BYUNG A. FALLGREN

Tarek Ghaddar grew up in Beirut, Lebanon. He attended the University of Miami for degrees in Biochemistry and English. He continued with a Master’s in Public Health at the Miller School of Medicine and is a first-year medical student at Florida Atlantic University. Trauma from war and his sister’s cancer led him to pick up a pen. His poetry has been published in Eclectica Literary Magazine, Mangrove Literary Journal, Prometheus Dreaming, the Emerson Review, GASHER, the American Poetry Journal, the South Florida Poetry Journal, and the Ghost City Review. He lives in Boca Raton, Florida.



THE WOMAN AT THE FROZEN CREEK


Your image stirs, washing a GI’s uniform at the frozen creek, ​ your hands scarlet-red, your face, a sunflower, turned to bronze statue in the howling wind. ​ To feed your hungry children, to help support Husband with a mouse-tail-sized salary, in the time of war-ravaged recovery. ​ When no food to cook, you said, you boiled water. ​ Whenever I see a frozen creek, I think of you, Mother, laundering the uniforms of American soldiers who paid you ​ bread, candy bars and chocolate, for the money was spent on beer and women or sent home to stateside. While I lived far away land, your other daughters and a granddaughter provided you with love as ​ the only thing I gave you the worries. ​ Weathered and fragile, you fell from the bus on the way to the temple, to pray for me. To pray for me. ​ Your years were meant to flow then. ​ You died, praying for me. For me to pray. ​ Whenever I think of you at the creek, ​ washing the soldiers’ uniforms, ​ I plunge into the icy stream and warm the water for you, with my hot tears. With my blood tears. ​ You are the springtime of earth; green sprouts beneath the ice. I learn of you more often ​ as I age blue and deep.


THE JOY OF OUR LIVES


Reds must’ve abducted him, my mother used to say of her big brother, dabbing at her eyes. Before the separation of the peninsula, they kidnapped many smart people to the north to build a super power nation. My brother was an educator, tall with golden-tanned skin. She sobbed. We must unite! ​ Her brother only a few miles away from her rural home over the high mountain across the river. By then the siblings had long since gone. Bitter smile on the cousin’s face echoed mine. ​ Now that we enjoy all the modern amenities, our eyes still wet with yearning to find our lost relatives, over the barbed wire. The policy, like air in a balloon, their constant war-threat, secret weapons test. ​ I hear her voice, What happened to our brotherhood? What is above the joy of our lives? Learn the mountain and ocean, their wisdom. ​ Her ghost vanishes, words flying in wind.



AT THE EMPTY HOMESTEAD


Hoarse call of the loon echoes through the veil of the moon, stirs the grey images of slumbering tents. Some chat of the memories of the aunt’s departure; of the uncle gone too soon; of the dwelling up in flame on the insane summer night. ​ Too much for the cattails in the moat to bear alone, so tonight, everyone chases ghosts in their sleep. ​ The loon’s call has long since ceased; couple of stars romance in the tree; at the moat, he mutters monologue, comes back to the tent and sobs. Night deepens with somber remembrance of the river paused. ​ Come golden morning. They gather, chatter; occasional twister of wind, rise and fall; pain; strain. ​ Laughter echoes in the remote homestead, bridge of the kindred spirit sneaks in the hearts, ​ the loon calling from the lake in the morning fog.