Maybe the window I sat by
foretold an unusual glory.
I wrote on my notebooks:
Iman . . .
A student at: Iman Mersal Elementary School.
Neither the teacher’s rod
nor the laughs that leapt from the desks at the back
could make me give up the matter.
I thought of naming our street after me
on the condition that its houses are widened
and that secret rooms are built
so my friends can smoke in their beds without
their older brothers catching them.
After tearing down ceilings to unburden
the walls, and after taking away the shoes
of dead grandmothers, and the empty
pots and pans mothers threw out of their lives
after a long service unto another street,
maybe the doors can be painted orange-
as a symbolic expression of joy-
and holes can be poked through them
to allow any one to peep at the large families.
Maybe then there would no longer be a lonely soul on our street.
are shaped by great minds,”
that is how passersby would describe me
as they stroll the white sidewalks
of a street bearing my name.
But because of an old animosity between us-
its stones had left marks on my knees-
I realized its insignificance.
I do not remember when I discovered that I have
a musical name suitable
for autographing on metered poems, and for flaunting
before the faces of friends who have ordinary names
and who do not understand the significance of
having a dubious name
that raises suspicions about you
and that suggests you become someone else,
so that new acquaintances might ask:
Are you a Christian?
Do you have Lebanese roots?
Unfortunately, something happened.
When someone I know calls out to me
I get confused and look around me.
Is it possible for a body like mine,
and a chest whose breathing is getting raspier
day by day, to have such a name?
I gaze at myself often
crossing from bedroom to bathroom
where I do not have the stomach of a whale
to empty what I cannot digest.
© Iman Mersal. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2006 by Khaled Mattawa. All rights reserved.