Hands to face,
hold the boy,
lest he fall away,
like all my sons have,
they found their escape,
bedrooms to the outside –
the world kills all men,
the world destroys all things.
We dug up bones along the shore,
carrying them in buckets back home,
memories of the sea.
Built a treehouse in the sycamore,
four walls painted blue,
and in winter we stayed close for warmth.
Downstairs the world spins on,
the girls in their dresses,
and I will dance with them,
with a pocket full of the sea,
she whispers, “I will grow up to be an empire,
and I’ll let you conquer me . . . but only if you want to?”
I was sitting on my balcony in Cairo, enjoying a cup of coffee, when this amazing event suddenly happened, enjoy:
We tug, underwater,
let loose like red rags,
raise the white, then the black,
because the tide wants to drown –
Wants to pull you like a plaything,
like a child who can’t sleep
you tell the same stories with your hands
but they gnaw at your limbs.
When we hide them outside,
by trees to make homes with,
teach them how to make fire,
they set fire to it all.
The embers accelerate,
like one hand shaking another,
like one bone breaking another,
taking away my childhood home.
So one makes a raft out of branches,
the other a friend to keep me company,
and the black ocean pushes us along.
When we were children in disguise,
covering our faces with lion masks,
running through the fields,
separating the clouds with our toes,
mama calling us in at sunset
singing lullabies till sunrise –
Animals must dream this way
when they sleep next to each other,
one thought completing the other,
chasing after one another’s fears.
She said you can always be my monster,
lying in wait underneath my bed,
whispering threats in another language,
I would find you and tame you,
teach you about tea parties
and how to part my lips.
Like wrong animals,
that move half-step,
I tap-tapped against the earth,
tap-tapped against the girl.
When I kissed her and ran away,
her brother eventually caught up with me,
placed his gun on top of me,
and said, ‘say your pretty words again you pretty man’.
Afterwards, bearded men came and washed me,
wrapped me in their own bedsheets,
placed me in the back of a pickup truck,
drove down the narrow road between our fields.
Face up watching as the sun meets the trees,
I know this place,
I know this smell,
Alexandria! – where the sea meet earth,
I imagine her now next to me,
the tap-tap of her fingers against my chest
kissing my wounds despite the wounds I inflict.
The elephants touched me
as if I was their own
carried my bones, heart and ribs,
back, to the countryside,
under the shadow of ficus trees.
I placed my ear against the great root,
heard myself as a child,
a boy playing in the fields,
playing with such violence.
‘It is me’, the boy says,
‘the one you forgot to bury;
the orphan rummaging around,
singing out-of-key songs with long breath,
lullabies to keep you from waking.’