Carolina Ebeid

Feb 2011



crossing into a photograph is similar to entering a house: except you find her

there: alive again and she is much younger than you are now: there’s a dog

near the hearth, its white underfur like plumes of a pillow slit open: all dogs

should be outside dogs in this family: the lashings of rain lately bring mercy,

bring the dog in, so that it lends the room its sodden odor: a homemade

altarlet: two fleshy flowers and a leprous saint hewn of blue-veined wood:

Lazarus, the patron saint of the sick, the troubled: himself crippled on

crutches with a garland of dogs licking at the wounds: this morning is a

wound, how its liquids seep and seep: her prayer at evening is its stitching:

she is kneeling at the altarlet: the stitching that closes what was once exposed,

the way a cursive signature stitches a letter shut: her hair gnarled at her nape

where a knot the size of a bird nest has been cut out and thrown away: she’s

to brush her hair every day says her father: Saint Lazarus’ disfigured face

stares on and answers nothing: but divinity is quiet, ever eavesdropping, she

believes: she believes an invisible country stretches inside the visible country:

she believes the palm fronds sometimes script their cursive messages on the

ground when the sun is out


Owing to the general scarcity

of books in the post-Soviet city,

this particular population of library

dwellers, which included the intellectuals,

playwrights, poets, homosexuals,

would pass the same borrowed copy

of the novel among them, the hardback

becoming a familiar / familial

object, they would mark words

with imperative asterisks, underscore

whole paragraphs, each reader insinuating

himself & herself in the coordinates of here

& here in faintest graphite, creasing

the corners of pages where one,

anyone of them, should return.



A triangular darkening creeps across the picture of the man hunched over the

stringed instrument. He sits in the center of a semicircle of other musicians.

This is his solo, for the other instruments are at rest. The name of the man in

the center is Camilo Vargas. He plays the 12-string, Spanish laúd. There are

a number of appropriate adverbs that can be used here: He plays vigorously. He

plays sweetly. He plays dexterously. It would depend on the single viewer how the

hand, the fingers’ minute industry along the neck of the laúd is understood.

We can see the level of attention on Camilo’s face; he tilts his salt-&-pepper

head closer to the instrument, his ear closer to the teardrop sound-hole, as

though it were the mouth of an infant. It is an infant in his hands that makes

a glad music, resounding out of its own cavity. That is what his face says. The

face says, listen. I am reaching towards the other half of all this––al otro lado––& it is

reaching its (metaphysical) hand out to me. Upon the white boarder below the

image is written: JOYEUX NOËL!! 1990, BRUSSELS.


What is not written is the other half of the story of his hands. The story in

which his name is Agustino & he resides in Argentina. The man in the

picture would want the slow erasure of this other story; it is of course much

longer & more confusing. He was a pilot for the Argentine Navy. Agustino

Ponce Quiroga. He was favored by the vice-admiral himself, Luis María

Mendía, who would ask Agustino to play for him & the other admirals in the

after-hours of State dinner parties. He plays so sweetly! Look at him, how deftly he

plays! His orders were simple: Fly the aircraft. The same, simple route every

Wednesday. He would fly an arc out over the sea & back again. A pear-

shaped pattern again & again. He would wait inside his cockpit tapping on

the gears & the switches as the cavity of the plane was loaded with four or

five prisoners. Fly the aircraft. The prisoners were already drugged with

barbiturates, the short-acting kind with a rapid-onset. They believed they

were being transferred to another prison or to their freedom. But they were

drugged & stripped instead. And someone would be given the sign to open

the cargo door. The prisoners were naked with their hands bound behind

them. Then someone would be given the signal to push the prisoners out,

one by one, over the Atlantic & they would die, one by one. Watch, his

palms on the control column, which makes the ailerons work to bank the

plane; watch, the hand on the throttle for managing the speed of the plane.

The reverse course so like a refrain.


We went to watch the hang-gliders, how they

landed in a field one bright pilot after

the other, each one bringing the enormous

winds back to earth with him. At nineteen one of us

would overdose & go––

but the adrenaline-needle

brought all of her back. I can picture the half-darkened

Polaroid of her climbing the cherry tree

in my yard––its musk in our nostrils, the backyard

plot girlish with petals––whose grackles & blue jays

at dusk came to pluck the fruit & fight.

The cherries would grow back the following day––

dark-bright livers of the monster-god of New Jersey.


In rows we’d stretch our skinny frames

on the concrete trying to be a corpse.

A game like a staring match, except

we’d face the sky, eyes pressed closed.

Someone would stand at your feet & read

aloud your tombstone epitaph: “here lies Carolina

age nine, killed by razors in her candy”

or something else & something worse.

Inevitably we’d burst out, filling up our sidewalk

graves with laughter––though the things inside

would die away a little, the worlds I carried

of building shadows, walkie-talkies, leaf-piles.


Sometimes even

now I get thrown

from sleep

& am unsure

if it’s dusking

or dawning out

the window.

What was it like

I want to know,

the flat line there,

then the return?

Ice taking the bare

tree? Crows

over a ballpark,

how they land

in the field one

after the other?



Like a game of freeze tag

You’re it!––a tap

on the back & your heart

stops, then a warm hand

on the shoulder means

you’re free––now run.

Four Poems

Carolina Ebeid was born in West New York, NJ.  Her recent  work appears in journals such as Gulf Coast, Fugue, Copper Nickel, Barn Owl Review, West Branch. She lives  in Austin, where she is a fellow at the Michener Center for Writers, and serves on the editorial board of the Bat City Review. She is at work on her her first poetry manuscript, which was a finalist for the Vassar Miller Prize 2011.