Eva Whose Shadow Is a Swan

The day we met in Babylon
for me to interpret her,
Eva found a pocket stone
she’d later add to her collection
of stones from different cities
she kept in a glass bowl.

We strolled roadsides
piled with rocks blasted
from bridges and buildings
now bent and cratered,
yet I like to think that stone
might have predated the fall of Babylon,
when people spoke one language.

I liked Eva’s musical tone.
She said, I am from Stockholm,
home to no war for two hundred years.

I am from Baghdad, I replied,
a city we call the “home of peace,” 
though war has lived in it 
for two hundred years.

We exchanged postcards
for thirty years before my East
and her West met in London,
our friendship needing
no umbrellas in the rain.
I waited for her impatiently
but hid on a whim behind a pillar,
admiring her poise
as she approached
and scanned the passersby,
like Noah in search of the Ark.

A woman nearly ninety,
so beautiful,
her shadow a swan,
a goddess who found
her lost universe in the last minute.

She hiked an island mountain
on the way to our meeting
and bought a CD
of ferry music for me.

When I followed up
with a farewell call, I learned
she’d lost her hearing:
Write, so I can hear you.

She must have read my lips—
the concert we attended
in the rain must have seemed
like lightning without thunder.

When I receive her postcard,
I can’t read her handwriting
but plan to search the dictionary
of Babylon for her words
and decipher the line drawn by time.

By Dunya Mikhail, from IN HER FEMININE SIGN, copyright © 2019 by Dunya Mikhail. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.