Hebron, West Bank
In the marketplace, the severed head
Of a cow lies on the table, his ears perked
Up in both directions, searching,
The way the dead must listen twice as hard
To compensate for not living.
The skin of his face has been sliced
Down the middle, through forehead,
Nose bridge, lips. Then peeled back,
Like two pages turned to reveal a text
Which is bleeding, which is bone,
Which is stored up odor and taste and song,
Which is muscle and labored breathing.
Now you must read beneath the torn out mouth.
You must read beneath the tongue,
Twisted and removed, beneath the blind
Eyes rolling in their sockets,
You must read within the face left without a face,
Without a name, without a body.
You must read, because the living die.
It will not be read to you.
The scar of the axe is on the throat,
The tongue asleep on the table beside him.
Stephani Saldaña has been awarded the Katherine Irene Glascock Prize for Poetry and a Thomas Watson Fellowship to travel and write poetry in the Middle East and Europe. She currently works as a journalist in Beirut. (updated 2002)