Death exercises

Hussam Jefee-Bahloul

Overdue appointments
lying on grass
wearing a navy-blue shirt
buttoned with bullet holes
redolent of gun powder

In the background
a basmala in Yiddish
and some muffled
prayers

It was the spring of vivid details
the distinctive sting of wine
the vivacious chatter and silence
of the wind
the dope of disappointments
of failures
of home

where the ball of flesh
swells
running   down   a   hill
picking up screws and nails as it goes
where air is routinely arrested
and dreams are held
without arraignment

Don’t ask him to dream, he who had his eyes gouged
Don’t hand him a trumpet, he with a punctured lung
Don’t expect affection of him, he who carries a bullet in his heart

It was the spring of vivid details
of his mother’s trembling voice
a hiccup in the amygdala
crossing the Mediterranean
alongside boxes, images, and faces
with a child’s voice singing:
“Oh Syria, Oh Syria”

Here,
   he finds what he’s looking for
   even
   in a mom-and-pop
   quirky coffee shop
   while

there,
   people lose their carnage and their bread
   in a country
   vast as god

Nevertheless,
to him home naturally becomes
a daily exercise
in breathing

Nevertheless,
to them the tiny obsessions of existence
become a muffled plea
to some living god.