Over treasure and land some texts will say it had
Little to do with slavery or the newly
Discovered yellow planet

Few men watched the glaciers recede
From shuttles they had built
During the hemorrhage years
When they’d gathered all the genes down from the ledges

I’ll be a fig or a sycamore tree
Or without hands

By then doctors and poets
Would have found a cure for prayer


Or have you shoved the door shut
In the face of the dark?

Have you body and light the trap
Of retribution doing unto you

What it does to others? You protest
In the streets and papers and I leave

For a faraway land
Where with pill and scalpel

And a distant reckoning
If he should lick his lips

Or clench his fist I shall find his second left toe
Infected puffy

From a bump
I’ll lance it and squeeze

Out the pus and offer
Him an antibiotic

I can’t refuse therefore I am


The first time I saw you it was hot I was fed up
The second time your wife gave birth to a macerated boy

I had nothing to tell you
About letting go of the dying
In the morning you were gone

Had carried your father back to your house
His cracked skull
I didn’t know that was your wife
When I raised my voice

To those who were praying
From behind the wall to keep it down

I was trying to listen to your baby’s heartbeat
With a gadget a century old


From so much loss giving birth

If you give blood in the desert you won’t
Get it back not your iron pills or magic hat
I put your thin
Hemoglobin up to the light and called out

To the donors Donors
If you want to know your blood type
And it’s a match
You must donate

Few came some indifferent to my condition
Not having heard of it
And willing anyhow


And the world is south
The night a bandit with gasoline

And I’m your dancing lizard mirth
I put my one arm up
And bring my one foot down on a hot zinc top
The nearest hospital was the dawn

She didn’t know her daughter on her back was
The entry wound and she the exit

She ran a brothel so
The officer said

Where the rebels came and went
And ran into the government boys

Her girl’s femur the size of the bullet


He was from the other side rumors
Had a bullet through his left arm
Or had it bitten off by a camel

A camel elephant of the desert never forgets what you are
If you aren’t kind to it

When I met him his bladder was the size
Of a watermelon his prostate a cantaloupe
You cannot catheterize
A man forever

Every hour on the hour his left arm stump
Hanging his good arm holding
His penis his buttocks in deep squeeze
A charge from the rear without spillage

This poor murderous thief desperately single-
Handedly began slapping his own ass
As if he were dashing a stallion in a raid
On some unarmed village


The mind in the field
The brine in the field

Whether I
Is a diphthong codependent on

What isn’t there to stay in the field
The good you act is equal

To the good you doubt
Most have lost many

You are either prosperous
Or veteran in the field


A mother offers not necessarily
Sells her one-eyed son

For an education if you’ll bring him back
And stone dust for one
With congenital illness

And little boy with malaria
Same old gas

Money mixed with blood
Transfusion the doctor’s perfect record broken

Nobility of taking
A life you

Who must walk to and from your house
The jeep’s upkeep
The donkey-cart ambulance


One boot left behind

The one-boot photo I wanted
On a book military black the quad a clinic’s

Special Forces spun
By his dangling heels from

The pickup truck rushed
To a central town altered combative

With two scalp lacerations and blood
In his auditory canal

I was a lover of loss I tossed
The boot in the capital of suffering
Fady Joudah, “After” from Alight. Copyright © 2013 by Fady Joudah. Reprinted by permission of Copper Canyon Press.
Source: Alight (Copper Canyon Press, 2013)
More Poems by Fady Joudah