photo (c) Negeen Sobhani

She is hard to kill –
this girl kneeling in tall grasses,
lifting her head from the mud.
After years of exhaustion
she’s charged with new life
and runs into the sun as if
willing that divine body
to hold her close and nuzzle her
with a kiss like burning coal.

She knows what’s coming,
senses the tectonic shifts –
the quaking plates –
the gathering up of gale force winds
and tsunamis slamming against
villages, consuming
our babies and grandparents.

She’s lived through suicide
attacks, and the collapse
of commerce and politics.
Each day, she waits
for the body count to rise,
numbing her fingers
on an endless blue

She forgets
how to speak and how to eat.
Sleep evaporates like mist
on jasmine leaves in the garden
of the Lord, on Mount Carmel.

She lived here once, by the sea’s
wide arc, and returns, in her dreams,
climbing the green terraces
where traffic fades to silence
and she found refuge, as a child.

Her pupils shrink to specks of dust –
and when she blinks, it is dusk again,
the city cloaked in fallen stars
as the living and the dead
walk together up the mountainside,
wearing bright colors and singing.

Fountains burst on her right,
on her left, and she stands
in their midst unwavering
calling her body back to life.

She senses them,
the ones who didn’t survive –
the mothers lost in childbirth,
the strangled brides and sisters
who felt their only option
was to starve themselves
to death.

She senses them –
the deathless ones –
holding her hands,
pressing their wrists
into the small of her back,
kissing her forehead
with feather-soft breath.

Together, we ascend.
Up the white steps and into
the blue and radiant night.
We climb –
past the golden shrine lit
like a paper lantern
in the heart of Carmel.

Up and up we flow
like sap, like milk, like blood
spilt in sacrifice.

We merge yet remain
faithfully alone:
singing to the earth,
to the children, our very breath
the hush that brings healing.

Join us,
this chorus on the mountainside.
Even as your breath stays
inside your bones,
even as you stir

and shift, lifting dark lids
in a pale green room
in your own home, your own body
where the sun hangs
in the locust trees
brightly burning

And you are,
cell by wounded cell,

© Andréana Elise Lefton

[Original version published in Rising Phoenix Review; all changes are the author’s own]

[For more photos of the Shrine of the Bab, visit:]


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