Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Refuge

The barriers kept cars out of the Palestinian neighborhoods,
windows boarded, the balconies crashed down to the sidewalk.
The apartments rose from the ground like ant hills. The Palestinians swarmed
to collect enough to survive.

A girl stood white against the Syrian neighborhood,
her skin mud against her teeth.
With her hijab, she looked like a girl who rose with the sun to pray
fajr. A man, too thin for his years, drank sun-dried lebnae: crust
white on his beard. He shouted orders.

The girl came to me and took my hand.
Men on the block took knives and dug them through the skin of lambs
and twisted until the blood
flooded the street,
the lamb’s eyes frozen
forever in shock.

She led me to her home,
a hummus-covered rug - the dinner table,
the pillows placed on the floor for seats,
the chairs bent at their joints, the old oven
and a hole in the ground at the back.

The girl’s mother sat on the edge of one of the chairs
and rocked its joints looser
and looser.
Water from her eyes wrinkled her skin
and wet her lips,
puckered on her white rosary beads.

The girl took my lira
and then took me into her bed,
weaved straw like a bird’s nest.

A lamb billowed as the butcher slaughtered her.

I finished and walked to the door.
The girl’s mom left her chair and ran her hands,
slick like the pages in the Quran,
over my fingers. She began a prayer:
“Bismee ‘llah ah rahman ah raheem,”
In the name of Allah, the most kind, the most merciful.