Decorating the Nursery
During a War

Tod Ibrahim

Because the ob/gyn is concerned
about Allison’s size, the baby getting too big,
we visit the clinic for a glucose test
the morning of the first Saturday of the war.
While we wait, I half-watch Tommy Franks
brief on CNN, half-listen to my wife,
half-read the Post. After the test, we eat
before getting paint for the nursery.
Allison wants bright colors, flowers, and bugs,
while I’m concerned this is too girlish, even though
we’re to have a daughter in three months.
We agree on Arabian Nights, with exotic colors
and tents, palms and camels, sand on sand.
My father died just after the first Gulf War,
and I wonder how he would feel about this one.
He came to the states in the late ’50s,
just after Nassar took charge, when people
in Columbus, Ohio, called Egyptians “Nigger”
instead of “Arab.” With lighter skin
and straighter hair, my father heard this less,
although my mother’s father still rejected them
as animals—until I, his only grandson, was born.
After we get the paint, Allison drops me off
at the airport for a business trip to San Diego.
When I return, the plane on takeoff arcs left
over city and Pacific, pausing between blues.
The ocean from this height is like skin up close
without hair, blood blue instead of mocha,
the pattern the same due to whiteless chops
in water. To bypass my father’s heart, the surgeon
used vein from his leg, which was shaved clean.
As I look at the Pacific, my father for the first time
meets my wife, holds the granddaughter
he’ll never love, her body white as folded clouds,
smooth as a man faded and dying.

 

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