Soil

 

By: Tara Ballard

 

I.

She presses the package of coffee

into my palms. It is wrapped

in tissue, so others cannot see.

Min Suriyah, she tells me.

From Syria. Her hand flutters

against her chest, two heartbeats.

 

Zakee. Delicious. She brings fingers

to lips as if to taste. In a muddle

of two languages, I kiss my thanks.

She calls me friend. I call her

sister.

 

II.

Known for beauty, her home is

springtime, olives,

and cool mornings,

 

hole-pocked structures

and beheadings.

The river in her city

rebels even now, as seventeen norias

witness the change in waters,

observe as they have for centuries:

turning, not turning,

in dry air.

 

III.

The package sits on my kitchen counter.

For a moment, I linger, pause to take

in the gold-wrapped coffee,

Damascus-ground.

 

IV.

Her two brothers who remain

are yet invisible. They sing

their years behind prison walls.

 

The other two see only

from photographs, declarations

black-tied to foreheads.

 

They kneel upon a stretch of dirt,

fingertips pressed tight against

themselves.

 

They have her eyes.

 

V.

I do not know

whether to keep the coffee

 

preserved, two hundred grams

of artifact

from a country

dissolved of its people,

 

or simmer it atop the stove.