across the water
his eyes lashed
in kohl, mornings alone
he sheathes his arm
in prayer, sets another
between his eyes,
kisses the thick skin,
the cured smell, the animal
warmth beneath. these
are the salted days of august,
days of hamsin
when even evening breathes
hot on his neck,
each moment an empty
pocket, each seam tarred, sulfurous
and sour. on the bus
the old, sephardi men tell him, wet
your lips. go ahead
and wet your lips
on sweetness. don’t think
about the ecru of your skin
or the way it clings
to the bone.
you too will wake
to a man’s full weight
in a hand nailing
your head to the bed,
and crease into morning
sheets well worn. and death,
that savage savior,
will walk across your water,
enter your house,
a shabaknik in a flannel shirt,
each shoulder stiff
each shawled in prayer.
Originally in December, 2016
The Scent of Salt
Outside a cottage at the edge
of a silver desert, a camel dreams to breathe
the salt, the sea. He twists
his head around to view the woman
he carries and where he came from,
over the hot, pitted hills and the many
varieties of salt, the ones that stink
of sulfur, their crystal layers mixed with silt,
the ones that comfort his burning
feet in talc, the ones that sit like ice
floes on briny water. The variety that forms
a woman, her arms
for her stolen sons, those who melted
in the Land of Og,
burned and buried
in a shallow grave. In her
dreams she rides the camel.
When he walks
she knows the stormy waves have overtaken her.
When he runs she whispers
the seventy secret names of God
from her peeling lips
and walks on water
to where her sons play in the desert salt.
Their feet are oars, their hands
braid the camel’s hair to baskets
painted gold. She crouches there
in the blistered sand, spitting the husks
of sunflower seeds over
the fences men erect in fear.
Salt coats their tongues.
The camel opens his dry mouth.
Like a woman lost, his cry
stretches over the desert.
Originally in Spillway 2015
Ode to a Young Girl Sold
little light rises morning within morning
hands chafed clean from defile,
knuckle after knuckle pearled, bread
and boiled water, alive and silent,
as wind, as snow, muted to two dark
braids. yet the innocence of thin limbs,
winced in a bathroom, rashed red
across her delicate back, penicillin
inside the animal she carries
pierced to her skeleton. night
within night anointed in hard breath
and the oiled smell of lubricant.
little light, eyes bleached in the ice
of his smile, no hand, no belt, just frozen sweat
and the sound of a doll drowning in snow.
Originally in Tinderbox Volume: 3 Issue: 4