remember noah

you have to understand
it was so hot
 
sand as far as the eye could see
sand in teeth
 
a sealess life
every step a sinking a scratch
 
every storm
more sand
 
no sweat when we danced
pure salt in our lovemaking
 
i tried to spit once
it came out like a whistle
 
my first period
curry powder
 
old wives
spoke of tears
 
we thought they were
senile
 
laughter was
our wettest thing
 
we prayed often
to no one
 
we believed
in music
 
dry palms clapping
dust on ankle bracelets
 
we threw tabla and daff
caught spirit and sagat
 
a blaring life
the wailing or caesarean births
 
widows' eyes
wept wind
 
even our tongues were
tanned
 
something sun-dried
in every recipe
 
rays
were babies' first words
 
you have to understand
we forgot how to be thirsty
 
mud by then
was primitive

splashing
the stuff of legend
 
only giddiness
quenched us
 
we were dizzy all the time
in the world all the time
 
then we heard him
grumbling to himself
 
something about forty
something about a flood
 
clad in sheep's wool
he reeked of wolf shit
 
something about monogamy
something about shelter
 
i thought:
this must be heatstroke
 
i thought:
the brain of a six-hundred-year-old
 
i thought:
he is a conceptual artist
 
the ark
an installation
 
his masterpiece
took years
 
took trees
got bigger
 
he was our favorite
dirty joke
 
beloved schizophrenic
neighbor
 
then he started preaching
then he kidnapped pigs
 
mosquitos
doves
 
things that wanted to eat each other
stuffed onto the same boat
 
we threw our heads back
we slapped ashy knees
 
we mooned him
threw hot stones
 
we streaked
whistled in his face
 
kicked the baking
ship
 
laughter was
our thunder thing
 
the lucky ones died
laughing
 
for centuries
he warned us
 
condescending motherfucker
foaming at the mouth
 
sweat dripping
from his beard
 
condensation
how did we miss it?
 
i have no words for the first drop
cooling the cheek
 
grandfathers raised their arms
lightning made the children leap
 
sizzle gave way to drizzle
humidity taught humility
 
we opened our mouths
swallowing everything
 
the clouds begat clouds
began to bite us back
 
panic soaked
our slouching spines
 
the instruments
drowned first
 
we played them sopping
out of tune
 
denial gave way
to rivers
 
i fell into a puddle
my very first shiver
 
the shock of cold water
made me orgasm
 
so all the times before
had been dry heave?
 
so this was mourning
this was mikveh?
 
the sky from blue
to za'atar hail
 
we choked
god's vomit filled our lungs
 
apologies bellyflopped
reaching went out of reach
 
we ran from high desert
to highest mountain
 
to whirlpool
or choral grief
 
if noah had keen merciful
he would have taught us how to swim
 
instead he saved
two mice
 
muttered prayers
shut the door
 
the best belly dancers
became mermaids
 
the dinosaurs learned
to fly
 
we never saw
a rainbow
 
our grave stones
coral reef

Lenelle Moïse, "remember noah" from Haiti Glass. Copyright © 2014 by Lenelle Moïse.  Reprinted by permission of City Lights Books, www.citylights.com.
Source: Haiti Glass (City Lights Books, 2014)
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