Perihelion: An Online Journal of Poetry and Mayhem
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Fady Joudah

Sleep

For years I have known her an old woman
A nurse’s aid she always says good morning
And not until my son was born did she share this with me

In her wallet two photos one of a ten-pound baby
Her firstborn who shot himself accidentally
Playing with a gun when he was twelve

In Cypress the Trojan side at a Café
An old woman approached me a teenager then
And said I looked like her dead son

I have a familiar face
And despite what my mother or sister say
These dreams aren’t for construal

I leap from my sleep to visceral
Sounds my newborn makes in his sleep
I wrap his torso in the frond of my palm and watch
My father’s breathlessness then his gasp

A woman wrote over and over in precise
Short poems the five stages of grief

It began a few mornings after she walked in
On her son dead in his sleep

I am older now I bear the news
Of a son’s death to his mother
He was the weaker of the twins I say
It wasn’t anything you did or didn’t do

What was it then?! She asks
And I can only answer her in my sleep