Quietly, Privately, 2016

Quietly, Privately

I recall the collective quiver of disbelief. And the masters of silence we all became. And waiting to cross this border. A child. There. Leaning against the column of his father’s leg, bashfully chipping through the flesh of a quince, his shorts ballooning above his knees—cracked and white from playing marbles, maybe. An old man. There. His eyes a little yellow, gentle. A childhood concentrated there. And thunder. Or cannon. And agitation and air. The eagle embossed on the passport cupped in my hands is a gold vein streaking through lapis once held in a bazaar. And I am taken back: to after-school bike rides on bumpy, dusty streets; learning to whistle between bites of warm naan; imitating a muezzin modulating a prayer—to heaven. And I want to drive to Herat, watch a slow caravan on the desert, as the snow and stones cry up to heaven. I recall Ismail, Kaiyum, and Khan. And the low dumb chorus of the dying. And the noon gun on a ledge of a not too distant mountain: the stifled whiff of white smoke that we awaited with terrific enthusiasm before plunging into the abyss of another faultless summer. How we waited! I recall small round watermelon in Mazar-i-Sharif. And pistachios in Paghman. And painted trucks and torrents in the Kabul Gorge. And the snowy precipices of the Salang. I recall Bamiyan—of which nothing can be said. And the mad beauty of Bandamir. And Balkh. And Lashkar Gah and Kandahar. And the holy rhythm of words: geysers and beggars; poplar and pomegranate; hemp and honeycomb; camels and camel men. And shopkeepers and hippies and hash. And flash floods and mud in Spring. And becoming an atheist at eight, in winter, watching icicles. And the twins. And the slow incineration. And ash. And disbelief. And being thrown—quietly, privately—every which way in Manhattan. And Marianne, Marianne.