We have only one minute and I love you.

picture of a little boy in a doorway in Oman
Child in a doorway in Oman, 2007. Photo by me.

“Tablets V” by Dunya Mikhail (1965-)

1

Light falls from her voice
and I try to catch it as the last
light of the day fades …
But there is no form to touch,
no pain to trace.

2

Are dreams
taking their seats
on the night train?

3

She recites a list of wishes
to keep him from dying.

4

The truth lands like a kiss—
sometimes like a mosquito,
sometimes like a lantern.

5

Your coffee-colored skin
awakens me to the world.

6

We have only one minute
and I love you.

7

All children are poets
until they quit the habit
of reaching for butterflies
that are not there.

8

The moment you thought you lost me,
you saw me clearly
with all of my flowers,
even the dried ones.

9

If you pronounce all letters
and vowels at once,
you would hear their names
falling drop by drop
with the rain.

10

We carved
our ancestral trees into boats.
The boats sailed into harbors
that looked safe from afar.

11

Trees talk to each other
like old friends
and don’t like to be interrupted.
They follow anyone who
cuts one of them,
turning that person
into a lonely cut branch.
Is this why in Arabic
we say “cut of a tree”
when we mean
“having no one”?

12

The way roots hide
under trees—
there are secrets,
faces, and wind
behind the colors
in Rothko’s untitled canvases.

13

Will the sea forget its waves,
as caves forgot us?

14

Back when there was no language
they walked until sunset
carrying red leaves
like words to remember.

15

It’s true that pain
is like air, available
everywhere,
but we each feel
our pain hurts the most.

16

So many of them died
under stars
that don’t know their names.

17

If she just survived with me.

18

A flame dims in the fireplace,
a day slips quietly away from the calendar,
and Fairuz sings, “They say love kills time,
and they also say time kills love.”

19

The street vendor offers tourists
necklaces with divided hearts,
seashells to murmur the sea’s secrets in your ear,
squishy balls to make you feel better,
maps of homelands you fold
in your pocket as you go on your way.

20

I am haunted by the melody
of a forgotten song
sung while two hands
tied my shoelaces into a ribbon
and waved me goodbye to school.

21

If I could photocopy
the moment we met
I would find it full
of all the days and nights.

22

It won’t forget the faraway child,
that city whose door stayed open
for passersby, tourists, and invaders.

23

The moon is going to the other
side of the world
to call my loved ones.

24

The seasons change
colors and you come and go.
What color is your departure?