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.

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
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,

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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