I met- briefly and for a gorgeous moment- a very very old man on the New York subway. His gentleman behavior has stayed with me for months. On this day of bombs in Damascus, of violence in Cairo, of death in Palestine- so daily- I dedicate this story to him and all the men in the world who treated women- homeland, children, flowers- with beauty. Thank
you, anonymous old man.
(For Damascus, whom I disliked, until she began bleeding)
Today, in Damascus, they disgraced all memory of Jasmine,
they planted two sapling suicides to blossom not so far
from where my father thought the last
few breaths would be fragrant.
In a cycle of misunderstanding of all that is body and kisses and sunlight,
and the power of energy, and the harnessing of danger
into thoughts malignant in countries sodomized,
We never had a country.
Mourning one is a learning curve,
steeped in dazed arrivals and the whispered phone calls,
wondering at the I.
I have been dreaming of another old man, who by now is steeped in snow
and cataracts invading sight of skyscrapers baffling.
It was the beginning of winter, and the end of my journey,
and New York city a moody bitch lover, haranguing.
Somalia had been sinking, and in it, youth, and laughter.
I could not count on five fingers, the reasons for awakening.
The sentiment of yearning was atrocious, for
everywhere was dirt on streets, prevalent,
the tourists hungry.
Who was I, young once and inflamed by limbs orgasming on motion?
Here again, and again, was the subway, careening
off dungeons imagined,
bequeathed to nothing but rats and the silences of strangers,
private tiny suffering held in Pathmark booklets of
coupon cutouts of cheese rations,
and the homeless mingling with the high, and the beckoning
of brown arms sexy,
the crisscross of the Brooklyn child’s braids as
her watery eyes connived understanding of the
safe, danger, mommy.
I held my belly, its roundness gesturing all that is female,
and torpor, all that is
enveloping organs pumping thought matter
shattered as splintered coke cans squished by teenage
boys oblivious to but her temporary parted lips,
how the gloss
on them tempting made sucking noises when they
dove in for the kiss, public,
and how resurfacing for air amongst a hurtling carriage
was akin to an opera of pining.
A young man in dreads wrote a poem,
misspelt on his smart phone, his ignorance
forever divine in the attempt at memory, lucid
harmony of all his melancholy.
And then I saw him,
I saw the old man in rush hour, and I
stifled physical interference in the natural play
of place taking, sitting, standing, the breathing of
stale air and humidity,
the restless shifting of eyes surveying a jungle
in a carriage meaning
swollen feet could throb a little less,
hands that jittered could be subdued,
the daily hustling rested on metal
and other warm skin, the race perhaps on pause,
the thievery of hope,
He hobbled softly, a slow move
towards the one small seat left, panacea- oh, thank god–
balm, resurrection, justice, equality.
I may have had blood
lust jousting between my eyes and all others watching.
I dared them make a
move to his little haven of repose,
and the sanctity of aiding the elderly.
He must have been well over eighty.
His hat, pink and frayed, said
“20 years anniversary for the walk for Aids”.
I wondered where he got it, a thrift
store, the trash can, the memorial for his
nephew blighted by new diseases and all this modernity.
Oh and then. Then.
He sat. He sat. He sat.
I noticed hearing aids in
hairy ears flapping against lined cheeks, crusty skin
denoting a New York life, far from simple, far from levity.
I kept staring, as
tremors of faith shot up my arms, swelled
my flat chest,
gave forth to a smile, the weight
of bags I carried, a burden
lightened, a thrill
so minute, so infinitesimal, so pretty, I did not speak,
nor prayed, nor sang gospel songs of
gratitude, but a mere
breath let itself fall for the first time that day,
as the old man clutched his tote bag closer to him and stared intently at nothing.
he saw my eyes gawking at him. Instantly,
and without thought, within a split
instinctive second of brevity, he stood up and offered me his seat,
god like bravery, simple everyday kindness and mercy,
He must have been eighty.
Oh Father, how I loved you.
And I trembled and I startled.
And I gasped, assured him with pure physical idolatry
that- never never– he sat back,
–please sit sir, never never–
down and looked away, and I,
had healed Africa, returned my
mother to her sunlit window in Damascus
to read her DH Lawrence, had given my father
a new contract for youth,
I had witnessed the revolution of peasants against monarchy,
Palestine was a beloved land,
nothing but honey seeped from her blisters,
and nothing but morning silence yielded dreams on
faces of mothers and fathers and
vanquished was the power of their merkavas and money,
and my sister was but a doe-eyed dear flitting in forests serene,
my lungs alchemied nothing but serenity,
New York had not been raped,
Iraq had not been raped,
and every man I ever loved had
never cried because of me,
there was no nuclear bomb to fear,
and there were no cluster bombs left
in Lebanon, our bodies were revered,
and suddenly suddenly,
suddenly suddenly, we lived
forever, and glare in the harsh day we feared
was pure reflections off children’s
running wildly, never having known a ghetto,
or rancid poverty–
I stepped off the train in a daze,
there may have been an escalator, New York
at Columbus Circle on 59th, was all
Central Park beauty,
flourish, wealth and complexity,
the road had flowers instead of arrows,
people kissed instead of hissed
on turbulent phones,
and as the wind cuddled
leaves bursting fertility with yellow, orange,
red fire of heaven and all her
palette of divinity,
I could not feel my feet as
they tread paths, silent,
all inside poetic,
all purpose clear,
my heart, steady, steady.
Be kind, for everyone you know is fighting a battle.