They demolished the building this week
that stood for years near the courthouse.
It reminded me of you and your wife,
because we watched the fireworks from its roof
five months before your winter wedding.
As I saw the wrecking ball whack masonry walls,
heard demolition hammers chop floor slabs,
breathed clouds of concrete dust, I was reminded
of fireworks. When its frame became clearer,
when I understood its structure—the relationship
between columns and girders—I saw unbuilding
is like your marriage, which failed to last
three seasons. Should she have left sooner,
admitted the lost attraction, said she was drawn
to you no longer? You’ll never know why
the designs failed, why she stopped loving.
Your best man in church and witness in court,
I played the same part: promising to serve
as a rubble chute, carrying debris from the top
of the building to the transfer box to the street.
RETURNING HOME 12 HOURS APART
This is the moment I love you most:
at 30,000 feet between Albuquerque
and LAX, headed west to catch the redeye
east to DC and return to you after a week
together. Our separate trips home help me
understand you matter more than my need
to carry my father’s meanness, to hold him
close, away from you—like the winter moon
white against the sky, against the blue sky
before sunset in Santa Fe—against
my chest last night as you slept within me.
With the continent between us, I feel
the lost moment: your chest bare to my back,
your heart full to my meaning, eclipses him.
fractal design illustration
see more work by Sherman Fleming
DECORATING THE NURSERY DURING A WAR
Because the OBGYN is concerned
about Allison’s size, the baby getting too big,
we visit the clinic for a glucose test
the morning of the first Saturday of the war.
While we wait, I half-watch Tommy Franks
brief on CNN, half-listen to my wife,
half-read the Post. After the test, we eat
before getting paint for the nursery.
Allison wants bright colors, flowers, and bugs,
while I’m concerned this is too girlish, even though
we’re to have a daughter in three months.
We agree on Arabian Nights, with exotic colors
and tents, palms and camels, sand on sand.
My father died just after the first Gulf War,
and I wonder how he would feel about this one.
He came to the states in the late 50s,
just after Nassar took charge, when people
in Columbus, Ohio, called Egyptians “Nigger”
instead of “Arab.” With lighter skin
and straighter hair, my father heard this less,
although my mother’s father still rejected them
as animals—until I, his only grandson, was born.
After we get the paint, Allison drops me off
at the airport for a business trip to San Diego.
When I return, the plane on takeoff arcs left
over city and Pacific, pausing between blues.
The ocean from this height is like skin up close
without hair, blood blue instead of mocha,
the pattern the same due to whiteless chops
in water. To bypass my father’s heart, the surgeon
used vein from his leg, which was shaved clean.
As I look at the Pacific, my father for the first time
meets my wife, holds the granddaughter
he’ll never love, her body white as folded clouds,
smooth as a man faded and dying.
THE BODY OUTSIDE
Twice now I’ve seen the shuttle fail,
once on take off in a cloud, once landing.
Both times, I had the same dream: Fly,
fall, fire, fall, white through slipstream
between space and space, the blue out,
dissolution before land, my body
so outside itself wind becomes a limb,
debris spread wide through stratosphere.
The first time I was alone, now I have
you, with child six months away, a girl
we know from three lines in science—
seemingly perfect. From our fragments,
each day, we telemetrically construct her.
The difference between dreams apart:
We hold hands in no world and release
our coming daughter to stars and earth.
WHEN PLANETS ALIGN
Danny Gatton’s guitar
fills sky, feedback
inside the Beltway,
the way Buddy Holly
touches West Texas:
to Lubbock, nothing
between but oil,
then farmland, the ground
empty as the sky full.
The five naked-eye
planets align with
the sun and moon as
my wife and I sleep.
While her family
in Odessa witnesses
this syzygy, my wife,
in our Virginia bed,
continues to dream.
She sees in her sleep,
eyes blue to Neptune.
She hears between signs,
a minds-ear to Mars.
She smells night,
sunflower to Jupiter.
She touches my thigh,
open to Venus.
She tastes the earth,
mouth to Mercury.
A two-time recipient of George Washington University’s Jenny McKean Moore scholarship for poets, Tod Ibrahim has a Master’s Degree in Liberal Arts from The Johns Hopkins University and a Bachelor’s Degree in English from the University of Maryland at College Park. At Maryland, he was Poetry Editor of the Calvert Literary Review. Since 1995, Tod has served as a reader for the Washington Prize for poetry, which is sponsored by The Word Works. In 2001, he joined the “Pick-A-Poet” program at elementary schools in Arlington, Virginia. Tod has studied with Lucille Clifton, John Haines, Rod Jellema, Linda McCarriston, and Stanley Plumly. The Arlington County Cultural Affairs Division and the Arlington Department of Public Works selected his poem, “The Kent Narrows,” for “Moving Words” in 2001. Currently, he is Executive Vice President of the Alliance for Academic Internal Medicine.
Published in Volume 7, Number 1, Winter 2006.