Eid at the Refugee Camp

—by Asnia Asim—

The moon signals, says mother
the end of fasting. As if hunger
is a matter of choice.
I look at the moon. A dab of labneh
leaking into the salt of stars,
the moon is a sign of hope.
Small enough to melt on my tongue.

I walk barefoot in my new city
of tents that dip like napkins
in mud-sauce. I walk my wheelless
bicycle to the makeshift mosque
where the muezzin calls for Eid prayer,
but all I hear is home addresses
and phone numbers of the dead.

I recite with him verses of loss
that I know by heart until he mentions
Al-Hijaz street. And I remember
the corner bakery, how its walls
were peeling when we fled.
The whole city was crumbling
like layers of baklava exposing a center
of chopped limbs, glazed
in a syrup of blood.

My tent is like a sugar cone
inverted on a crust of dust.
I lay inside it and drink the rain
dripping down its polyester walls.
Terracotta night, it tastes different;
sweeter than tears.

I want to ask mother to try it too
but she keeps rummaging through our
suitcase, looking for my sister’s
photo. She keeps repeating her name
in a dialect I don’t understand.
I won’t tell her if she asks me.
I won’t tell her I ate the photograph.

It started with a sniff, her faint polaroid
smile, its nitrate smell got to my head.
Then the night of the first rain at the camp,
I licked her Fuji cheeks, hiding
inside my sugar cone, I tasted the purple tires
of her tricycle, the vapor of her ponytail.
Nibbling the trees at first I then
ate our house fading in the corner.

 

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