Here at the Super Duper, in a glass tank
Supplied by a rill of cold fresh water
Running down a glass washboard at one end
And siphoned off at the other, and so
Perpetually renewed, a herd of lobster
Is made available to the customer
Who may choose whichever one he wants
To carry home and drop into boiling water
And serve with a sauce of melted butter.

Meanwhile, the beauty of strangeness marks
These creatures, who move (when they do)
With a slow, vague wavering of claws,
The somnambulist¹s effortless clambering
As he crawls over the shell of a dream
Resembling himself. Their velvet colors,
Mud red, bruise purple, cadaver green
Speckled with black, their camouflage at home,
Make them conspicuous here in the strong
Day-imitating light, the incommensurable
Philosophers and at the same time victims
Herded together in the marketplace, asleep
Except for certain tentative gestures
Of their antennae, or their imperial claws
Pegged shut with a whittled stick at the wrist.

The flame beneath the pot that boils the water.

We inlanders, buying our needful food,
Pause over these slow, gigantic spiders
That spin not. We pause and are bemused,
And sometimes it happens that a mind sinks down
To the blind abyss in a swirl of sand, goes cold
And archaic in a carapace of horn,
Thinking: There’s something underneath the world.

The flame beneath the pot that boils the water.



I am a pomegranate
delicate and intricately made
complicated, as everybody is
with countless countless seeds
I am flesh and juice
I am thick exotic skin
I am sensual and erotic
I am frightened
frightened of moving beyond my pomegranate-self
frightened of my pomegranate-thoughts
being untrue
frightened of all of you
frightened of searching beyond my realm
frightened of the darker blue where
the ocean gets deep
I tried to swim there once
and lost everything I had ever known
deep in the ocean I lost my band of gold
and shattered someone else’s dream
yet still I think my pomegranate-thoughts
and know that
I am the Last Great Lover
I am a feeder of souls
I am a paramour
I should have been the courtesan of a king
I am corseted and perfumed
I am the muse of ancient poets
alone, surrounded by friends
I search for my king
my counterpart in the game of love
he is out there somewhere
with honeyed words
and a sinful voice
and eyes that look only at me
I may have found him on a Thursday
as we made love in my opium den
sorting through the tunnels and seeds
to find that perfect bit of ripe fruit
and once we found it
he enjoyed it to the full
and didn’t just swallow it whole
yet even as we searched then loved then wept
I knew a secret sadness
that sweet secret sadness that only longing can bring.
I am afraid of the sunlight
I have always preferred the serene moon
to the unforgiving sun
I am afraid of the nakedness
afraid people will know me
afraid not to be able to lie
afraid of the utter lack of mystery
afraid I won’t be able to hide behind a pomegranate
naked and humiliated
I can never look my conquerors in the eye
my mind races my heart gallops
and that soul spot beneath my rib cage is always full to overflowing
as my body stands
quietly quivering
beneath every critical eye
yet I am empty
empty of great pain
of sorrows beyond imagination
of true anguish of true desperation
of true contentment
of true love
I had it once
it died
I mourned
I mourn
I move on
Because although I am empty
I am full
full of the beauty of my surroundings
full of the light in a new lover’s eye
full of the juice of countless pomegranates
I am full
and jaded
and desensitized
I have already stepped
over all the dead bodies in my path
and broken a heart beyond recompense
and torn my own heart out
and fed it to a hungry lion for dinner
nothing can touch me anymore
as I sit,
pomegranate in hand
reposing like a muse half in thought
and wait
and search
and devour
and get sick from my feast
and get sick from my hunger
and get sick from my fear
and get sick from my sadness
that sweet secret sadness that only longing can bring.

Pomegranate 76


Our legacy dwells
In the hearts of those we touch.
Did you leave a bruise?




The soldiers are afraid
of the camera. Are you shooting the souk?
The photographer says No no, just her.
I say Just me, just me.
My black dress, a little above the knee, helps.
A girl learns to spectacle enough.
The soldier nods, lowers his head.
The crew remind me to say

Not from here, to say Half-half,
to speak English, mostly.
Everyone is always kinder to strangers.
The city will devour its children,
unless she doesn’t recognize them.

And so I, of this city,
I who stand on stages and name this city,
deny this city in the heart of the city,
deny this city at the old gate of the city.
I say Bonjour, I say Thank you, I undo
my accent and put on the colonizer’s tongue.
When you say hometown, what do you mean?

