To Grieve for All Your Other Selves

By | 5 December 2019

A golden shovel after Marwa Helal

Rationing cumin and sumac when
the last of summer’s reinforcements dwindle, you
offer us soup and unadorned fattoush at maghreb. Your hands move

with practiced grace, slicing radishes, stirring lentils around,
but the meal is mere facsimile, no trace of childhood or home, as
featureless as we felt on our first Ramadan here. Much

of what passes for memory is just hunger, taste buds posing as
spurned lovers. My body is revolting against what I
always assumed would feed me—I no longer have

a lexis for these transformations. What keeps you
loyal to your meticulous rituals? Is it too late to learn
to recite the words without translating them? Sometimes

my single prayer is for forgetting. Given the blade, I would excise the
verbs and the scar tissue that separate us—the emptiest
of all accomplishments is language mastery in the new world, a thing

of kaleidoscopic allure and little return on investment. It is
passport without passage. And do we ever pass in an
unaccustomed landscape? We’re given away by the overstuffed

filing cabinets, the crumbling certainties of ancestry, the ever-present suitcase.

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