Ribbon Time: The Moment

His uncles, uncles-in-law holding his arms behind his back,
Bony fingers clamping his head — no looking down,
The wooden floor sucks his feet cold.
Gown pulled up to resentment and nakedness.

Last weeks, last days will tiptoe away in front of his eyes.

His gentle father trying to calm him:
Nothing to be afraid of, he will say, just a red ribbon.
Why red, he will wonder.

Two bowls of soup with the foreskin in it,
Will laugh his cousins,
You’ll become a man by drinking…
But only if you don’t shriek like a kid.

Why two bowls, he will wonder.

His older brothers will explain:
It is just an issue of hygiene…
Even Americans these days…
What about Elvis
, he will wonder.

From a back corner of the room,
The father, the older brothers start the chant:
Allahü ekber, Allahü ekber!
The uncles, uncles-in-law join in:
Allahü ekber, Allahü ekber!

God jumping from the echo
Catches the boy with his thousand hands;
Thousand hands multiply into tens of thousands.
The boy, the figurehead, makes a last attempt
To detach itself from the ship.
The colorless blood, the fear, flows from the belly to the tip.
The terror, a turtle now, retracts into itself.

Through a wooden door swinging
A man in a white coat walks in
Carrying a scream in his hands.

“Ribbon Time: The Moment” by Adnan Onart. Copyright © 1997 by Adnan Onart. Used with the permission of the poet.

Listen to Adnan Onart’s On Being interview, “Revealing Ramadan.”