shatila birdsongs (and beyond)

My third day of class, I
(trying to maintain some semblance of control)
Confiscated a whistle from a boy.
A convincing, melodic sort of whistle:
To hear it, you’d think it was a bird.

The whistles
(quite popular that summer, before the diversions of Ramadan firecrackers set in)
were swiftly added to a list of items not welcome in school:
Cell phones.
Food in class.
Gum.

For weeks, I’d hurry home through narrow alleyways,
Water dripping on my head,
Puddles lurking at my feet,
Forgetting, sometimes,
That those songs and sounds I heard from high, high places there were
Whistles,
Not birds.

***

Some weeks later,
we made a small pilgrimage
To a square with trees and roses
Grass and shrubs
Green space
Cool space
No shops, no homes,
No people but memories.

A place of rest and sorrow,
If anywhere nearby, I thought
Might know the sounds of birds (not whistles)
It was this.

In this soft and quiet place, though,
The birds were silent, too.

***

Three weeks fast-forward;
A new home to the East:
Wide streets,
Breezes, flowers,
Gardens,
Trees.

I heard a song
And wondered where the whistler was
A split-second just before I knew:
No whistles here
Just birds.

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