And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree . . .
Coleridge: Kubla Khan
Sheba’s wailing Queen laments for Yemen:
Her incense trees are lacerated, scarred.
Sapped for their fragrance, drained of life and marred
Their smoking blood offered up to heaven.
No sinuous rills flow forth to bless the dead;
Beneath her ruined dam no gardens grow;
And Bedouins only sing of what they know
In wastelands of the nomad past. It’s said
That all those spices, all that golden smoke
and irrigated dreams beneath the sand
were just a subtle Solomonic joke.
The yearly weight of gold, the camel-trains,
Are cryptic numbers—chanted in refrains
That only Marib’s phantoms understand.