You order beer by phone
with the confidence of a woman who knows three languages
and who weaves words toward unexpected contexts.
How did you find this security
as if you had never left your father’s house?
Why does your presence provoke this destructiveness
that is completely free of intent,
that releases my senses from their darkness?
What else should I do
when a shared hotel room offers me
a perfect friend
except to lump my unrefined manners
and fling them at her face as a vulgarity I have fashioned?
Go ahead, amuse yourself.
I am fair.
I will let you have more than half the oxygen in the room
on the condition that you see me without comparisons,
you who are twenty years older than my mother.
You wear cheerful colors
and you will never grow old.
My perfect friend,
why don’t you leave now.
Perhaps I will open the gray wardrobes
and try on your stylish things.
Why don’t you go
and leave me all the room’s oxygen.
The void of your absence may lead me
to bite my lip in regret
as I look at your toothbrush,
familiar . . . and wet.
© Iman Mersal. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2006 by Khaled Mattawa. All rights reserved.