THE PERFUME OF THIS WORLD
I’m picturing the little girl;
the soldiers stopping
her under the eye of the sun,
under the watch of the world,
and how she disappears like a thread
in a yard of cotton draped
over a body. In her living room,
she pours me tea, her small unbloomed
hands trembling and damp,
rain droplets rolling off like broken gems.
Will she ever unravel from the fabric
of forgetting, coaxed by nervous hands,
in their desire to remember
who she’ll become someday:
mother, aunt, martyr?
Today she’s only a child, rain whips
her body through paper thin rooftops,
yesterday’s deaths ink the sidewalk,
newspapers cling face down to concrete
like her uncle last week,
the smell gripping her dress
fruit, rot, spice, body —
the perfume of this world.
It belongs and will never belong
to her. She braids her wet hair
and offers to braid mine.
On the streets of East Jerusalem, you stop
and watch animal carcasses hauled
from a truck.
If only the dead
could do this: settle on shoulders
and be cast off so easily.
Instead, they are the dust in every cracked
foundation, every abandoned house.
The mothers and fathers and brothers
take them, shrug the spirits onto their shoulders,
tow them wherever they go.
The woman eyeing you on the corner,
maybe her sons are dead. The man
at the cash register, maybe his sister.
The boy who plays flute
for you, maybe his day is soon.
If you ask, Where am I? What
was this like before? — the stories unravel
from mouths like knotted yarn
and memories are lifted
as if to flex muscles.
You visit an abandoned village,
massacred in 1948.
Fuck Palestine etched into every wall
alongside words and cartoons
you wince from their weight.
When men die, the people wrap
their heads in keffiyehs, parade
them through the streets,
and bear them.
In the mountains, olive flowers
start to bud.
In the village, a Molotov cocktail
hisses and shatters.
If you aren’t careful, you can mistake
the death beneath your feet.
Anne Champion is the author of Reluctant Mistress (Gold Wake Press, 2013) and The Dark Length Home (Noctuary Press, 2017). Her poems have appeared in Verse Daily, Prairie Schooner, The Pinch, Pank Magazine, Thrush Poetry Journal, Redivider, Cider Press Review, New South and elsewhere. She was a recipient of the Academy of American Poet’s Prize, the Barbara Deming Memorial grant, a PushcartPrize nominee, a St. Botolph Emerging Writer’s Grant nominee, and a Squaw ValleyCommunity of Writers Poetry Workshop participant. She holds degrees in Behavioral Psychology and Creative Writing from Western Michigan University and received her MFA in Poetry from Emerson College. She currently teaches writing and literature at Wheelock College in Boston, MA.