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


the bareness

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,

till unleashed

it falls to the water.