The Future at My Father’s Feet


Some people say in order to do things in the future you have to have a father in the future. Not only do I shriek and scratch at my cheeks in the future, I also inherit nothing but deeds to lands pronounced dead. Some people say fear comes from the devil. Some say the sky is another desert. If you can build cities in one you can build cities in the other. Well our fathers tried. Couldn’t scratch the face of the desert. So they took tea as sweet as honey to the Valley of Dreams. Fed smoke to their fibrotic livers. I once dreamed a circle of men around a fire. I named each man after my father. I saw them clapping and dancing, and later realized they were puppets. For the fathers I built castles in the arid sky I am calling heaven. A large-scale construction project. They say a woman can do some things but not others. They say in the past women wailed, and men drew courage from the configuration of the stars. I envy the geese, the macaques, the yellow baboons and the finches—their livid beating of the chest. I hold my breasts like dandelion bulbs. Some say women can walk the dead only with loaves of dust in their mouths. From the future, I erase the syntax of my scream. I practice singing the one with no end and no beginning. On the tips of my toes in the house that was heaven, I begged the peephole, and begged and begged. Heard the keys rattle clairvoyant leaves. And I thanked the back of his neck for not dying. People say when he dies he is not your father. Different man. Someone else will need to wash him. Today I rinsed my body with sidr and camphor. Wrapped lengths of linen over my eyes to see the future. Some say on the night of its flowering, a corpse flower will smell like it’s dying. It’s a good thing I’m good, and not flowering. It will make the noise of 600 daughters wailing. If in their graves the dead are tortured for the wailing of the living, are the living tortured by the reticence of their fathers? Angels pounce with red iron rods. My dreams, which come with trees, come with trains, come with my love’s back fitted with bright blue wings, never dared to kill my father. But day and night he died and dies and will die again. And the light is always golden, and my breasts are always, despite my caution, breaking, and this morning I will see a girl, small, and she will scream the sound of what bird? I cannot say.

Sara Elkamel