Arabic

By Alexander Nemser

Each mark a motion caught in ink, a dancer’s
Slow kick, a series of bowing waves, the path
Of spilt salt—sharp Js sloping up and Is
Like silhouettes of men or minarets
Seen miles ahead. Sometimes a number I
Could recognize: the year, a price for dates
Or Dexedrine; the street-side signs defiant
As captives; every book impenetrable.

Our hands did all the talking, gave commands
To cars in gestures: “Stop” (a palm outstretched),
And after, “Move along” (a rolling wave).
Thumbs up for soccer balls, down for Saddam.
In crowds I’d cross my arms and shake at all
The baffled curses hurled in my face like sand.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2006/07/arabic/304974/