Taha Muhammed Ali

Exodus

The street is empty

as a monk’s memory,

and faces explode in the flames

like acorns—

and the dead crowd the horizon

and doorways.

No vein can bleed

more than it already has,

no scream will rise

higher than it’s already risen.

We will not leave!

 

Everyone outside is waiting

for the trucks and the cars

loaded with honey and hostages.

We will not leave!

The shields of light are breaking apart

before the rout and the siege;

outside, everyone wants us to leave.

But we will not leave!

 

Ivory white brides

behind their veils

slowly walk in captivity’s glare, waiting,

and everyone outside wants us to leave,

but we will not leave!

 

The big guns pound the jujube groves,

destroying the dreams of the violets,

extinguishing bread, killing the salt,

unleashing thirst

and parching lips and souls.

And everyone outside is saying:

“What are we waiting for?

Warmth we’re denied,

the air itself has been seized!

Why aren’t we leaving?”

Masks fill the pulpits and brothels,

the places of ablution.

Masks cross-eyed with utter amazement;

they do not believe what is now so clear,

and fall, astonished,

writhing like worms, or tongues.

We will not leave!

 

Are we in the inside only to leave?

Leaving is just for the masks,

for pulpits and conventions.

Leaving is just

for the siege-that-comes-from-within,

the siege that comes from the Bedouin’s loins,

the siege of the brethren

tarnished by the taste of the blade

and the stink of crows.

We will not leave!

 

Outside they’re blocking the exits

and offering their blessings to the impostor,

praying, petitioning

Almighty God for our deaths.