A poem taken from the book of poetry Tea in Heliopolis published by Press 53 (2013)
She lay countless nights, her moans muffled by a pillow. She could see his face that Summer morning, feel his voice bite into her flesh, a surgeon’s scalpel, excising. She recalled waking from a deep sleep, opening her door to the early, unannounced messenger, his words, burning like dry ice. She stood motionless as he turned away, climbing hurriedly into his Honda. She felt a lightness, a readiness to levitate. Looking down, she saw herself in shattered glass, concealing the Venetian red-tiled corridor like snow flakes. Folded in two, she gathered some fragments, then for hours swept floors and corners filled with impalpable dust.
She was surprised to hear her heartbeat. “It must have been my soul,” she thought, “disintegrating into feathers of glass all over the house. It’s flown everywhere, for everyone to see, for everyone to blow away, broken debris coming out of nowhere.” Weeks after, amianthus-like particles still shone on the sofas, the afghans, the lace curtains, the oak rocker, the crease of a silk pillow, the fold of a diphenbachia leaf. Many months later, sun rays would light insidiously a dark corner, reveal a faceted web of slivered dust, a glimmer on the edge of a window, within the braided arm of a wicker chair.
The last one to bed, she’d lie, eyes open. Eating less each day, she became paler, watched her mother stab the eye of round with a kitchen knife, saw how she pressed garlic cloves deep into openings and brought edges together to mend the surface. At the dinner table no one would know the sealed roast had been pierced in so many places. Now her wound had healed. In the long waking hours, she’d hear the doorbell ring, see his words gather, needles welding into a silver scimitar. She could replay its swift movement in slow motion, fragment it all night- long, fingers running over her side, redesigning the leaf’s imprint.
She prayed for snow, for snow to cover his footsteps around her house, around the fig and cherry trees, erasing their traces for miles in the neighborhood, for snow to smother and bury their geography of familiar places. And snow fell relentlessly that Winter, and Spring was late, disconcerted. Snow covered red-tiled roofs, cars, shrubs, rhododendrons, bird baths, statues of the Virgin of Lourdes, of the Virgin of Guadalupe, even fir trees and hedges. Snow muffled voices freezing the wind brushing the Lebanese Cedar hills, concealing old carcasses, broken bones, ruins, the palace of Beit el Habib, the central square’s Martyrs’ monument, bazaars swept by hatred, flakes shrouding laced arcades, façades riddled with lead graffiti, abandoned rubble.
Lulled by the vast whiteness, she no longer yearned for the change of seasons, but wished to dream again. Each morning, folded in two, she would walk bent, smoothing the scar on her side as if ironing a shrunken garment. At night, she’d hear a crisscross, particles sliding against each other with each move. Slowly, out of her falling eyelids, a silent, wordless presence rocked her in a bed of rose petals. Soon, lost snow flakes would melt into dew, avenues smell of lavender and tender blossoms. She dreamed of roaming the streets, a village fool telling her story to stray dogs, to leaves in the trees, chasing the ones flying in the wind.
All artwork is courtesy of Reda Khalil.