“Know thyself,” a moribund maxim: even the neighbours consume an idea of themselves which is make-believe.

Art by Anthony-James Kanaan


“Know thyself,” a moribund maxim:

even the neighbours consume an idea of themselves

which is make-believe. Speaking in tongues

instead of with them, we hiss in counterfeits.

This is not a caricatural fault of character. 

This is the internal exotic — a rotund, warlike tiger 

which rests in the chest, grinds pointed teeth, waits 

to pierce through lungs —  words fake

Like bags of bread: round plastic crinkling,

roaring, attacking 

our ears and stomachs as we map its peacetime taste.

The green cedar tree emblazoned on the bag

is neon, circular, transparent: a way of consuming the self

through redolent tastes, bitter memories,

and not by immediate definition. Neither dead, 

neither living. A purgatory whose parameters are defined

by the performing.


In Athens, my grandmother’s mother would herald the summer

by cracking eggs over potatoes in a skillet. Circular

pita bread round in celestial orbit swallowed the food.

In Alexandria’s Summer, Yiayia in her youth, in her birth-right

city, swam in the Mediterranean. Eating Medjools 

with milk, draped in deep-Tyrian purple linens and silk

before the coup and expulsion of foreign nationals. 

Moving onwards, every Beirut winter she made molokhia

as she still does in Sydney: soup of jute, cilantro, lemon,

the dish named after the Pharaohs who ate it for strength

and continuity of national identity. Around the dinner table,

a petite histoire unfolds like frozen filo pastry.

I am like the table: buttressed by the four legs

of two selves, and, like the wood, my cells are strong

but the roots are no longer. I look upwards at the Sun, 

flashing its morse code: a language pushed

downwards, fiery foie gras —

I pour the tea. We

add cinnamon for taste, and dried cloves 

numbs our tongues. This is the ritual 

where we contribute 

to our own silence. Not because our mouths 

are full, but because our hearts and minds

like glorious Egyptian tombs,

have been raided and emptied

over and over.

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