SITTING IN THE COURTYARD

“Sitting in the courtyard,
I watch the woman sweeping.
I luxuriate in the sound
of the bristles of her besom
against the ground. She sweeps
in an invisible pattern only she
understands. I study her hands.
They are blackened with chimney dust—
not unlike the soft dust she’s now sweeping.
It rises in a cloud above her, which makes me
wonder: Where does it come from?
The dust on our overworked hands and travelled
shoes. The dust we inhale and cough
into our handkerchiefs.
The house dust, the road dust, the concrete dust,
and cosmic dust. Where are they born?
Perhaps they come from our aged bodies.
We shed our skins like we shed our beauty—
not all at once.
And we walk freely on this blanket of dust
without paying any mind to our ancestors,
though we walk on them! Tread softly,
for you tread on Yeats’s wrists and Poe’s
elbows. You tread on van Gogh’s ears
and Keller’s eyes. You breathe
in your grandfather’s lover and the little girl
you were when you were four. You smell them
after the first rain in a long dry spell,
or when an old lamp smoulders the bulb quite well.
These all serve as reminders
of our dusty secret:
we are all dust
under
dust under
dust.
         So next time it settles,        
remember to ask the dust!”

Kamand Kojouri


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