When a bomb fell on the Phoenician sundial
near Souk Sarkis, Father decided it was time
to abandon the apartment and move
into the shelter. For a week, we lost trace
of time like the three-legged lizard hiding
under my brother’s piano. If the bomb exploded
any closer, my brother’s damn piano
and the sheet music for Moonlight Sonata
would’ve decorated the sidewalk. The poor lizard
didn’t lose a leg because I was fascinated
with scissors. Rather, it was my brother’s doing.
His foot kept reaching for the pedal and assumed
echo drowned the rat-a-tat-tat of bullets raining on Beirut.
You lit a cigarette and checked your watch.
The peg-legged porter swept the sidewalk.
It was past closing time. The retractable
awning shaded the fruit stand, your suit
stained with sweat, your stare toward
the scuff of my feet. I had promised
to help you after school, carry boxes
of persimmons and prunes into the storage.
I couldn’t think of an alibi; I had muddy
shoes and battered knees to prove otherwise.
Streetlights came on. You saw me and took
quick steps—stopped—your nostrils flared.
I squeezed a satchel full of useless books
to my chest. The porter dropped the dustpan.
He who spares the rod hates his son.
You made me recite that verse out loud
before a beating, before your black leather belt
scraped my earlobe, my chin, my crooked spine.
I hid bruises under my uniform because I always
chose the dirty alleys of Beirut over you.
Tucked between patches
of mint, Father noticed
a severed index pointing
at God. A trail of red
ants neared the outer dying
stems, crawled over
dry bloodstains, and circled
the exposed bone. Father
dabbed the sweat on his neck
with his handkerchief,
knelt on the sidewalk,
and stared at the finger brushing
against mint. A murder
of crows settled on telephone
wires and cawed at Father's
brazenness. The bruised
nail, torn from the cuticle,
resembled the lozenge
dissolving in his mouth.
Being late, he gripped the finger
with his handkerchief,
placed it in his breast pocket,
next to his fountain pen,
and dashed to work.
about the writer
Poet Shahé Mankerian is the principal of St. Gregory Hovsepian School in Pasadena and the co-director of the Los Angeles Writing Project. He is the recipient of the Los Angeles Music Center’s BRAVO Award. In 2017, three literary journals, Border Crossing, Cahoodaloodaling, andLunch Ticket nominated Mankerian’s poems for the Pushcart Prize. Recently, Shahé received the 2017 Editors’ Prize from MARY: A Journal of New Writing.