Longlisted Poem 2013

Shyma Zitoun

Notting Hill and Ealing High School, London


For a good man, gone.
What’s left is

a variegated house-full of geriatric orphans
on a crumbling, winding Mediterranean street,

egyptian-blue windows and white tiles baking,
baking, beneath our feet.  Stories

of a steel-plated gaze
and a place where no trees grow

where an olive tree bloomed
in a burst of resistance

and walked on two good legs
and two good hands, moulded stone,

burst forth through the Sea Gate to build
a home.

And later: groans in the jasmine-scented night,
pills dotting a mattress, cold stars, and that last dawn, alone.

A wheelchair that carries
more than it knows.

There are no photos of the time before
insulin shots and three missing toes,

shaky hands, second-generation strangers and
a diaspora of woes.

A transcontinental song of lament
for half a sea of bronzed children

with no knowledge of home.
Grandad Voyager, now further gone across

a schism wider than
the lapis lazuli of the sea.

What follows is a good memory
for the details, and prayers,

soft Arabic words dripping from chins and
clacking against our ears like rosary beads,

a bag of marbles in my throat.
The glazed china of a tear-stained cheek

with no foresight of an insidious mass blooming

a six-foot drop beneath our feet.

What remains is tigress matriarch
kindling in the distended sun,

four names inscribed on a dust-dressed door,
saltwater leaking from rust-stained eyes,

a myriad of gurgling hearts and
sighs, and, like dim-price wares,

in these words, and beneath that stone,
two hazel eyes, etched in bone.
© Syma Zitoun

Project Details

  • Date January 1, 2015
  • Tags 2013 The Details - Longlisted Poems