by Malek Charchour
They’ve brought the ram in today.
He’s fresh from the country,
fresh from Utique, holding the odors
and the roughness of the land that once was sea.
His fleece is rough, and they drag him in
he’s braying and screeching as they lead him into the garden,
near the open air garage that once housed orange trees
and pepper plants
red as the sun.
But the sun is white,
as white as the moon,
and when it gleams over the frightened ram
he thinks it night.
He runs in a circle tied to the post.
I hear him from my room.
I try to touch him, to console him in his last moments,
but he fears me as much as he fears the men
who ravished him from the plain
where he knew a herd and budding offspring
bleating and bleating amidst the arid grass
of the northern peninsula
where the elderly women make pepper paste spicier than here
where they wash the floors not with mops
but buckets of water
of their little feet.
The ram is crying.
They’ll kill him tomorrow.
The others don’t understand.
For them it’s tradition, it’s ritual.
The blood will chase out black magic
the year’s accumulation of evil eye and
the sordid utterings
of a sordid woman over a braiser
chanting in orange embers
as if she was whispering to the divine.
They lead him to where the car once was.
The rusted knife is out.
I rush back into the house.
They kicked him
because he wouldn’t move for them.
Grandmother’s stirring onions over the fire.
She said that my uncle’s monkey fainted once
when the knife was taken out
and that little monkey,
she saw the end of the ram.
I look to the purple flowers billowing outside the lattice window
and they carry the ram’s final scream
as the life force journeys out
into the flora so separate from the fauna.
The ram’s voice is carried to the roots and the earth,
then there’s silence,
but the wind carries his bleated name,
and the cry seems to echo from one flower to the next,
rasping and rasping,
it falls to the water.