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A quarterly international literary journal


/ Poetry /

Your daddy’s going to hell for not fasting, she hisses, the inference is,

so am I. I, in conversation with my camp instructor, am sixteen. Sixteen

candles of sin to burn in, I wake up every morning and see her coiffured

hair like cumulus clouds, her face first thing. Thing is, during naptime in

the cabin, she has me read Arabic passages out loud. Loud, she says, recite,

and she corrects my pronunciation, folds the words to and fro, twists them

and slaps them back in line like laundry. Laundry time: Again. Again and

again, so too it becomes my favorite part of the day. Day by day, I watch

her praying while I’m bunking. Bunking together, for once foregoing lessons

for storytelling, my treasured memory of her I wasn’t there for: back home,

Egypt, thirty years ago, her father approaching the front door, her and her

sisters frantically fanning the smoke out of their villa, hands butterflying

at those old wooden windows that fold in and out like accordions, having

just perched on their ledges to draw on eyebrows and lipstick in between

puffs before footsteps sounded, I imagine their speedy recovery in their

billowing floral 70s dresses, cigarettes choked and chucked out, secrets

grasped tight and to the grave, or to some sixteen year old in Minnesota

going to hell. Hell, might as well. Well, my favorite memory of me, Egypt,

seven years ago, balcony smoke from my father’s cigarettes, the honeybees

in the enormous clay pot my mother claimed from the street where from it

emerged their nest, circling him and his newspaper, him telling me, come,

sit, it will be alright, before I knew anything of hurt or of hell. Hell, my

mother stumbled onto this vessel that was somebody’s home, I stumble into

Arabic camp and come upon Bushra. Bushra; I miss her. Her, and also him.


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