Wednesday, February 14, 2018


At the Cairo Hospital...looking at my true love.

February is the cruelest month.
Some couples choose to measure love:
“He took me to a waterfront restaurant with candle-light and violins!
He gave me long stemmed roses! 
 A two-carat diamond!"
 He knelt when he proposed! 
We made love in front of a roaring fire...
Measures of love, compared and pitted,
spurred talons sharpened,
greased feathers glittering.
I don't want to play. 

My true love doesn't like the  waterfront restaurants,
especially after a messy incident
(I ordered Maine lobster at market price).
He doesn't do diamonds (not after the mines)
He gives living roses, to plant in the soil.
His idea of a roaring fire
is at the end of a good cigar.
But he puts the seat down,
replaces light bulbs,
and has strong arms. 

His arms once supported me,
all of my weight as I
tried to act normal, plodding
up stairs. Cairo stairs—uneven stone steps,
in front of the hospital—littered
with candy wrappers. Black-wool hijabs
looking up at me, their eyes begging
me not to touch them, their hands
tucked beneath them, (too afraid? too
wise? did they think I was cursed?)
and leaning away as we passed.
He pulled my weight up so my feet
would be lighter. The women, their frightened 
expressions made me believe
I was dying.

Weak from blood loss, no fluid
would stay, no water in my eyes
or my body. It took all the strength
in me to hold on to my true love,
whose arms were around me, supporting me.
The primal scent of perspiration,
his one hand clasped over mine, holding me up.
So many stone steps between us and
the surgeon and we had to stop twice
and when I cried the women hid
their faces. We had to (could we?) stop
the bleeding. 

He kept whispering: “A few more steps, just
a few more steps…” And it was one up, and
two up and neither one of us had ever
been there. He whispered, "Just a few more..."
I pleaded to stop and lie down. He shook
his head and didn't feel sorry for me, and the
hospital was there, at the end of the steps,
just like he said it would be.

My measure of romance will always be this.
The strength of his arms and his whispers.
When the self is a weak, bleeding, staggering
thing, and the world is a bleak place with
long, stony paths, all uneven, he steadies me.
Even more, he believes I can do it and tells me,
and I get there with him going one step at a time.
He knows my pain and he walks beside me, anyway.

On steps like these,
too weak and bloodless to stop crying,
with nothing left to give, he asks for nothing
and expects nothing. He never leaves.
That is the measure of my true love’s heart.

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