[Les Carnets de Camargo] Trans heaven is a house full of flowers and no word for shame

by Zeyn Zoukhadar 
May 2020

The house on the island is filled with flowers. Gone are the swollen peonies you once saw at the weddings of the wealthy; no one misses expensive orchids or imported tulips. The window boxes of the house’s sunny kitchen are stuffed with flowers that have grown in the soil of this island for many hundreds of years, tiny clumps of purple blossoms. You have seen them before, somewhere, but they were so simple and small that no one ever learned their names. From the balcony of your bedroom on the second floor, you can see over the hill dotted with primrose and dandelion, so far out to sea that at night, when the sun turns the water to pink and silver, you can place your hand over the curvature of the earth.

You remember the water that carried you here. The current buoyed you when you had been at sea so long that you doubted you had ever used the soles of your feet. You doubted the memory of grass. Sometimes, when the twilight erased the horizon, you let the water rock you and doubted the sea itself. The salt embalmed your throat, and you told yourself that taste was an illusion. You imagined there were no other bodies. You gave yourself over to the belief that you had never touched the velvet skin behind a human ear, or kissed the dimpled fat on the inside of a lover’s thigh. You began to wonder if there had ever been any other people at all.

But then the island knifed its green into the wet silence of your solitude, and you were pulled from the sea, bewildered and new. You looked into the faces of family. You touched the cheeks of your dear ones, the ones who had been cast out with you and the ones who came before you, the ones whose photos you once placed on altars and tucked into the corners of mirrors. You had been told for so long that you had no family that you had forgotten the word for it. It once had a beautiful sound in your language. You had forgotten that, too.

In the garden, you and your siblings invent new names for each plant. Mouths learn to forget the taste of salt. In time, you reinvent touch, then fireflies. You splay each of your limbs out on the warm earth. Yes, you tell the stories each of you carry: of the cold shower floor, of blood between lips, of the darkness of the many rooms that swallowed you. After the telling, you lay down blankets and feed each other pomegranate seeds from your hands. The red juice runs down your wrists, and it fills the cut in you that a blade once left behind, the cut you had lived with so long that you’d forgotten it was there. Your siblings sit beside you until the last splinter of sun vanishes. You lay your hand over that old wound and stitch it shut.

Here you are not asked for any documents. There are no fences, no doctors or therapist’s letters, no passports, no bathrooms signs. The letters M and F are given back the grace of their innocence. Here, those who want to pray kneel in the grass. No one is denied the mercy of burying their dead. Here, bellies are soft. You open brown rounds of bread with your hands and tell each other the many names of the pole star. You press your thighs together, or open them, and you begin to forgive the parts of you still grieving. You touch the place where your chest was opened and listen at last to the long history of its scars. In the evening, you hear the others breathing and remember you were once afraid to fall asleep.

[Les Carnets de Camargo] Litany for the Morning After

by Zeyn Joukhadar
March 21, 2020

The morning after the fever, we will stand in the sun and say:

Here is the before.
The phone will ring and the wind will blow.
The mistral will slam our open windows.

The morning after, we’ll pinch dust from guitar strings.
There will be sugar on the table. There will be blue-white cream.

The morning after, we will dance the dabke.
We will try to recall the softness of other people’s hands.
We will marvel at the whorls in the velvet of their fingertips.

The morning after will be violet and grey and the pink of fresh blood.

The morning after, we will pick the scab.

The morning after, we will pulse with unused muscle.

The morning after, we will cut our hair and cry at filled prescriptions.

The morning after, we will grow new bones and fresh skin.
We will stroke rasped throats. We will eat honey. We will forget.

The morning after, we will scrub the film of whispers from our walls.
We will hang talismans above our bedposts.

The morning after, we will try to be the kind of people who remember how to want.

The morning after, the bells will ring, and it will mean nothing at all.
We will tell ourselves not to think of the dead.

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