Saturday, August 28, 2010

Gregory Djanikian: My Uncle's Eye

              Alexandria, 1954

It had happened on a small Cairo street,
the shops smelling of dark leather,
the hookah parlors spilling out
onto the crowded sidewalk.
It had been a fight, someone
throwing a bottle at my uncle's face,
the slivers lodging deep.
I stared hard at that blind watery sheen.
I thought my uncle must live
a shadow life, imagining with one eye
what the other couldn't see.
I walked one day through the house
with my hand over half my face,
bumping into things, swiveling my head.
"Silly boy," my grandmother said,
knitting quietly in her armchair,
"what's to become of you?"
"Loony brain," my sister warbled,
twirling gauzily away like a ballerina.
But I knew my uncle would be arriving for a visit,
driving from Cairo on the long desert road,
and he would be making time,
measuring speeds.
And I was practicing how to move
the way he moved, skimming along
hazy edges, judging distances
by inkling, relying on some part
of the tangible world
without knowing exactly
what to hold on to,
what to let go.

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