MIGRATION / WEB EXCLUSIVE
"Lament" and "Nimbus"
By Soheila Ghaussy
Because the groves were sweet and I recall
pomegranates. Because the almond air
was fused with fumes
and smoke, later, when the city choked
Because all those with carts and oxen
with clan and kin and chicken flocks
fled. Because they prayed while I
slept with one eye shut, one open
safe and far from a home
whose air had swallowed
a bitterness unknown to my
Because when I walked, grass cracked
Because crickets in late summer cry
and die before the snowmelt
unless God appears
in songs and dreams
Unless we drop our fears and praise
prophets who preach peace
I see this vision:
The others fled until their bare soles
bled. I shed enough of my childhood
to see them harden
because they packed up bags, swung children
onto donkeys’ backs
a straw’s width from breaking
to a border near Herat, a border near Mazar
a border just past Kandahar
Because history is unkind
to the wretched who find their faces
caked with blood and dust and because
years into pain
children into fossil remains
It is the law of human nature
say our scholars. Because unlike beasts
who guard their young
we sacrifice our own. Is it because
the fallen point fingers at those
who stand wedded to fortune?
Because I sleep
Because I speak
Because I am
warm and milk-fed
and recall no reason
for personal exodus
I mount this lament.
Clouds ferry the rain prayed for
by the arid, ship it from sea to land.
They leak droplets of pain,
drizzle desperate hopes
onto our conscience. People
and more people, thousands
float like cumulus, barely above water,
closer to the ocean than mist, huddled
together, drifting, holding
back tears, holding gray infants close
to breath. Death sea-saws
and pools at their feet.
The sky is too near,
and plastic. Drips.
How can the rain
each spring and spring again
nourish the green that racks its hairline neck
through the black seams of humus?
How does it fix
another sapling's doom?
Fate measures and cuts
Publication Date: May 17
was born in Hamburg, Germany, and grew up in Kabul, Afghanistan. She earned a Master's degree in English at the University of Hamburg and a doctorate degree in Comparative Literature at Purdue University. An active poet, writer, and visual artist, she chairs the Humanistic Studies department at the Maryland Institute College of Art.