Back to Issue Forty-Two

how the dream ends


On the road to Karpaz you pass a field of wild donkeys
grazing in the last low hour of sun. Once, you fed
a donkey carrots loosed from a sack in the stone cellar.
You let the donkey’s lips search the tender flat
of your palm, nibbling for the carrot & salt.
This was your first donkey. You saw then that donkey teeth
were beautiful teeth. Pushing open like shutters.
Months later, a farmer much older than you
would teach you to pull back the donkey’s ear, lower
your face into the crease there & breathe in. He would say
meilleur du monde, l’odeur derrière les oreilles des ânes.
You sat together, passing a cigarette back & forth
while you watched the donkeys standing asleep on all fours,
their foreheads pressed to the wooden fence post.
In those days your head was bare, a fuchsia scarf trailing
from your neck. Your shoulders broadened as you strapped
your work boots to your back. Little pack mule climbing
the hills & eating from the ferns. Walking with your life
& load. Digging for the flask of tea & day-old bread,
you scanned the gorge for a place to rest. It was you,
back then. Still is. Sometimes the morning starts
with a chariot of suns charging the long cover of night
inside your chest. You bolt upright, weeping at the edge
of the bed. Sometimes you are at the end of the dream
undone. The distance runner in your heart spits & sprints
toward the finish, arms pumping, feet kicking clouds
of dust. The path disappears. The dream dissolves.
But on the road to Karpaz, pictures surface like shiny
bits of trash & glass washed up in the drift. Bottle caps,
lighters, old beer cans. You squat there in the bleached
sand searching for special shells & now you are harvesting
leeks again. Now you are a child curled in a field of cobalt
corn flowers, crying a little for the foal who left & never
returned. Were you that animal, too? Hungry & far
from your mother, crossing the red dirt alone.


janan alexandra is a Lebanese American poet currently based in Cyprus. Her work has appeared in Beloit Poetry Journal, Ninth Letter, Gulf Coast, Ploughshares, Mizna, and elsewhere.

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