for the 25,000
- The moon looks smaller here, distant. In Damascus, it hung
- like an orange in her father’s orchard, waiting
- to be plucked. In the Lebanese camp
- on the sand dunes beside the sea,
- where children and sailors have drowned
- for millennia, the moon was a pomegranate, red
- with blood.
- In the Saskatoon restaurant, as she scoops up her lentils and rice
- with her hands and bits of flatbread—familiar food
- she cooked every day—a fair-haired woman smiles at her,
- the only other person eating with her hands,
- and the scent of orange blossoms hangs like a new moon
- between them.
- Walking the Broadway Bridge, baby in her arms,
- upriver she sees what can also be seen in Syria—
- a broken bridge on two cement pillars, cut off
- from both shores, caught midstream, reduced
- to disembodied arc and linkage, little left to suggest
- a bridge.
- At home, when spring unfurls, orange blossoms might still hang
- over the fence of her father’s orchard, drifting
- their prayer amid the rubble, but here, winter has dominion,
- spring a distant country where oranges and pomegranates no longer bloom.
- But the bridge slowly takes shape, re-binding the riverbanks—
- and in the orchards, cherries and apples will thrive,
- red as pomegranates.
Note on the occasion that inspired this poem: In 2015-16, while I served as Writer-in-Residence at the Saskatoon Public Library, I parked every day on Eastlake Avenue in Nutana, across the river from downtown, where the library was unable to offer parking. I walked to and from the library across the Broadway Bridge, observing all winter the slow demolition of the old Traffic Bridge upstream until all that remained was one cement pillar in the centre of the river. During my residency, one of my great pleasures was a once-weekly dinner in the late evening, unwinding over chai and curry after my long day. One evening in January at the restaurant, a family came in, speaking no English, the woman in hijab, at the time a relatively uncommon sight in Saskatoon. The restaurant owner, an Arab-speaking Muslim, told me later that evening that they were one of the city’s first Syrian refugee families. I found myself frantically scribbling as soon as I got to my car, resulting in a pair of poems, of which this is the second.
Photo by Flickr user Reema Mantri