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Ghost Town

Spring Night Dream

The Day of the Blade



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Work by my guest, Prophet.



Ghost Town


Silly hats we'll never wear
Turn to dust on their racks.
Wet sand will wait in vain,
For the weight of our bare feet in dusk.
Salt breeze will sweep through,
Where your fluttering cotton shirt would have been.
Your smiling green eyes will never see
In my admiring eyes, sunset's glory.

Tumble-weed rolls where flowers were to bloom
Nature, they say, is afraid of vacuum.

Our imagined future, the Disney World,
The coffee shop,
The parking lot where we would wander,
Absentmindedly, shoulder to shoulder
after a bad movie we didn't watch . . .
all moth-balled on the banks of the river we never sailed.

And yet my lovely, those places are real, after their own manner,
And we are there, together:
Free, Forever.

Wednesday, April 14, 1998

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Spring Night Dream

Keepers' plant:
Leafy green, and no roots.
The priestess
Teaches the rites:

Tuck the stem under a towel,
– brown, rolled and folded –
Cover with clay,
Soak in water.

It stands for dependence
Of plants and the planet
On human care.
And it bonds its keepers.
Pilgrims visiting keeprs' plant and keepers
Offer gifts of poetry,
In praise of light, of day and night,
– as Haiku, with seasons –

And of creatures, tame and wild,
Under the roof of human care.

Thus I dreamt of love and life, and of the communion
Of plants in this azure temple of light
That humans share.

Saturday April 11, 1998
4:30 am
As pushpush, my cat,
tucked at, kneaded on, and licked me awake
to jot down this guileless dream.

April 16, 1998

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The Day of Blade:

It was all the brassy cheerfulness that gave it away. Talk of circumcision always revolved around its sweet aftermath: the candies, the presents, the good food, the manhood it promised. It sounded all too good to be true. What we learned of the operation itself sounded ominous enough even after the sugar coating. Doctors would take a little bit of the skin of that thing off. Afterwards, we would get to wear white sheets as skirt and nothing underneath for a while to let the wounds heal. Well they did not exaggerate about the good times, but boy did they ever belittle the agony!

Of the day of circumcision I remember the taxi cab that took us to the hospital. It had a meticulously upholstered interior complete with a protective transparent plastic sheet, smooth and cool to touch. Mother was busy demonstrating the prodigious talents of her twins:

“What is the capital of Poland?” she asked didactically, to which we immediately replied: “Warsaw!”

“And how about the capital of Portugal?”

“Lisbon” we bellowed in unison.

The cab driver mustered his kindest admiring tone without taking his eyes off the road:

“God bless them, God bless them lady, how did they learn all this?

“I taught them!” Mother put in proudly.

The hospital was housed in an old Ghajar period mansion with a huge breezy courtyard graced with a few tall dusty pine trees. The yard, in obvious disrepair, added to the melancholy air of the hospital. We played some half hearted games in the yard, waiting for our nebulous inevitable fate. Finally a nurse appeared at the door and motioned us to approach. She led me in, holding my wrist reassuringly but also wearily, lest I would have a change of heart about the benefits of the procedure for my immediate well being. The walls around the stairway were bare and blue, save the occasional picture of a nurse with her forefinger pressed to her lips in a gesture of silence.

My great agony and humiliation came on the operating table when two burly orderlies in white overalls unceremoniously held me down and a nurse pulled down my pants. I barely had time to feel the shame of being exposed to strangers when I felt the stinging pain of the needle. I shrieked as I have never done before or since that day. The rest of the operation went smoothly.  I felt pressures here and there but no more pains. And it was too late for shame, only humiliation remained like a lingering after-taste. The next sensation I was aware of was the strange and almost enjoyable feeling of being bandaged around what I felt was my penis. It felt like wrapping a swath of cloth around a stick. My eyes were fixed on the dark needles of one of the scraggy pine trees of the yard now framed in the window of the operating room against the pale blue sky. Outside, I was greeted by Ahmad, choked and worried more about himself than about me. He was next on line for becoming a man. I waited for him, dejected but also relieved that I had weathered the trial. When he too was led out, teary eyed, we needed no more words. This had been the first agony that we had endured together but separately.

We came home heros. Father was beaming as he directed the butcher on disposing of the entrails and the head of the sacrificed sheep whose blood had congealed in the crevices of the mosaic tiles. We were led into the guest room where our mattress was spread in a corner away from the table featuring all the fruits and sweets that we had come to associate with the “Noruz” new year’s holidays. We lay in our bed clad in our new outfit, white sheets worn as a skirt.  Then a stream of smiling aunts and uncles appeared in our house. We were happy except for the slight embarrassment of having the operation discussed and the little joking insinuations about what was taken off and what was left. The metal toy police cars and fire trucks, wind-up clowns and circus figures that we received in those days are the same ones I see in antique auctions now. They were wonderful, sturdy, colorful machines cluttering the horizon of our passage into manhood in our unwieldy white skirts.

It must have been a week after the operation when we were taken to have our stitches removed. We had thought the worst was over. The melancholy sight of the hospital with its tall pine trees and black and gray crows had now gained the menacing gloss of trauma. But we thought nothing of it as we thought our trial over. By now, I was familiar with the orderlies’ holding pattern and the strong smell of disinfectants that filled the room. I was led into a different and darker room on the first floor, close to the hospital entrance this time. What came as a total surprise was that the ordeal of removing the stitches was a hundred times more painful than the initial operation. I was hoarse with screams and choked with tears as I was led out of the room. I felt betrayed and violated, full of fear and loathing for all the perpetrators. Every one of them, I felt, were in on it, the parents and gift bearing aunts were no less guilty than the cruel nurses and orderlies. It was a cruel and unjust conspiracy!

In time, the deception, the pain, and the appeasement were all forgotten, not to be remembered again until now, almost forty years later. But I don’t believe I ever forgave a single one of the conspirators that brought that bloody day upon our unsuspecting heads.

September 4, 1998

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