AT BEITEDDINE, SUMMER 2018 by JESS RIZKALLAH

i’m from the overlap on the clock where wild dogs and roosters crossfire. the ambiguity of stars or satellites is where i wash my hair. ankles crossed, i forget that it is rude to forget about the margin between my knees. i wore jeans to avoid the reminder from men. still, he considered a handful of my ass while balancing the plates and glasses.

*

i search the morning air for an old wive’s tale about waking up with my face itching. previous algorithms suggest it has something to do with want. i do want a lot. my heart is a slow cooker. my face is the lid. i’m so angry in the forehead. i went to a city, left the city, came back prodigal daughter. hot wax coaxed the beligerant son out of me and the sun coaxed the bad vitamins out of me. a burst of red spray became my beard. my skin says everything for me because i don’t. the irony is i remove my hair so you spend less time looking at my face.

*

at the beiteddine palace there’s a fountain and in the fountain are my arms. the heat is cotton but i’ve found an escape in the way i expand under cold water. metaphysically, i obstruct truths. i rupture borrowed memory to feed the questions making a nest of my brain. who laid this brick? and this one? and where roams the ghost of the worst idea ever initialed? and who have i loved that has also found portal in this fountain?

*

teta is off smoking in the corner her aunt probably sat in fifty years ago when they spent afternoons here, lunches spread, children running. there was no entry fee then. pre-civil war, the beiteddine village was alive. now it’s best known for its festival, this palace. the presidents holiday here, the official meeting rooms roped off, and when in session there is a smaller fountain in the lobby with water that runs loud enough to crash any eavesdropper’s satisfaction and hidden motive. this archaic method of security fascinates me. it would be so easy to pick this lock. this system held together by trust. by a hand held up to the sun, which is just a face spread out around us that we never remember. can a scorpion tell the difference between a watering hole and a mirage? would you rather quench your thirst or your trust? what is stopping anyone from keeping their glass empty, holding it to a closed door?

*

on a stone bench carved into the shade of the palace, i pull the star card and hold it up in front of me, collaging it with the fountain in the distance. the mountain imagery behind the naked aquarian lines up with the mountains behind the castle. the watering hole completes the fountain, which for a moment, stands alone, as if the scene in front of me is being absorbed by the card. above us, the sky cloudless and waiting for a star to rise from the line work, to deliver a message for the end times. my ears pop and everything goes silent. before my body can alert the rationale of me that this is something to fear, the sounds flood back. the courtyard fills again. a young girl wearing a fanny pack asks me “are you telling fortunes? can i pay you? what do you see?” and i shake my head. i smile. she frowns. i close my eyes.

*

in my attempted meditations all i hear is blood rushing to my head. the answers i want roped off by time, historical and hurtling towards me from up ahead when i have returned to america to resume the capitalist nightmare. teta finishes her cigarette and we leave.


Jess Rizkallah is a Lebanese-American writer and illustrator. She is an NYU MFA graduate, a Kundiman fellow, and founding editor at pizza pi press. Her full-length collection THE MAGIC MY BODY BECOMES was a finalist for The Believer Poetry Award and won the 2017 Etel Adnan Poetry Prize as awarded by the Radius of Arab-American Writers and University of Arkansas Press.

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