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The Man and His Girlfriend Who Argued All of Last Night and Now Stand at a Pharmacy in R City to Buy Medication for Headaches

Over there.
The sea isn’t visible yet,
though we’ve been driving for two hours.
Though we’ve begun to feel its hot moist air.
Though our clothes are sticking to our bodies.

In the car we eat grapes and don’t talk,
as if the sweat oozing from our bodies
is how we communicate now,
how our souls trade words or strikes.

We’re on Highway 6,
I’m on the phone making sure we didn’t take the wrong exit,
you’re asking me to pass you something.
And with the same heads
that crossed the checkpoint,
the same neutral expressions that waited while the soldier
looked over our papers,
we turn to take in the empty hills.
Completely empty.

There’s nothing that speaks of the Arab villages
I note and you
nod your beautiful head.

Even the silence that envelopes the scene after a massacre
and never leaves it, the silence
that clings to rocks and trees
and is released by the soil like fumes,
that particular kind of heavy silence,
you know what I mean.
You sense it when you visit the hills of Rwanda or Bosnia,
you feel it instantly—you don’t understand how
it happens, exactly, but you move backwards
as though you aren’t stepping on grass
but on the gasps of the dead.

As if what extends from the trees
aren’t branches but the dead’s last words
standing upright, crows alighting on them.
They tried to get rid of the silence
with highways and the thrum of moving cars.
They tried skillfully to remove everything
then they tossed their white gloves on the grass.

I feel like I’m performing,
like nothing about what I’m doing is real.
As if what I’m wearing underneath my clothes
isn’t a bathing suit
but a ghost.
No one can return
those villages to the hillside,
it’s over forever,
this is a fixed truth.
I realize this on the way to the sea
and a strange grief fills me,
the sea that isn’t visible yet,
as if it, too, knows and has disappeared,
and nothing but the sweat oozing from our bodies
tells us it’s there.

And because words between us have come
to an end, without saying it out loud,
together, we long to meet it,
while the white gloves on the hills
slowly grow
into poison flowers.



Read more from our series by Palestinian poets.