Pulse: 1

1.
 
It wasn’t over a woman that war began, but it’s better
To see it this way, my myth professor loved to say, a man
From the South rumored to extort the bodies of college girls
Into higher grades. My girlfriend of the time told me so —
 
He was a creep, she
Got an A in the class and liked his joke about religion
As self-mutilation, it was Ramadan then and, O Helen,
I was fasting. I lie awake in a desert night east
 
Of the Atlantic on the verge of rain, the catapulted grains
Of sand on hot zinc roof, the rustle of leaves, the flap
Of peeling bark on trees whose names I do not know, and where
Would I find a botany guide here. Water flowed
 
Like a river from the Jabal once.
There were elephant pools, alligator
Streams, and a pond for the devil to speak in human tongues.
All desiccant names now after an earthquake
 
Shuffled the ground decades ago. It will rain soon,
I’m assured, since nothing has stopped
The birds from migration. All the look-alikes
Are already here: the stork, the heron.
 
The white flying flowers, the ibis, and the one
That aesthetizes you more.

Fady Joudah, “Pulse: 1” from The Earth in the Attic. Copyright © 2008 by Fady Joudah. Reprinted by permission of Yale University Press.
Source: The Earth in the Attic (Yale University Press, 2008)
More Poems by Fady Joudah