naked to rhythms of her choice.

I hear nymph-like Summer softly singing,
A carnal alto, her footfall’s soft descent.
Her perfume the soft caressing breeze is bringing.
Her sultry spell upon me won’t relent.

I close my eyes and dream about the day
When in the flowered fields entwined we lay.

Stephen P. Smith


“When can I see Mummy?”

I had a very disquieting experience today. I really don’t know why it affected me the way it did. You be the judge.

I was in a hospital waiting room today. While there, I noticed a little girl, somewhere between two and three years old. She was wearing a little summer dress, and her blond hair was all in curls. She was, in a word, adorable.

She kept asking her father, “When can I see Mummy?” She wasn’t whining or being insistent in the way toddlers can be. She just wanted to know when she could see Mummy. To which her father patiently responded, “Not now. We’ll see Mummy later”.

This particular hospital is a famous orthopedic hospital, but it also has a cancer ward.
So as I walked out of the hospital, I kept wondering why the little girl’s mother was in the hospital in the first place. It might have been nothing more than knee surgery. But it’s also possible that her mother was dying of cancer.

When the little girl finally gets to see her Mummy, will it be a prelude to a happy homecoming, or will it be the last time she is ever held in her mother’s arms? Does this story end with her taking her Mummy home, or does it end with a little girl standing at a graveside, too young to understand why she will never see her Mummy again?

Somewhat to my astonishment, I found myself saying a prayer for someone I had never met, partly for the mother’s sake, but really because I wanted the little girl to be spared the pain of learning her first lesson in how cruel and unjust life can be, of how temporary life really is, at such an unfairly young age. But I will never know how this story ends.



De profundis, a poem

Having some fun with the sonnet form here. Comments and criticism always welcome.
This one is dedicated to Spas.

Are all religions nothing but a fraud?
Was every single prophecy a lie?
And is it wrong to think a lonely god
Saw fit to create men who live and die?

In all this empty space, stars pale and dim
Glimmer in an empty, sable sphere.
Are there none to hear us when we cry to him?
Are there none but stars and nebulae anywhere?

In all the universe’s deep infinity
Are we the only sentient ones who can
Contemplate the notion of divinity,
And in the spiraling galaxies discern a plan?

How melancholy if it were for certain known
That through the black of space we drift alone.

–Stephen P. Smith


A New Page

I’ve added a new Poetry page to Murder of Ravens. Much to my astonishment, poetry has once again become an important part of my life. I would go so far as to say that of all the 100-plus posts I’ve put up so far, the poems are the ones of which I am most proud.

I wrote a great deal of poetry when I was a student, but by the time I first started writing on WordPress last September, I hadn’t written a poem in over twenty years. The first one that appeared on this blog, Lacrimosa, took me months to write (I had been working on it for quite a while before starting Murder of Ravens). At that point I still didn’t think I would write any more poetry. But my feelings about my son fighting in Iraq resulted in another poem, Immolatus Est. Again, having got that out of my system, I figured that would be it for the poetry. I still believed that the muse that once followed me around faithfully when I was a student had abandoned me. I now realize that she’s been there all along; it was I who was ignoring her.

The strange thing is I never really sit down with the intention of writing a poem. Usually when I publish one my first thought is, “now what?” But sooner or later something I see or hear or feel will just hit me a certain way, and suddenly the lines just start coming together in my head, and usually after a period of days or weeks I’ll have something tangible enough to write down. But I have learned not to force it. I don’t control the muse: she controls me. So be it.

Is it great poetry? Who knows? But it’s mine, I created it, and I’m proud of it. So I wanted it to have its own special page. If it it touches you in some way, let me know. That’s why I write them in the first place.



Call your Congressmen now!!

I’ll get right to the point here: the U. S. Senate is contemplating a bill which would raise the tax on premium cigars from 5 cents per cigar to a whopping $10 per cigar! That is an increase of 20,000%!! Taxes on other forms of tobacco would be similarly affected. Once again the federal government is exploiting the tobacco industry’s status as the lawmakers’ favorite whipping boy.

I would urge anyone who enjoys fine cigars or pipe tobacco (and believe me, there are still millions of us around) to contact their Senators and Congressmen. You can find your Congressman by clicking on this link. You can find your Senators here.

You can read an article about this here. And you can read an excellent post on the ramifications of this, written by one of WordPress’s finest bloggers, here.

Tobacco taxes have been our lawmaker’s favorite new toy for some years now, because the dilemma if you’re a politician is always how to raise taxes without jeopardizing your political future. Raise the tax on gasoline or alcohol, and you face banishment to the Dreaded Private Sector. The very thought sends shivers down your spine.

But the wonder of the tobacco tax is that it can be employed over and over again, for two reasons. First, smokers themselves have become a politically impotent minority. To be blunt, no one gives a shit about the smoker or his or her rights. Secondly, these debates are always framed around that obnoxious catchphrase, “it’s for the children”. Liberal gasbag Max Baucus (D-Montana) came out with this beauty: “When given the choice between standing with big tobacco companies and standing with kids, I stand with America’s children.”

Gee, Max, Americans are SO relieved to hear that you’re not standing against the children. After all, anybody who opposes these tax increases must be against the children, right? And so they just keep using this risk free means of raising taxes, over and over and over again. Harry Potter himself could not contrive anything more magical for the tax hungry politician.

But everyone seems to forget two things. First, it makes no sense to fund social welfare programs by taxing an industry out of existence, particularly when that industry has historically produced trillions in tax revenues.

Second, if the tobacco industry is taxed out of existence, the government will have to replace that lost tax revenue somehow. And if they can take my pipe and cigar away from me today, they can take your little pleasure away from you tomorrow.

Think about it.



Cinderella, a poem(?)

Just goofing around here. I really don’t know where this one came from. I just have a fascination with feminine endings. Some people have told me my poetry has a “spiritual” quality to it. Boy, are they going to be disappointed with this one.

Cinderella, Cinderella, night and day it’s Cinderella
I just ring my little bell-a
When I want my Cinderella
She could never find a fella
‘Cause her name was Cinderella
So she wed a big gorella
Who made her life a livin’ hell-a
So she locked him in the cella
Where she couldn’t hear him yell-a
Now her life is kinda mella
And she likes to play “Gisella”
On a Stradivari cella
And remember Ed Villella
While she smokes a Mirandella
That is flavored with vanella
And her favorite color’s yella
‘Cause it looks like lemon jella
And that’s all I have to tell-a
‘Bout a girl named Cinderella.

–Smith (although I’m not sure if I want to cop to this one).

taking up a glowing cinder with the tongs and lighting with it the long cherry-wood pipe which was wont to replace his clay when he was in a disputatious rather than a meditative mood" ~ Dr. John H. Watson ************************
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