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A Door in the Evening

 

This house that filled us with 13 varieties

of rice, brown boiled eggs, creases of language.

 

There was not a single sentence that was ordinary.

Tender lamb and copper pots;

 

a banquet every week, and we hovered.

The house was brick. Back door, side door.

 

Each of the reasons, the clutter of years.

I used to live here. I live here.

 

The beginning of forgetting comes quickly.

 

Remembrance

 

We must answer each question

with another question.

 

We must erase our first sorrow.

 

            How shall we hope?

                        We must hope.

 

Do you remember the prayer we said

bent over, the giving of body to ground?

 

We must shape ourselves

first to shadow and then to infinite,

the wait of such hunger in every cell.

 

No matter the hours.

I’ll tell you everything. I’ll tell you the silence.

 

This, My Father (An Aside)

 

My dad: his vowels are full

 

of inseparable regret. My dad

keeps chanting the first half

 

of his life. We sometimes forget

the narrow strip

of street that was his best day

 

and how it bends

into his corners. I never remember

 

his squat fingers or the sloping wall

of his heart until I’m beside him.

Please, I request, using

 

my slang words and dry mouth.

Such is the matter of fact: to agree

 

to embrace the resentment. He’ll live

to 91. He knows this from a sign

on a bus. My dad rides buses

 

past fragmented Philadelphia brick.

The sun only bothers the back of his neck.

 

My dad never finishes

his journey, just leaves it behind. I listen

to his swift orbit

 

with one finely shaped ear, hear ghosts

get off and on at his laments.

 

Poor dad. My dad. My dad never smiles.

 

An Uprising

 

                                    One

 

My father arrived from his only tour     of Iraq and now he is

showing off scars to anyone standing outside I watch

his tongue keep spending all its strange speaking on nomadic

thoughts all of them furloughed or impossible

to follow even now he’s               demanding

a new war with his dark noise and we’re deep

in his thrall all of us always

 

when there are children around my father smiles

at them working        the dimple back in his cheek until his face

is restless holes    sometimes

the muscular work of pretending leaves open nerve

 

he is        not           going back and meanwhile he’s pacing

his history criticizing the street in his magnificent disobedient language

his self occurring

at random

as souvenirs he liked for an instant        he is always adding

some velocity to the erratic by throwing

an accent over syllábles running over the ending the revolution

of making the world unfamiliar         and sends his notes with extra swirls

 

 

                                    Two

 

His boyhood picture the black hair the deep

drooping eyes he’s fighting               for something   he’s loaded

with here or elsewhere he moves past the corner

of the market the market not the one

that trailed the Tigris his gaze is impossible doesn’t he know

he is in the American city with black clouds

doesn’t he see he is getting old without his real name with the illusion

of an ambivalent

reproduction     offspring   he is standing

by the market and the water skins and bends

beside him in the shadows of two moons but he’s not paying attention he never

does

 

he is watching results of the shadows what if

a troupe of belly dancers came by hurling

their flesh canticles with the high notes of their hips         for a minute

my father’s vehemence would become unreliable and his eyes would work

electronically      then he’d be back reprising his every

opportunity for attention pulling out

all the numbers he’s kept on small scraps of paper final tallies the stock

market swagger for all the weeks of the endless last years       he is adorned

with numbers and facts

of loss

 

 

                                    Three

 

The whole time he is bending and arranging his bald head is wide to the sun

he is systematic side by side papers prove boisterous

growth and dark curves       later his voice will still

be too big

and I will find this awful the fragments of what he sees of the city

around us the city he sees an alley the city

is a skeleton and where he has hurdled the ribs          the city a carcass the city

now beheadings or now breasts cut from women his relatives shot and he’s ready

to squat down again to straighten his private investments

that are too much are growing

into the sidewalk stomped by small sneakers             never

never never never and he has been away to that place that never

 

opened the center of the clamoring the animals the damage

where the river gave temporary fluctuations and he is a lot better

and worse and remember

this is as much as possible for the 64 years since Iraq

to use his whole life as reference and it is too much

to never again see the brick or the dishdasha the abayah his sabta to kneel by the rings

of the river and be a survivor

and what he is now is always disappointed always ruined

 Lauren Camp is the author of two collections. Her third book, One Hundred Hungers, won the Dorset Prize (Tupelo Press, 2016). Her poems appear in Sukoon, Mizna, Slice Magazine, World Literature Today, and elsewhere. Other literary honors include the Margaret Randall Poetry Prize and an Anna Davidson Rosenberg Award. Lauren produces and hosts “Audio Saucepan”—a global music program interwoven with contemporary poetry—on Santa Fe Public Radio. www.laurencamp.com.