A carnival souk tucked in a tight
and crooked labyrinth, leading the way
to a secret cave that still contains
the smell of the world to come.
I take these two I raised with one long arm,
fed from the same jar
with the same rubber-coated spoon.
We are delighted by fabric from Damascus,
pots and pans from Amman,
rain boots and watermelons, even
the red and blue RC Cola,
underlined and crowned. We
pass a butcher shop where goat
carcasses hang like ghost soldiers
of an ancient nation. One
suspended just outside the door,
her hind feet bound,
her head intact, the smell
of the grass she ate, the milk she gave
swells in the tepid air, her teats once
velvet and warm, now gone,
her eyes a creamy white
like the blind eyes of the holy men
smoking shisha nearby, men
who wanted Mecca
to be the last thing they saw.
We turn and our narrow path opens
into a little square. There
stands an oracle, tattered
as a straw bird, his long dress torn
as if he slept in sand,
his prayer beads worn to a soft lament
in his hand, his keffiyeh dull,
wrapped twice around his head. His voice
unfurls and falls, face creasing as he calls.
I push the stroller very close
as the oracle looks down, silenced
in the face of my daughters’ calm,
smiles at the baby as she raises her hand
to him, stretches her arm,
opens her tiny palm.