What the Returning Do

— Zeina Hashem Beck

Three years of absence bring dead things & new love.
Here’s the old house. What you smell is true, love:

bird carcass trapped between wall & flower pot,
so you do what the returning do—love

what you pound with broomstick until
dried bones & feathers fall. Who, love,

can say if this century is worse than others?
& despite what you know & knew, love

comes back as your city, or your old friend
dipping fries in labneh. They ask you, Love

have you been cured or are you still
an optimist? Does the woman who grew love

& flowers inside empty gas grenades
still bring you hope?
They say, few love

the way you do
, but they forget
(it’s been a while) they, too, love

olives, though they’re tired of odes
& eulogies. You wake & pursue love,

look in the mirror, read the news. Sometimes
you wonder how two loves

so conflicting persist. Then you remember
driving away can get you through love

& borders & some of the days. You can’t predict
what time decides. How’s the view, love?

Read more from Issue No. 17 or share on Twitter.