Nahrain Al-Mousawi

Originally published in The Evergreen Review Issue 110 in 2005.

At first, she only arrives
Cribbed from the memory
Of six brothers and sisters
Which she tended, often
With the slap of her plastic slippers
Against their backsides

The family said that my cousin is so white
She is marriageable
And carries bills in her pockets
Even though she is not allowed
To the gate of her house

Up to her wedding day
The white marble of her
Skin remains pristine
She is wordlessly taken to another house
She calls her mother on the phone, crying
The water has been turned off
The garden spigot won’t even budge
For her to wash the heavy bride makeup off her face
She calls it omen, a marriage destined to drain her
Hangs up on her mother
Little else is known

Yet now I often see her in my garden
Continents away
Walking toward me
Like she never could on her father’s land
I snap an aloe leaf in two
And salve her browned leathery face
Her salt-cracked mouth
And watch her count her bills
Before she crosses the garden into the street
Me, waving
Her, never looking back