I Would Tell You

I would tell you about how they slaughtered the sheep in Ait Hamza

How Hassan sharpened his blade on the corner of the cement home and barn,

When they slit its neck it squirmed and wriggled against the outhouse shadows,

the little girls chasing each other in circles,

giggling and trying not to step in the blood in the dark,

How when they skinned it, the inside was soft and white and fleshy with fat,

how the whole body turned inside-out as they tore the outer layer towards the ground

How Kenza’s mother kneeled, sifting through the guts looking for the parts she wanted to keep.


I would tell you about how I got sick from a rooftop in fez,

How I watched sunrise in the old medina as my body turned itself inside out,

How in the public hospital when I couldn’t stand and there had been a knife fight and men bloody on the floor with bandages around faces and knees,

and I started saying the shema I don’t know why and then Aziz started praying to allah and I don’t know why and we were both praying and there was my body inside out–


But these are the images of which no one wants to hear

These are things that I learned to fear

Perhaps because I know that they would have frightened my mother

Perhaps because they are too disgustingly natural.


After the sheep’s carcass had been drained and hung inside the mud hut,

Mohammad looked at my face,

Allah has given us sheep, we eat the sheep and we thank Allah.


I turn myself inside out and back again, here,

learning what it is that I have learned to fear,

holding fear in my hands and

being thankful for it.


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