Here in Pittsburgh, March,
rain, days-long, relentless as sin.
but I only have beard stubble
gritty as sand in Doha
lacing silence into women’s voices,
the grit of caught words—
or so I imagine,
What is impossible and un-
speakable lines the holy books,
blotting the blood till it dries into
the slant of the personal
across the fixed print.
If calligraphy took flight
could we all be birds drifting
in the same unnamed direction?
It begins with the naming,
and where it ends, I,
who have been lost in sand,
driven to where the road erases
Thermometers are rumored
to be accurate. Everywhere,
the brass-heat shimmer
of wind instruments pulses heat.
Tinny voices call us to prayer
in shopping malls. Cell phones ring
the razor wire of faith.
Here, I watch a tree shimmy drunk
in the wind, attached to the earth,
I make a wish on a conspiracy theory
of silence and love.
I think of my students there,
covered, and not, wary, and not,
kind, and not, surrounding me
in gleaming climate-control.
Two years later, they recede
from my American life, washed up
on the dry shore of the tide
of my imagined return.
I squint to see them covered in black, white,
what can be said, and not,
drunken, and not, eaten and not.
And the beautiful women—can I call them
beautiful?— the bright coals of dark eyes
trained not to meet mine.
What would they make of March rain
in Pittsburgh, relentless and cold,
and the green shoots rising to meet it?
The green shoots of their wary glances,
even now rising in memory
unmeasured. I would time-lapse them
into blossom in this spring rain
to remind me how we are all nourished.
I who took ashes on my forehead
for years, the ashes of palm fronds
rumored to be from somewhere someone’s
God once roamed
though any ashes could remind me
of this tenuous life. A sandstorm
can bury the stationary heart
in seconds, wipe away the traces.
I believe in the fact of ashes,
not competing holy books,
though I wish I believed something more.
We are marked, and not.
Rain washes away all things,
even ashes. My students enjoyed
watching movies of rain.
Visibility limited always.
Outside, only weather.