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The Rose Procession (poem)
By Kevin Basl
On the twentieth anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq—March 19, 2023—a group of about seventy-five Iraqis, Native Americans, veterans, and supporters (attendees of the second Veteran Art Triennial and Summit) walked in a silent vigil through downtown Chicago to Lake Michigan to drop roses into the water in memory of the many lives lost to the war.
The dancer, his scarf wrapped tight,
Hussein is here.
The artist, her hijab shielding the wind,
Shaymaa is here.
The warriors, their poetry as witness,
they are here.
Each holds a rose, an intention like a votive flame.
We stand atop a concrete pier
erected on sands
where humans once dipped their hands for a drink
read the patterns of the universe
Menominee, Miami, Ho-chunk
and the Council of Three Fires—
ceremonial shores, where today
a cargo ship crawls across the horizon,
an aquarium rises like a Roman temple,
and tourists buy trinkets and candy.
Vendors, joggers, and photographers
stop to watch
as one by one we walk forward
whisper a prayer
shout a song
for anyone listening
A rose dropped into the ancestral waves:
twenty years gone,
four hundred years gone—
tomorrow offers renewal
all we can accept
Lake of turquoise, azure sky
scarlet and white roses
like vessels on the rolling waters
we look up
face the harsh winds
our anger a blessing.