This is inspired by my first love when I was about thirteen or fourteen years old, and I was in love with a young boy, a few years older than me in fact, who lived across the road from us. And you probably know, that in the Middle East, we have flat roofs, so in the summer you sleep on the roof under the stars, and this was very convenient for me of course, because I spent the whole summer watching him smoke.

Summer Roof

Every night that summer
when we went to bed on the flat roof,
I stayed awake
watching the opposite roof
where he was,
a tiny light turning on
every time he puffed his cigarette.

Once I was shown his paintings
and I went home
and wrote his name all over my books.

I kept imagining what he would say
how he would respond.
I imagined being married to him,
looking after him when he fell ill,
cooking for him, washing his hair.
I imagined sleeping on the same roof.

A whole year went by and we never talked
then suddenly an empty house opposite us,
an empty roof, not staring back
and sleepless nights for me.

Years later we met again
the same man with a few fingers missing,
bad tempered, not able to paint.

We never spoke
we remained on our separate roofs.

from Life for Us (Bloodaxe, 2004), © Choman Hardi 2004, used by permission of the author and the publisher.

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