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This Way Home

This Way Home

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Min Hayati
Ainaab, Lebanon

We planted an olive tree
in memory of you
under the parasol pines
at sundown

Cicadas sang through the dust
with a symphony of pine nuts
popping like corn
above our heads
A third good-bye
and still no ashes
to slip beneath the roots
red earth left raw and crumbling

We stood as silhouettes on mountain
cliffs until the pink sun
behind black dresses, final notes
of metal shovel Taps rang like a bugler
sending soldiers to sleep

One by one we went inside
our solemn procession
leaving you in the breeze
your sage leaves behind us

One Year

Thirteen moons rising
like jasmine white flowers
one petal falling for each month
of absence

One year and I cling like Jupiter
red in the black fury
you left me in a sky with so many stars
still I cannot find

Snow illuminates a sky of gold perfume
I reach for the sweet scent of jasmine
falling on my pillow and I am a child again
and can feel your breath at bedtime

Paterson Border Crossing

My heritage voyaged the vessel Allegri
from Port Lebanon to Barcelona,
bobbing through soda cans and plastic bags
seamlessly over the translucent jellyfish
across the Mediterranean

Until the day in September along the invisible divide
somewhere between the golden aspen speckled line
and arches of the hemlock trees
I came to claim my inheritance, to clear customs
from a stranger in a black uniform, a red
maple leaf badge

We stood four in the hollow back of a semi-truck
silent while the driver jumped like a ninja
on the wooden crate, released twelve different
bolts and paused dramatically to lift the lid, like a casket

The officer with kind eyes and a gun in his holster
fumbled with too-small keys and pried open the green
trunk I once used at summer camp, the latch clicked down,
sea salt mingled with memories. He handed me
a stack of Polaroid photos, the white borders stark against
black leather gloves, my grandmother's face
beaming up from his hands

He rummaged through my Kindergarten crafts, tempera
yellow paint cracking to powder like turmeric from all
the blonde little girls I once painted with happy bows in their hair
He passed me a shoebox labeled valuables with my mother's cursive letters,
through a peek I caught a glow, my golden baby bracelets, my first
silver spoons?
closed the lid like Pandora

Satisfied; there was nothing of value, the official pointed to pink forms
let me claim what was mine and with the box?against my chest,
drove home, the truck bending down mountain roads to follow

Next came the rustle, unpacking paper like leaves
crunching underfoot, the slice pull of
taupe tape, heaps of bubble wrap
like a carpet of fog over a lake

Fifty-two floral Palmyra plates, Bride of the Desert stamped
ten double handled teacups that slide on their saucers
five copper pots, tin lining speckled with green
fourteen Christmas collection plates, painted holly and mistletoe, my
mother's initials on the backs
one miniature Quran, golden threads lacing the spine
Great Uncle Lucien's hundred-year-old leather suitcase too big to lift
two mosaic-trimmed mirrors, mother of pearl and ivory white
one top-hat box lined with orange paisley fabric, fraying at the seams
thirteen bundles and batches of over-sized spoons, forks, and knives,
the weight of silver like lead in each hand

Two years ago I would have clung to each object like it was
my mother, pressed my nose into each package
searching for the ocean or a faint hue of jasmine

Now, her belongings are symbols,
loaded links without tears,
gifts of her absence
an infusion of the Orient
welcoming ancestors?

close this panel
29 leads to love
body map

part there

part here

part beyond

this longitude struggle

this longitude strife

this latitude song

joint between here and song

cartilage joining there beyond

organ a function of struggle here there beyond

limbs traveling

struggle strife song

here there beyond

body a cartography traversing and transgressing frontiers

For Iraq, March 2003

somewhere love
but here

15 tots
noosed by the sashes
of 15 stained bonnets
sashes with xerographic transfers
of archival papers

lost in the crack
in between two sets
of contrasting train tracks

cold weight
of snowflakes
like an oil spill

christening gown for trees
over a grove of five young poplar trees
planted in cement

15 hand stitched doll garments
of an unknown child
somewhere love
but here
an attack
called war
and slipping hegemony
mistaken for omnipotence

On the immaterial

she said I can count on two
the times I've been lifted

he said
I don't remember
the number of times
I've been lifted
as a baby
small child
when ill
but I know when I have felt held
skin to skin
tear drop to tear drop

today in Kenya,
the streets of Mexico
South Korea
people are holding together
because they feel unheld

I can count on two fingers
the times I've been lifted
but today
with my two fingers and
entire being
I can and will

close this panel


Righteous Rage in the Age of #MeToo
edited by Sue Goyette
also available: Paperback eBook Hardcover
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also available: eBook
More Info

A child gathers answers

Sixty-Three Green Circle Melrose one-one seven five two my locational numbers plus one baby sister for free a mother for safety and a blue car for long drives and one father at work leaving in the blue car morning a Dodge as well as dodge ball and hopscotch skipping ropes skipping Hopalong Cassidy how about a date meet you at the corner at half-past eight in the street stando yelling stando against a brick wall roller skates hide-and-go-seek answers in school also the pressure cooker beef stew steamed lemon pudding the creek behind McTavish's house up-on-the-hill train tracks which a child cannot walk near the golf course where toboggans in winter and brown strap-on rubber boots in the spring saddle shoes tap shoes toe shoes white bucks Pat Boone gumshoe Nancy Drew rubber soles and cartwheels and handstands though at night devils clawed the closet and snakes rustled under the bed despite now I lay me down to red rover red rover Red River coats and red Red River mittens grade one grade two grade three a party line a best friend.

A woman questions

How does the leaf know how does Turkish Finnish Kurdish French where do numbers whence negative why and whence zero is it fact or concept how instinct neurons for instance quarks cockroaches rats for instance mirrors mirror cells the Mariana Trench how many creatures will never be seen soufflés pavlova pavlovae how cells know how on earth friends the cosmos how far back where did she go what means without any start missing and end without end without start quantum physics theoretical higher math mathematics how the big bang string theory the Cern Cyclotron Stephen Hawking how does a friend falling off with Einstein altogether the Earth why and which equations and how mainly from where.


In the inside there is deluge, in the outside there is missing. Somewhere is refuge. Quickening. Listen. Let is-ness then be the business, let mothers into story if only for a few more years. If quickening, there may be answers, whistle, wind, chance literation, chance marriages, misfits, chance the first chance, do not reprove the child asking awkward questions. Let blue angora mittens, a black cat, second fiddle. There is a second layer, liar, liar, pants on fire. Never mind, there is always porridge with a sift of salt and garbage bins under the sink whispering misery in an off-key pitch. Cinch your belts, no one here is as rich as you may wish. Hey diddle, diddle, kit and kaboodle, cows, spoons, a cat in a fix. In the inside there are two. In the outside, there is one and one sitting, unseeing what will be missing. Heaven whistles by in its finite fevered way, tin whistle stops and lingerie, saxifrage and lingering, and tips. Q-tips. Second storey is higher than first, pinch me if I'm wrong, never mind, the second story is typically too blue, too long.

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