In Villefranche-sur-Mer

A Poem

By Nada Ahmed
© Keith Thompson

It took us breaths and silence
to climb up the stairway to the slender woods in Villefranche-sur-Mer
“we’re almost there,” he said. I steeped my feet in the pallid ocean,
he was homecoming and homesickness, a strain on the heart

though sometimes still I thought of all the things
I would be missing out on back home, the honeysuckle fragrance of houseplants
and incense burning. My landlord’s warm greetings
my boss’s smile in the morning
the goats rushing at my doorstep,
the cats climbing on my shoulders
food and love was all they asked for
all I had was food and love
my culture is food and love 

the desert mountains were my kind of harshness, I’d hike barefoot
endure the pain, release the frustrations of survival and political imperatives
(the world outside was not made for people like you and I)
the sun blazed at my hair, golden-tipped and unkempt
he received the fresh sea breeze like an African daisy would blossom
under the sunlight, owning to the simple pleasures in life
we’d sit on the jagged stones, with unease the lonely Bedouin’s sheep
followed, grazing the bronze fields
our lot of bread and dates wouldn’t be enough for all the heads
we shared it nonetheless

and here—however banned,
(like back in the Middle East)
near the loose-hanging vine trees we were in quest of intimacy
we felt the liquid human touch as if we swam inside one another
here in my new city up through the cement-shaded hills and the desperate huddles
did not abide by the current state of affairs
here the true plague is coldness; social-distancing is in their culture
(the world outside was not made for people like you and I).