by Tara Ballard
I write the word on ice-fogged glass not yet shattered by night
raids. This is routine, one man removed and cuffed and bashed about his head. A family observes from their wadi of curtains.
What is the name for this? If only Alexandria could supply a tome, parallel explanations for why there is no distinction
between pomegranate and grenade, why root and cloud exchange address during storm, and why even the camels are fettered.
I linger outside the Center for Peace, its riot-proof frame, barred windows, closed doors. Touch the wool of sheep in rain. Fingertips
purpled in sumac, onion-covered bread, torn and brought to lips. Exhales crinkle with winter, the stomach shudders. Gather fresh sage for tea. Two sisters
hold hands as the feral pup is killed by soldiers. His whimpers bounce off the skin of homes before settling at the base of an almond tree
where diplomats ask for equal value between harvest and gone, translation and soil. Just trying to help, they say.
What will you do if the court denies you? Number on the business card rings unanswered. Roast chestnuts, sing
smoke. Here’s the story—a daughter’s earth moved, a dog dead, a soul taken.
Father swallows a spoon of olive oil come morning.
TARA BALLARD is from Alaska. For seven years now, she and her husband have been living in the Middle East. Her first book, House of the Night Watch, is the winner of the 2017 Many Voices Project through New Rivers Press and is set to be published in 2018. Her poems have been published by The Southampton Review, Salamander, HEArt Online, One, and other literary magazines.