The crew comment on the quality
of the light through the tin roofs,
they say Pretend no one is looking.
But the guy with the espresso and cigarette is looking,
and the teenager who sells batteries is looking,
and the man with the shisha is looking, and the woman
in the clothes shop, his wife perhaps, is looking.
The photographer says Beautiful, says Try
to keep your shoulders even. I cross and uncross
my arms, remind him it’s time for my second outfit.
A girl learns not to spectacle too much.

The store owner who’s given us space to change
tells me the story of this ancient street,
tells me about the shootings a few years ago,
says And they were all neighbors,
says Nothing works, nothing works,
says his uncle comes here every morning
just to bathe and feed this kitten.
I do not tell him I heard the fire from my house.
I raise my eyebrows. I shake my head.
I code switch I dress switch
I silent I carnival I hypocrite.
When you say blasphemy, what do you mean?

The looks are lighter when I’m in jeans.
I stand in the center of the street,
remember to give way to the motorcycles,
give way to the old man with a bag of minced meat,
give way to the mother and two daughters.
The crew remind me to breathe
on the count of three, for a better photo.
As we pack up, someone yells, Kiss it!
We laugh. When you say body, what do you mean?

This is called The Wheat Market.
There used to be harvest here, once.
Sometimes names stop belonging to their children,
and does it matter? I used to think
the cemeteries were far from the city.
I used to think my shadow didn’t belong to me—
my mother found me, two years old, terrified,
trying to run from it in the corridor.
I look up—1 2 3, 1 2 3,
there are stone arches,
there are posters of politicians,
there’s a red lace dress
bright on the ropes above us.

Zelna Hashem Beck



line no sooner down than taut

shadow silvering into air
desperate fruit all wriggle

and twitch snapped off
slapped in a plastic crate

fading to layers of leaves
knives out guts chucked

to an instant coven of gulls
heads scarfed whole

sea a boil of snatch and scream
fillets home in a bucket

fried in their own oil
all night my head full

of saltwater skin sun
flesh feather beak bone

so little between us


Past images

Young widow in black,
no stranger to roses…
vows won’t bring him back,
Death never supposes.

No stranger to roses
placed atop graves,
Death never supposes…
with scythe- he enslaves.

Placed atop graves,
life’s hourglass rests.
With scythe- he enslaves,
oh; so many arrests!

Life’s hourglass rests,
vows won’t bring him back.
Oh, so many arrests…
young widow in black.



passage through the wave
fell back three red backs emerged
claws brushing the sand


passage through the wave
in time these three red emerged

claws brushing the sand



My Shelter Days are numbered ten.
Ten more days until my end.

My Shelter Days are numbered eight.
Please adopt me. Change my fate.

My Shelter Days are numbered six.
Adopt a pet week, still no one’s pick.

My Shelter Days are numbered four.
Four more days and then no more.

My Shelter Days are numbered two.
Someone will take me, I just don’t know who.

My Shelter Days are numbered none.
I know I’m finished, then you come.

My Shelter Days are over, done,
Because you, my master, took me home.

The Swing

Little Girl on a Swing

Little girl sitting on a swing
Push me daddy, as she’s pushed so high
Feet to the sky, higher daddy higher she would plead
As the years flew by
Now a yong woman all of sixteen sitting on that swing
Pushed by a boyfriend who’s name I can’t remember
Higher, higher she would plead
As the seasons changed to years and they to flew by
Now a young bride on that swing
Higher honey higher she would plead

For many years after left to swing alone
With rust on it’s chains and dust on it’s wooden seat
Pushed only by the wind on a cold afternoon
Till one day a little voice from the yard
Mommy can you push me on the swing
Mom I want to go real high
Do you know mom, do you


Little Boy Running

‘Boys will be boys,’ and boys have had their day;
Boy-mischief and boy-carelessness and noise
Extenuated all, allowed, excused and smoothed away,
Each duty missed, each damaging wild act,
By this meek statement of unquestioned fact–
Boys will be boys!

Now, ‘women will be women.’ Mark the change;
Calm motherhood in place of boisterous youth;
No warfare now; to manage and arrange,

To nurture with wise care, is woman’s way,
In peace and fruitful industry her sway,
In love and truth.

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