(for Kazi H. Shehabi)
Every alighting is an ode to the past
though the field of poppies
on the poet’s book didn’t rinse
wet out of her eyes.
It was the time she was living in that did;
the doe tossed open
in the backyard; a coyote
had disrobed her delicate ribs,
the elm beside the culvert swale
deciphered the scene,
like a detective’s gloved hand
that offered no respite.
The earth had retraced its voice
away from rain so she stopped
gazing at the ground
and crammed her drought
into the sky. Her father
had died the summer before—
On snapchat, Hajj pilgrims
frisked her heart.
The voices have begun their supplications
among hands and nostrils
in the diction of dandelions and bloodroots,
while children skip
with bare feet
over white marble slabs—
Their business is to wash graves
the son teetering forward
with the father’s coffin nailed to his bad shoulder.
The children cry for a penny while offering
words for the dead: moths that break
windows at night—
In the dream of the father,
every train is going
in the wrong direction. When
his children arrive,
they’ll hear his voice
above strangler-root jacarandas
above Palestine sunbirds
upraising twilight over the sea,
but they cannot bare the pines
in the cemetery named for fighters
against the ground for cover—
the daughter spreads
out on the university lawn,
her father sits beside her,
“There’s no shame in turning back.”
Then every goodbye happens—
Upon whose blue-lit auricles do voices linger—
Years later, when she meets her father
they look out the window: poplar grove
birch grove, meadow, sea—
“the gold tray with the Arabesque cups
is for the other souls,” he says.
Tell me a story
in which the meadow betrays
and I’ll tell you how his voice
hides behind a rosette
of moth wings at dusk
and unbars the script
baring laughter out of grief.
Deema K. Shehabi
Deema K. Shehabi is a poet, writer, and editor. Deema is the author of Thirteen Departures From the Moon and co-editor with Beau Beausoleil of Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here (PM Press), for which she received the Northern California Book Award's NCBR Recognition Award. She is also co-author of Diaspo/Renga with Marilyn Hacker. Her two plays Light not Touched by Fire and A Handful of White Petals were performed by the Arabian Shakespeare Company’s New Works Festival, and she is the winner of the Nazim Hikmet poetry competition in 2018.
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