I was feeling cranky in Damascus. Tough day. Tough life people lead here, depending. I had taken a walk yesterday to shop. This is my impression of that walk.
Obviously, it has nothing to do with the actual walk.
I leave the home that housed our sorrow for twenty five years
I walk the streets that never gathered any pain
I buy vegetables that never warded off the carcinogens
this culture of death around us, lives remain
cheap like the hummus
and the cherries I devour
and the plastic mop I buy for my father’s house,
who could clean away twenty five years of sadness?
who could bring back a country with polish,
even if you rubbed hands over old wood till antiseptic, raw,
tattered but still writing.
Who could wipe away Falastine?
Here is the hairdresser who still runs for business. Weddings, engagements,
girls out to toss curls and fringes at boys that
capture them. Girls that hide the new do under the same veil
their mother inherited. Girls that preen on balconies for
the first suitor to bring life to these
My feet trudge.
Here is the hairdresser. His name is Omar. He probably has grey hair now where
I remember a black beard.
I remember. A room.
A bedroom. A kind man with blades that shear.
It’s going to fall off anyway, might as well take it all off in one go. Brave brave
Palestinian woman who saw beauty beyond eye shadow
and hair curlers, beyond even breasts and
ovaries and a uterus,
whose beauty remains beyond the gnawing of worms at your coffin.
It’s going to fall off anyway, might as well take it all off in one go.
Omar visits us,
my mother’s hair is on the floor, her green pool eyes are dense
and quiet and filled with underwater matter
we could never unearth,
could never clean. My mother’s hair is on the floor,
how kind he was to come to our home and witness, perform, a sacred
rite no one else could see.
I walk past this hairdresser. Inside, women chew gum, discuss the new nail polish
color they must try, how to keep hair supple and soft under dryers,
their grandmother’s secret recipe for whiter skin,
whiter teeth, blonder hair,
bigger breasts, and on and on the beauty pageant rampages, until I am one
day toothless, and wrinkled and worn.
Until the memory of my mother’s wild hair, shorn, is also dust in these streets.
Today I walk. The door of the hairdresser is closed. I do not open it.
Behind it, women
cackle and smoke and drink Turkish coffee as they inhale hair dye and discuss
I walk, and I can see nothing but Omar’s hands, gently clipping off another
layer of my mother happy.
I walk, and buy that mop,
buy some cherries,
but for eternity, a small shop will bear witness to permanent tragedy,
the small things that herald loss looming,
the moments, insignificant,
that usher death in.