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On the village approach road,
the hyena who stalked my grandfather
has been waiting
a long time

Crack of car door; I ache
in the stillness. The yellow eyes
are starving, tired,
burn marks on film

Do you ever wonder how wide your heart
says the hyena might grow in the perfect dark?

In this valley, god is a mountain.
He wears a skullcap
of snow, makes the air
gong, even in the dark. These are his
rites:

Four days of contemplation.
Tap each market cobble. Yearn
for a hollow core. Be disdained
by sphinxlike village cats.

Look up. How could says the hyena
this many stars burst to life?

On the fifth day, a dust bath
in pulverised battlements
from the French Mandate fort,

and after, modest harvest—
pick the blackberries growing
from the roof of the barn deserted
since a gas canister
blew up—

Like me, the whole architecture
might collapse with no
warning. We are stained red down
says the hyena to our gullets

On the sixth day, the purification
may fail. The toxins

(it turns out) are inside the house
my ribs and spine
have made

Golan lows, a kind of altitude sickness,
to belong in blood and nothing else.
There is a pebble at eight-thousand
feet no soldier’s boot has ever screwed
down into dirt;

perhaps my name
is on its dark side. O, Jabal el-Shaikh,
massive with prayer! I swear
my hands have explored
nothing contoured like sin

Look at my palms, the trampled
fruit on my soles. Look what I did.
It might take a while for the stain
says the hyena to go

Notes:

^ Dab3 is the Arabic word for hyena, written in the Arabic chat alphabet, a popular modern transliteration system. The 3 represents the letter ayin. According to Wikipedia, ayin “is a voiced pharyngeal fricative or a similarly articulated consonant, of which there is not even an approximate substitute sound in English.”



Sara Saab was born in Beirut, Lebanon. She now lives in North London, where she has perfected her resting London face. Her current interests are croissants and emojis thereof, amassing poetry collections, and coming up with a plausible reason to live on a sleeper train. Sara’s a 2015 graduate of the Clarion Writers' Workshop. You can find her on Twitter as @fortnightlysara and at fortnightlysara.com.
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19 Feb 2024

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