"Yaa' Umm!" I say. You are a bird.
I enter our conversation
broadly sweeping through your tweed
coat, your petite handbag. "Tasharaafna,"
which is to say, "I am honored
by your presence."
While this morning jasmine is
and everything else besides,
I am hurried.
You, all elegant and ambling,
sit on your smile for
a time until I settle in.
Your withered frame a delicate
statuary, huddled in
herringbone, a silk scarf.
What harm is there in reaching
for a dark gloved hand? I wander down
the road of your exile.
Between us, the flat mile of
a table where the coffee is; where
the war is, both black and harsh. We
drink from both, speak of neither.
"As-salaam aleikum!" Can you
repeat yourself? Between us,
the flat mile of a table. Is the world
so much smaller than you remember?
My eyes trace the ridges
of your teeth, where the tongue
strikes in certain phrases. The flash
of gold from wire on a bridge, the
corners of your mouth keeping
secrets. The throaty sound you make,
while you stretch American tongues
to fit Arabic words, your breath
clean as a bell jar.
I wander down the road your exile is,
Iraqi woman of the Dhod. Mother of all Arabs, I wonder
which words cease being useful when
you're in your cups; which words fail
to meet the sum of things.
Do so many flowers wither, these garlands
we heap upon one another, this
jasmine morning of so many greetings, while the world
is charged by lesser men?
May you be at ease among family!
Between us, the flat mile of a table
where the coffee is, where
our exile is, both black and harsh. What harm
is there in reaching for a hand, while
this morning of a thousand lights
unfolds the shadows in these ram-battered cups.
© Karekin M Yarian