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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.