In his city by the restless Nile,
dust seeps, like a nosy ghost,
through open windows
underneath the door frame
past the veils over his daughters’ faces,
out grocery shopping at midnight
with other veil-clad women,
avoiding Cairo’s relentless daytime heat.
He closes his eyes, leans back
against the couch, laptop on knees,
briefly recalls that long-ago dream
of coming to America one day.
Away from choking dust storms.
Away from devalued Egyptian Piastres.
Away from so much corruption…noise.
Coming to see her, too,
this American woman who, like this
ubiquitous dust, filled him with longings
he can’t or won’t put a name to.
He no longer reads her poems aloud,
translating them to his native tongue,
or accidentally calls the family cat
by her name–it’s too painful.
He no longer thinks of second wives
or second chances, for that matter,
until yesterday, when a flash of blond
on the sidewalk, an American accent
brought fleeting memories and his heart
still thuds against his chest this evening.
He rubs his eyes, sits up,
slowly pushes her back into the closet
of his mind where impractical things go.
Tomorrow, he tells himself,
the dust storm will be over.
Tomorrow he will be quite himself again.
perhaps it was the west wind
or an asteroid induced genetic aberration
but too many once-tender hearts
have morphed into hard ones.
assault weapons sales rise.
black churches, temples, schools
have become target practice—no place is safe.
dolphins die wrapped in plastic
in polluted seas.
icebergs melt, but hard hearted politicians
claim climate change is a lie,
like the lies they say women tell
about powerful men groping
or raping them.
already the land is sinking.
miami beach streets flood.
Now a virus rides that wind,
threatens to take us all.
tender hearts send out beams
of love until light replaces dark
around homes, bent trees,
lonely neighborhoods and city streets.
hope rises with the bluebirds’ songs.
the planet waits.
The poems of Pris Campbell have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including PoetsArtists, Rusty Truck, Bicycle Review, Chiron Review, and Outlaw Poetry Network. The Small Press has published eight collections of her poetry and Clemson University Press a collaboration with Scott Owens. When The Wolves Come After You, with Michael Parker, from Goss Publications and Squalls on the Horizon, a book of tanka, from Nixes Mate and My Southern Childhood are her most recent small press books. A former Clinical Psychologist, sailor and bicyclist until sidelined by ME/CFS in 1990, she makes her home in the Greater West Palm Beach, Florida, with her husband.