Surpassing All Kings
Enkidu, my friend whom I love, has turned to clay!
Am I not like him? Will I lie down never to get up again?
—The Epic of Gilgamesh (10.233-242)
In my mourning I placed a mantle upon myself.
The warm skin of the animals pressed against me
Not yours, but of you. Clay caught in my throat;
I retched into the sand. But I crossed the desert
And the world, entranced by the cool dark searching,
The bruised tartness of the word immortality.
I ignored the pity in the alewife’s eyes, how she traced
Not the slow decay of my sinew and bones,
But the single line of steps that unhinged behind me.
The moment the snake shed its skin I knew you were gone.
I shed, too, the bristling pelt of my grief,
Crossed back the river and built a towering city.
In the dusty brick the people laugh and drink,
Content in their pink flesh and round teeth.
I grow old like an orchard grows old.
Surpassing all kings in my foolishness,
I overlooked all the crumbling years it took to admit
How the sky rests like a blanket over
Boreal desert and splintered stars,
The elegance of being between worlds, that
And the sweet animal fact of you.
just for fun let us pretend in our hands we held soil
not tin-foil wrappers red and royal blue no ridges crackling on fingers
turn in your palm sweet swampy sugar not chocolates
bulbs buried in paper scraps old documents
a plastic ziplock hidden suitcase carefully my cousin she laughs
in words we hide little illegal things organic matter is all the same
on Israeli x-rays say it was a gift how could I know?
if they catch you my father’s wisdom all girls love chocolate
even wrapped in steel they must embrace all pretty things
and deeper down in clean darkness that growth promise
small curled hearts breathe in the wind more treasured than safety
my father’s love look at the corn they dancing
EMILY KHILFEH was born and raised in Seattle, WA and the surrounding areas. She is currently completing her bachelor’s degree at Pacific Lutheran University.