Tags » Things Green

 
 
 

Hear that sound?

Categories: NER Digital

Things Green | By Shara Lessley

Shara Lessley at Petra

I saw the usual spray of buildings, streetlamps buzzing. As the plane descended, I also saw pinpricks of green. Tucked into peaks and hills, into flatter stretches I guessed were desert. Lodged in the Middle Eastern capital itself: green and green and green. Like fish scales. Or small sequins. Green that seemed to say, welcome. Green scattered across a country I assumed to be entirely sand and brown and taupe.

*

Spring, Al Fuheis: my husband and I, parked on a dirt road above the wadi. Bedouins. Grazing sheep. I am five months pregnant; the valley, sprawling green.

*

Crayola would’ve called it yellow-green—the surgical theater where my son was born—its walls bright as a safety vest or cat’s eyes at night. Farah Hospital: one September morning, Chaske Clayton comes. Into light. Into our lives. Into a room the color of goose-droppings. Chartreuse, the French say; who knows its Arabic equivalent.

*

His birth certificate—my American son—in Arabic: stamped with the colors of the Jordanian flag—red and white, black and green.

*

Green, I was taught means envy. Green means unripe fruit. To be green is to lack experience. Will my son share my appetite for avocado? Will Chaske inherit my father’s green thumb?

*

Amman’s rainfall is one for the records. Water flooding the curbs. Power outages for blocks. Water falling and falling across water-starved Jordan. Afternoons, I hold my almost-five-month-old up to the balcony window. (Each day we count and name the trees.) Look, I say, it’s raining. See what’s dripping from the palm fronds? Hear that sound, baby?—it’s rain

*

Then: something new, something strange. I strain to see what it is and it’s true: there, across the street—in the place we call “the dirt park” not as a means of derision, but description—little shoots, green, growing (almost overnight it seems) into strands, then tufts. Patches, at first, and now an entire plot; enclosing the playground: green.

*

! حلوالأخضر التين

translation: the green fig is sweet!

meaning: ah, the wild figs of Jordan—what, in this world, is as sweet?

*

Today, a break in the weather. Egyptian boys playing something like soccer between the teeter-totter and swings. One takes off his shoes and wades into a calf-high puddle to retrieve the ball; his friends stamp barefoot through the nearby green.

*

One day, far from the Hashemite Kingdom, my son will be old enough to speak.

What has become of the women and children?

What has become of the young and old men?

And I will remember Saturday picnics along King’s Highway, a family crowding beneath a single oak, passing 7Up and bags of pistachios as trucks and cars speed past. How my Arabic teacher once said that when the outcast prophet returned to the desert city, he instructed his army to harm not a single leaf on the trees.

 

*

NER Digital is a creative writing series for the web. Shara Lessley, a former Wallace Stegner Fellow in Poetry, is the author of Two-Headed Nightingale (New Issues). Her essays and poems have appeared in The Southern Review, Ploughshares, The Cincinnati Review, and The Missouri Review, among others. Shara currently lives in the Middle East and teaches at Stanford University via its Online Writer’s Studio.