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POETRY I BY FADY JOUDAH SONG AND SWING Rainy season morning and refugee ghosts Come out of the fog to pace me, As in a dream the night before I was an honor guest in your wedding. The men rode bicycles. The women wore water buckets On royal steady necks, Hips rolling laughter in rows Of twos and threes. I run Because of a petty feud I have with the future. A marathon man And the old women who had birthed And lost, birthed and swung At trees as if at a national Pastime, knew my secret and snickered. That was the wood of cooking-fire Rounding up twilight’s thatch rooftops. That was the fire that put out the night’s eyes, Stumbling fever’s dance, The skin coming off by sunrise. But I’m in the homestretch now Though I never knew the words to that song, And I want to think of your brown fig nipple Gripped and buried in my mouth, How the dead here have no coffins. Last week we drove Hope into the bush For her last time and I watched them dig her grave. Along their swings they sang About food and water, the journey back, Beginning with country and ending without it. I want to think of your smile. But a crescent moon has already cupped the ribs of the dark. MOTHER HAIR My hair, black now, was Achilles hair When I was a child. Or maybe Mamluk, maybe Crusader blood, Though Napoleon only threw his hat At the walls of Acre. Or maybe the ischemic morning I rode the school bus Heading for the desert on a field trip. It doesn’t matter. My mother intuited loss And stroked my head before I waved goodbye. In the desert I ate the figs my father had left By my shoes the night before. In the desert Camels are ships Parting asphalt, and the school bus Smashed into them and killed So many children aboard. When the bus returned, Mothers filled the schoolyard With wailing, Smacking their cheeks, Pulling their hair, Counting their children. But there were none missing. It was only a rumor. There was only Nightfall and my mother, ready. Wearing black, my hair now, Maybe Canaanite or Bedouin, Maybe Fatemah or Zainab. FADY JOUDAH is a Palestinian American living in Houston. He is a physician of internal medicine, and a member of Doctors Without Borders. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Hayden’s Ferry Review, Crab Orchard Review, and CutBank. JUNE 24, 2005 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 21