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Prairie Schooner 80.2 (2006) 30-33

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Morning Ritual, and: Knowing, and: Body Reading

Morning Ritual

Every morning, after the roosters
Crow back whatever prayers were passed
Down to them that dawn
From the keeper of their order up in heaven,

I drink my coffee
To the sound of squealing pigs
Being bled to death
In the market up the road – the same market

Where I buy my fresh bread
For my peanut butter and jam.
The pigs are bled through an axillary wound.
You can see it coming throughout the day before,

Hogs tied sideways to the backs of bicycles,
Tight as a spine, going as far as the border
Where the price is right. You will pass them
On the asphalt to the city I get

My peanut butter and jam from. They know
The bikeways out of nowhere
And suddenly they're alongside your jeep.
I lie: only goats are taken to the border.

The goats are bled differently,
And skinning is harmless after slaughter:
All you do is a vertical skin-slit
Between the shinbone and Achilles' tendon, [End Page 30]

Stick a thin metal rod
Through it, up the thigh, pull it out
Then blow, mouth to wound,
Until your breath dehisces

Fascia and dermis, reaching the belly:
Your hands
Should even out the trapped air.
Between blowing and tapping

The animal is tight as a drum.
Now the knife that slits the throat.
Who knows
What you'll need skin for.


Tell me where you'd like to be buried
When you die
And I'll tell you your flag's colors
And what I never
Told my father when I saw
A pregnant pomegranate tree
For the first time
In the evening square
Alone with other trees I never knew
To ask their name
In a Mediterranean island town
Whose name I forget now
And whose history stains
As only pomegranate seeds can [End Page 31]
When he loosens them by hand
In a bowl with coconut
Sprinkled on top
You and I in love
The drunk bar owner clapping
For a thousand bat wings
That burst into song
Out of trees I never knew
And the more he clapped he laughed
And the singing grew
And our standing in the middle
Of departure grew
You knowing where
You'd want to be buried
When you die

Body Reading

The scent is a molecular
Memory, a hexagon,
And the body is drowned
Head down in phenolated cloth.
Between truce and abeyance
This is neither.
I thought my cadaver was a man
But when the back was done with blade . . .
I'll come out and say it:
The heart is a cavity with thin walls
And within the skull hides a butterfly bone.
Sometimes truth isn't everything.
Sometimes the memory grows [End Page 32]
Like silver hair and an accessory spleen.
Like a left-handed bullet
And the colonel on table nineteen
Who signed his donor card
Then shot himself through the temple,
Parallel to the eyes.
This is the body and everything in it.
This is Marcia's Bach on cello
And Jennifer's Moonlight Sonata,
And readings about light upon light
And an incandescent olive tree
That wasn't really on fire.
This is a story I love.
I love its furious form
And I love its hours.
It has hours held back in the body
Word for word like a prophet
Of a scream. It has a man in a bed,
His wife in a chair
In a corner of the room sewing
Nothing, it has a man in a bed
Singing. And the song
Has a sea and a sailboat,
The daylight coming
And going, his wife in a chair
In a corner of the room listening
For things that incubate
To fingershut the eyes of the dead.
Fady Joudah is a physician member of Doctors without Borders. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Kenyon Review, Crab Orchard Review, and Beloit Poetry Journal. His translation of Mahmoud Darwish's poetry, The Butterfly's Burden, is...


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pp. 30-33
Launched on MUSE
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