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Assef Al-Jundi Although he is the son of an accomplished Syrian poet, Assef Al-Jundi did not begin writing poetry until moving to the United States. His poems have appeared in numerous anthologies, including Poetic Voices without Borders, Inheritance of Light, Between Heaven andTexas, and The Spaces between Our Footsteps: Poems and Paintings from the Middle East. Born in Syria, Al-Jundi lives in San Antonio, Texas. Flying The first time I flew, I was seventeen. In Syria, you take the taxi when you travel. You go to the taxi garage and wait until enough passengers fill one for your distant destination. Two to Hama. We need two more to Hama. The garage hustler would shout on the sidewalk. Even when my father and I traveled to Amman and Beirut for my student visa to the U.S. we took a taxi. The American Embassy in Damascus was closed after The Six Day War. I don’t remember, anymore, why one embassy was not enough, but they had us travel to Lebanon and Jordan multiple times. Interviews at each stop 37 1CHARARA_pages_i-164.qxd:Layout 1 11/14/08 2:36 PM Page 37 to insure I did not intend to stay. That I had means of support. That I had a family that wanted me back after graduation. That my father owned a piece of land in Salamieh he could sell to fly me back home. In the taxi, I felt hot air blow against my face. I experienced bumps in the road, learned the distinctive odor of sheep as they scurried across dusty roads with their brands of bright red, purple and yellow dyes. I studied the shapes of rocks. Examined sun-beaten faces of villagers on their donkeys. As the plane sped down the runway I thought I was in a huge taxi until the road stopped. My family. Houses. Fields. Damascus. Everything shrank and blew away. Clouds were strange billowy animals, and I wondered what America looked like. 38 Assef Al-Jundi 1CHARARA_pages_i-164.qxd:Layout 1 11/14/08 2:36 PM Page 38 Nostalgic Sisters and I sitting around a crate of ripe apricots, pitting them for Mother’s jam, laughing with juice-glazed lips. How we could not resist eating more than we put aside. Proud boy of eleven posing, arms crossed, big grin in shorts and new white shoes and socks. Mada at curious three brandished a defiant look she now keeps in her purse. Me marching with the Boy Scouts in the Syrian mountains. Our leader up front. Dusty pebbles under my steps. Mutaa, Ghassan and Maurice my best high school friends, Damascus. Uniforms, boots and the nature of God. I never got to talk to the girls on the balcony. Mutaa claimed he did. I took this picture of baby Mona sitting on a cushion Assef Al-Jundi 39 1CHARARA_pages_i-164.qxd:Layout 1 11/14/08 2:36 PM Page 39 in Uncle Fareed’s tiled yard in Homs. Now she has two kids of her own. Making French Fries in that funny inverted boat paper hat at Burger Chef on Lamar Street in Austin. A man used to buy cooked meat patties only, For the dog, he would always say. Mother young and good-looking. The smiles on my sisters’ faces. First kiss. Love. Lovers. The white 1962 Buick LaSabre, automatic with air conditioning. Apprentice There is a restlessness in me that gets worse when I rest. When I told you I have been practicing your art of disappearing, you smiled excitedly, said something, then disappeared. I sit in a chair that is not there and fall to the ground. 40 Assef Al-Jundi 1CHARARA_pages_i-164.qxd:Layout 1 11/14/08 2:36 PM Page 40 ...


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