Sheets. Towels. Wedge of goat milk soap. Orange blossom
water and first aid kit. L’arabe du futur,
which I read to you in stilted college French.
Your accent is less American, you assess. More like my father’s. He fled
to Syria during the War. Fell in love in France with a French girl.
You were born in the Alps. I add to the list:
Flour. The really big pot on the top shelf.
You speak of aunts in Tartus, cousins down the coast.
Countryside farmland. A grandmother in Homs.
We read the headlines later. In Message to Iran, Biden Bombs Syria.
Be Careful. While you shower, I draft
the poem of a woman who worries over her beloved’s visa.
You, chemist in a lab. You experiment with ketamine
to treat veterans with PTSD, record results in confidential notebooks,
report your progress at equal intervals to the bald, sun-
burnt man at the Department of Defense.
I draft the poem of a woman whose taxes bomb your father’s
childhood refuge. If you cross the border, you might not
cross it back. The embassy will or will not stamp your paperwork.
I will always ripple down my length at the sight of you emerging
from shower-stall steam, soft, naked but for a bath towel over the hips.
When you explain yourself, I hear ketamine, horse tranquillizer,
quench, and distill. In bed you once said, I don’t know
who will benefit from my research in the end. I suggested the soldiers.
You suggested the army recruiter, equipped with the new false
promise of a smooth return to civilian life.
It might have been otherwise, the poems of our lives.