In the middle of the meal I am always making
suddenly, my brother-in-law, Amer appears
like conscience all the way from Orinda, California.
He brings not only his elegant Syrian Lebanese
mother and ten sisters, leaving their shoes carefully
on the threshold before peering into the kitchen;
not only his memories of driving at night during war
to find Beirut’s hidden dance clubs defying gunmen,
or the time his bedroom front wall sheered away
under American bombardment to reveal his flares
and Farah Fawcett poster staring into air, astonished;
not only his extensive medical knowledge needed
to peek into the many ameobas growing in my fridge;
but also, a reminder I have lost something I miss.
Here where the yellow beaker’s juice splats a map
the shape of a lost continent below twice fried food
I serve my kids because I have no time at all, I think
no time to remember so many things, even his hands
with their shapely doctor’s fingers, rinsing each dish
before placing it tenderly in his new world machine,
or the meal he made for us once, in my sister’s house:
zatar, yogurt, farmer’s market lamb, his own pears;
all the ingredients slow civilisation can accomplish.
From Behind the Lines, published by the Word Hoard, 2012