Of Prayers and Orisons



It has become the first ritual of morning to throw the door open, welcoming the breeze now free of evening’s biting insects, another in a long line of self-justifications: it will arrive whether it’s welcome or not. As will the birds, who know when you breakfast and on what, who are generous with suggestions, whether here, in your dishabille, or at the seasonal cafe, in not much else. There is a three-sided varnished pine box with a plexiglass front, like a bird feeder or diorama or, in traditions less eager to let go or get rid, a coffin, scale being trivial to all species but those least likely to accept it, though the slot on top and slips of paper on display suggest a raffle or ballot, a variation on a theme performed in a tiny theater, and the blanks and golf pencil at the side are, in combination and without need to announce itself with embossed lettering or miniature reply envelope—scale, again—an invitation. At this suggestion, you suggest: The history of our times betrays the stupid arrogance of this and so many other definite articles, symptomatic of these times and others. It might be noticed and echoed and yet go unchallenged on social media, but here it could ignite a sudden change, a contemplative pleasure, and be forgotten all in the span of a few moments, like rain in the green season. It means something to us, this refusal to admit our visceral understanding of the unity of space and time, when, honestly, we know them in no other way. Whereas your ruminations on what memory means to the birds have proven inconclusive. Like you, they’re as routinized in their offices as offices. Like you, they celebrate the light that breaks the rain, throughout the day and without memory, as the arrival of a god. 

Of Prayers and Orisons

Landscape with Cheetah Going Seventy in the Serengeti


That’s what that russet brushstroke is
below the skyline—her spots
lost in the open plains. That’s hunger 
that blurs her. We cannot see
what she is chasing, but we can
imagine it. Zebra. Gazelle. Impala.
Antelope. The eyes of the animal 
large in its sockets. I like that lone 
acacia tree back there—it has this
bonsai spirit to it. This calm. 
And the trio of almost imperceivable 
stars in the upper corner, those light
pink grains, which remind me we are 
also traveling quick around the sun—
957 times faster than this cheetah,
not to mention the speed of the sun 
inside the Milky Way, and the Milky Way
through cold, dark, soundless space—
1.3 million mph, last time I checked.
Astronomers and physicists did
the math for us, but little did they know
what it would do to human minds 
or hearts—mine is going 
pretty fast now, just thinking about 
our velocity, our spiraling out.
Here, place your palm against it. 
Over my sticker that says Visitor

Landscape with Cheetah Going Seventy in the Serengeti

Mosaic School



The youngest deconstructionists among us
are proud at first to spend their days breaking up
great slabs of fired tile every shade of wine
while the masters climb the scaffolds
with their gold pride, their gilt, reaching for
a sandal buckle or the heights of a halo.

Mosaic School

Corn and Turns



If I won’t remember that I was in Virginia last year without praise
of darkness, or the autumn drift I spent in Wisconsin watching a cardinal

nip the oak, if I see and forget field thick over field, the stalks
cut against green—how will I fetch forth the half-dead

Corn and Turns

Day Trip



The village had many corners, of which the far western side, leading to the bus terminal, was the bleakest. Om Saber sat on the clean plastic bench installed by the village’s youth committee and waited for the first microbus to take her to the city. With an anxious movement, she reached into her bra to check on the piece of paper she had placed there. Abu Hosny, the old taxi driver, had written down for her all the instructions that she needed to get to her destination: Shatta Prison, where the sweetest part of her now resided, which made distance and time nothing but an illusion. A large cat rubbed its dewy fur on the hem of her black dress. Om Saber smiled and tried to stay still so as not to disturb the cat. She smiled again when she found the paper in its fold.

Day Trip

Flashé Sur Moi



He pulled up as I walked on the side of a busy Lyon road, the type that becomes a highway once it hits the outskirts of town. Ignoring the thick traffic behind him, he stalked me slowly in a compact car, beckoned to me through his open window, across the empty passenger seat.

Flashé Sur Moi




The mind works like a solar system, an interplanetary medium to keep things running smoothly. Moses speaks in a memorized whisper, his voice soft, like the warm towel he places on her forehead. 

Hawa closes her eyes, drifts with the sensation of rocks pounding palm nuts open, small fingers reaching inside for kernels. They are teenagers again, and he is her caring boyfriend who brings her palm kernels for snacks when she lies sick with malaria. She heals and they celebrate with dance: the small of her back supported by his palms as she melts into a ballet fondu. They dance under the palm tree, pretend they are ballet partners at school, performers onstage. If only things were that simple again.