Hayan Charara is the author of two collections of poetry, The Sadness of Others (Carnegie Mellon, 2006), which was nominated for the National Book Award, and The Alchemistís Diary (Hanging Loose, 2001). His poems have been widely anthologized and have appeared in Bat City Review, Chelsea, Haydenís Ferry Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, and in French and Arabic translations. He is also the editor of Inclined to Speak: An Anthology of Contemporary Arab American Poetry (University of Arkansas Press, 2008).
Abdul Karim, Servant
to the Noble, Generous One.
They called you Tony.
The neighbor said
something. My mother
cried in the kitchen.
You slammed a snow
shovel into his face.
After my mother died you began to pray.
I donít remember the first time
you hit me. I remember when
you first hit my sisteróher head
against the cinder block wall.
You loved us.
After breakfast, you locked her
in the upstairs bathroom,
and me in the basement cellar,
which had no windows
and the light bulb you unscrewed.
When you let us out,
the street lamps were glowing.
You belted us
I could not
Get the get out of here.
Pick up your mind.
We are not like
the American custom.
Your fifth grade teacher broke your knuckles with a stick.
Barefoot, knee-deep in snow.
Me, my mother. The heavy door
slammed before our eyes.
I begged her to go across the street.
She didnít dareómy sister still inside,
alone, with you. We pressed
our faces against the window pane.
We waited, and waited.
During the snowstorm,
nineteen inches fell.
It was cold. It was beautiful.
In the A.M., on the floor, my motherís eyes fluttering.
The coffee cup spilled. The carpet stained.
Please, faster, hurry.
The ambulance driver apologized.
You prayed for a year.
You eat too much salt.
High blood pressure, hypertension,
anxiety attacks, dizzy spells, psychosis,
borderline personality disorder.
The argument over the price of eggs.
We cooked you breakfast in the morning.
We always returned.
She had stolen money, you found it missing, she denied it, she was listening to the radio, she didnít hear you open the door, she saw you, a split-second, she tried to run, you grabbed her collar, you in her bedroom, you heaved her against the wall, like the first time, but she was a grown woman now, you were a grown man each time, you duct-taped her wrists, she screaming, you bound her feet, Say you took the money, you said, Say you stole from me, she wouldnít, you doused her hair with lighter fluid, the rug soaked, her sweatshirt and jeans drenched, you clicked the lighter three times, Say you stole from me, Say you stole from me, I swear I will burn you to death, she said Okay, Okay, Okay, you threw the lighter at her feet, you told her Do it yourself.
I didnít feel any pain.
so I just sat there.
then I saw the spider making a web
across a window.
I found a match, walked over,
lit it and burned the spider to
then I felt better.
Lopressor Vasotec Aldomet Loniten Levatorl Inderal Zoloft Paxil Klonopin Valium Norpramin Lithium Xanax Lamictal Tegretol Desyrel Prozac Effexor
You broke the neighborís nose.
A bloody towel
Sodium chloride, potassium chloride, calcium chloride,
sodium bicarbonate, diarrhea, vomiting, cold sweats.
An aneurysm. A grenade
that ripped apart her brain.
She was happy.
Lamb brains, fried in butter, with garlic and salt.
The gun on the kitchen counter.
I aimed at the moon.
I ran past the bar on the corner, the burned-out diner, the bowling alley, the church, the liquor store, the high school, the donut shop, the park, the baseball diamond, the fence, the hill beside the railroad tracks, the railroad tracks.
We always returned.
Once, you were young.
You loved us.
Youíll get old, you know.
Okay, Okay, Okay.