I wish him an orange crown, pied plumes,
black and white stripes for the bird-boy
with cages for wings,
his beak hammering three notes
as he beats his face against doors.
Sometimes he thinks he is a hoopoe, sometimes
he hops like the grasshoppers he eats.
It takes all his life, this sand-bath in the fog
whipped up by helicopters.
Sometimes he is my father, sometimes my son.
I will feed him a plague of locusts,
a flock of whirlwinds.
I will peck him with my hoopoe-wife beak
until he flies, wings or no wings.
These sparks are not the stones of playground bullies,
that make his shadow box his echo.
Now the sky is below him, the earth, above.
Night is on his right, day on his left.
He must dance through the blade of twilight,
blundering into palm trees in a clatter of quills.
See how his flesh feathers from his bones
in a triple mirage – the hundred-handed one.
He lifts into the buckled air
and hangs there, over the abyss
while the sun rat-tat-tats its Song of Songs
in the hanging gardens, this
fledged one, gliding in his element,
a crest of flames sprouting from his head.
FROM EFFIGIES (THE A.M. QATTAN FOUNDATION / THE MOSAIC ROOMS, 2013)