Back to Issue Thirty-Six

House of Mercury



The storm funneled through town with destructive intent.
Fractured tree limbs, toppled fences, ripped shingles
like tufts of hair. Dad woke up to snaps and creaks,
the two live oaks in the front yard,
but in the backyard the nearly uprooted fig tree
brought him to tears. In the morning
two neighbors, one Black, one White
came over to bandage the oaks after debridement.
A third, an Indian, stabilized the fig tree,
pitched it like a tent with rope and stake.
On the second day, I cut up the rest of the branches,
deepened the earth for the fig, enjoyed a long lazy
lunch with my parents, and on the way home heard
a radio report on whether the sky is bluer
during a pandemic. The third day
I took my son and daughter back,
we bundled up the heaps, nursed the flower beds,
delighted in another languid lunch,
hummus, falafel, shakshuka
followed by tea and stories about fear
that comes to nothing. The kids said it was the best falafel
they’d ever had. And Mom said that going forward
her morning glories will get the light they deserve.






To stand without eyes I wanted a tree.
With it came a city

inspector: Is it a native
species, she asked, a fire-hazard,

foundation-safe, roof-friendly, and why two
crabapples? she added. I want them

to have each other, I said,
besides, I’m not ready to learn from just one.

The inspector nodded
as she gazed up at the powerlines:
Trees see light, wave crests,

but no color, she said,
issued her permit and left.

And where the two trees
will stand I stood
in their pose and closed my eyes.




Fady Joudah
is the author of four collections of poems, The Earth in the Attic, Alight, Textu, and, most recently, Footnotes in the Order of Disappearance. He has translated several collections of poetry from the Arabic and is the co-editor and co-founder of the Etel Adnan Poetry Prize. He lives in Houston and practices internal medicine.

Next (Hannah Matheson) >

< Previous (Lauren Schlesinger)