The Moss Of His Skin

Young girls in old Arabia were often buried alive next to their dead fathers, apparently as sacrifice to the goddesses of the tribes . . .

Harold Feldman, "Children of the Desert" Psychoanalysis and Psychoanalytic Review, Fall 1958

It was only important to smile and hold still, to lie down beside him and to rest awhile, to be folded up together as if we were silk, to sink from the eyes of mother and not to talk.

The black room took us like a cave or a mouth or an indoor belly. I held my breath and daddy was there, his thumbs, his fat skull, his teeth, his hair growing like a field or a shawl. I lay by the moss of his skin until it grew strange. My sisters will never know that I fall out of myself and pretend that Allah will not see how I hold my daddy like an old stone tree.


of her arms, this was her sin: where the wood berries bin of forest was new and full, she crept out by its tall posts, those wooden legs, and heard the sound of wild pigs calling and did not wait nor care. The leaves wept in her hair as she sank to a pit of needles and twisted out the ivyless gate, where the wood berries bin was full and a pig came in.


The summer sun ray shifts through a suspicious tree.

though I walk through the valley of the shadow

It sucks the air and looks around for me.

The grass speaks. I hear green chanting all day. I will fear no evil, fear no evil The blades extend and reach my way.

The sky breaks.

It sags and breathes upon my face.

in the presence of mine enemies, mine enemies

The world is full of enemies.

There is no safe place.


And this is the way they ring the bells in Bedlam and this is the bell-lady who comes each Tuesday morning to give us a music lesson and because the attendants make you go and because we mind by instinct, like bees caught in the wrong hive, we are the circle of the crazy ladies who sit in the lounge of the mental house and smile at the smiling woman who passes us each a bell, who points at my hand that holds my bell, E flat, and this is the gray dress next to me who grumbles as if it were special to be old, to be old, and this is the small hunched squirrel girl on the other side of me who picks at the hairs over her lip, who picks at the hairs over her lip all day, and this is how the bells really sound, as untroubled and clean as a workable kitchen, and this is always my bell responding to my hand that responds to the lady who points at me, E flat;

and although we are no better for it, they tell you to go. And you do.

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