The Accused Terrorist’s Wife

Shara Lessley

The house foreclosed, she’s gone
to his father’s home carting
her things, a pair of his shoes, their onlydaughter, sons. Water springs
from the outdoor pump, a parasite
hidden in each clear drop (howevershe washes her face, it can’t come clean
enough). Cross-examined, the dailies
claim, he won’t shut up. The sky’stoo bright for such news. His mother
chooses a room, draws its curtains
and blinds, begins her thousand-hour prayer. Whatever happens, happens
to their children. Meeting the first time
beneath this very tree did they agreethey’d known each other as many
years as leaves? She was fourteen—
Abida’s age. Their youngest’s latestgame is dizzying himself by spinning
rings, then collapsing half-sick
in defeat. The world unreelsanother day. The almonds’ seed-
coats are too sweet. Newsmen stalk
the cordoned lane. Afternoonsbehind the well, she beats
a bedroom rug till none can tell
it’s her cries that fill the streets.

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Shara Lessley is the author of Two-Headed Nightingale. Her awards include a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, a Wallace Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University, and a Diane Middlebrook Fellowship at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. The coeditor of The Poem’s Country: Place and Poetic Practice, she lives in Oxford, England.

In sparse, powerful lines, Shara Lessley recalls an expat’s displacement, examines her experience as a mother, and offers intimate witness to the unfolding of the Arab Spring. Veering from the strip malls and situation rooms of Washington to the markets and mines of Amman, Lessley confronts the pressures and pleasures of other cultures, exploring our common humanity with all its aggressions, loves, biases, and contradictions.

“Lessley guides us along the knife-edge of a country on the edge of wars. An ex-pat Penelope wondering about her own Odysseus singed in ash, she keenly and empathically witnesses not only her own vulnerability as a young American mother in Amman but also courageous women around her—from Jordan’s all-female demining team to an accused terrorist’s wife.”
—Philip Metres

“These poems teach us that there is astonishment, not just fear, in each moment of displacement. I am hooked on Shara Lessley’s music of adventure, intimacy of detail, the great sweeping largesse of address across continents, across ranges of emotion. Wherever you find yourself in this powerful collection, you will learn to see the world slightly differently.”
—Ilya Kaminsky

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