In the Old City, grocers scoop rice and wheat
From huge burlap sacks, pour grain into deep brass scales,
measure anise and cardamom and thyme.
When sun slips into the pans it's swept up
without charge, the way you don't pay for the fragrance
of coffee, zaatar's bright swirl of sumac.
Not like the mass of sorrow
weighting the air beneath the odor of cumin,
that tips the scales in every reckoning.
This poem appeared in Al Jadid, Vol. 3, no. 12 (October 1996)
Copyright (c) 1996 by Al Jadid