One day, they say I will fly. But not today
I wake under a sky wrapped in violet.
The sun shimmers silver over a place unmapped.
Thirst drives me to a prism of water. Each drop
carries the taste of something I once dreamt.
I know I am lost. I know I was other.
I do as they bid. Gather twigs. Build a roost.
Learn the ways of birds, though I am not Bird.
They say that each time the world breaks
a piece of it remains for planting. It will take
millennia for a new one to root. I must be patient.
They say I’m not the first to wander
through dust and ruins. From afar, they’ve watched
my kind destroy city after city in the name of some
absent god. Each time we seed our endings.
It’s the endless want we can’t resolve.
It will happen again, if nothing changes.
Soon my eyes will turn the color of longing.
There is no name for it. They give me pebbles
to remember the dead—one each for my parents.
And a small green one that feels cool in my palm.
There are no gravestones here. Bones and ash
have been banished. One day, they say,
I will find my own way of mourning
the space between here and what was.
Each day they give me more pebbles.
I polish them with a soft leaf, then pocket them
to feel the weight of what has gone. Sometimes
I drop them into a stream filled with melodies.
Music resides everywhere, as if those we lost
still sing to us from a place far away.
Author’s Comments: Genesis: In the first early months of the pandemic, a pair of mourning doves built their nest under our eaves. They appeared intent on their mission and unaffected by a world that seemed to be tilting into the surreal. I envied them and worried over them. I so wanted their young to hatch and survive. The poem imagines what might happen if humans were to find themselves newly arrived in a different worldscape, where birdlike creatures help them heal. In some ways, it is an elegy for the way of life many of us took for granted prior to the pandemic, but at the same time it offers space for hope in the future.
Babo Kamel’s work is published in reviews such as Greensboro Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, CV2, Poet Lore, and most recently in Best Canadian Poetry 2020. She is a Best of Net nominee, and a six-time Pushcart nominee. Her chapbook, After, is published with Finishing Line Press. Find her at babokamel.com
Editor’s Notes: Purple background (template.net), New York skyline (Web Stock Review), musical scale & notes (Clipart Library), and dove with olive branch (Pixabay) are combined for this symbolic image.