Just a few short weeks ago, a scene much like the opening of Kafka’s The Trial marked the beginning of the end of my year-long life in Abu Dhabi: Someone must have been telling lies about Youssef R, for without having done anything wrong he was divested of his belongings one fine evening. His Tamil cleaner, who should have been there to oversee the procedure, failed to appear. That was totally unexpected. R was lounging about with two American friends, watching Barack Obama’s inauguration on TV, when two men, having mysteriously arrived at his apartment, found their way straight into the room without knocking or ringing the door bell, which was out of order anyway.
Listen carefully, my son: bombs were falling
over Mexico City
but no one even noticed.
The air carried poison through
the streets and open windows.
You’d just finished eating and were watching
cartoons on TV.
I was reading in the bedroom next door
when I realized we were going to die.
Despite the dizziness and nausea I dragged myself
to the kitchen and found you on the floor.
We hugged. You asked what was happening
and I didn’t tell you we were on death’s program
but instead that we were going on a journey,
one more, together, and that you shouldn’t be afraid.
When it left, death didn’t even
close our eyes.
What are we? you asked a week or year later,
Ants, bees, wrong numbers
in the big rotten soup of chance?
We’re human beings, my son, almost birds,
public heroes and secrets.