Deema K. Shehabi

Lights Across the Dead Sea

Where were we
if not at the beginning?
The wind ambled
off the salt water,
the distance fractured
our gaze without a blink,
and the moon rushed
into the dark rouge of the hills.
Imagine, I said, if those hills
were still ours.

But you had already counted
the bone bites
of a lost country,
opened each page
of those wounds to full glow.

The calm was too far off
to be remembered---
All around us: leftover
stones, look-alike
orchards full of lemons
and guavas,
white bolts of bandaged
morning still trembling
on their lips,
their grassy lashes glaring
across makeshift coffins:
why do we carry
those children in the blur

of the moon's afterglow?
But at least they lived
and fought on their land,
I said
recalling our last return---
was it the last?
when my mother soured
the soldier's eyes
with her talk of blood
and the laws of its searing.
Then she loosened
her forehead and said:
“Look closely and you will still
see the etch of sweet sap
that comes from loving your land.”

But you crimped your breath
and held it in your mouth,
your eyes embering darkly.
Listen, I told you,
this affection is not a failure,
while the lights across the Dead Sea
but betrayed nothing.