October 19, 2018 Poetry , POETRY / FICTION

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Rooja Mohassessy




“This used to be the sea. One day we looked out, we couldn’t see the sea”



The mountain began disappearing in truckloads.

It was erected during the civil war:

axiomatic proof that wars do not cause dearth,

but excess, not exactly abundance, but sufficient dirt

to add a mountain to the earth.


And we called it Borj Hammoud Mountain—

A soft yawn of sentient slumber that knew

our city’s intimate rhythms, our rapacious appetite and

our daily cleansing rituals—the shedding of leftover errors

and facts as unbecoming as half-formed contaminated

children and mangled steel.


It crawled with long snakes and our meek

beliefs in the Samaritan gestures which all in

good time, were to pile up and absolve

the city of dross. And refrigerators,

so many refrigerators that could no

longer preserve our dewy dreams but refused

to thaw into the thin air of our expectations.


And we carried on at the seaside, encased in

our whitewashed Mediterranean walls adorned

with azure tiles, fortified illusions that couldn’t keep

the strident stench out. It rammed itself into rooms,

It had no need to ooze beneath doors into basements,

it appeared through sheer will. While we waited patiently

for a change in the direction of toxic wind, we taught

the children how to inhale death in small sips.


Borj Hammoud Mountain—our communal black hole of nondescript

inequity, topped with dirt, a cat half covering her dump—innocent enough.


Then the mountain began disappearing.

A procession of trucks glowing with heavy metal,

radioactive green, and microplastic, teeming with sluggish

bacteria and dripping thin juice, passed our doors, accompanied

daily by a faithful flock of seagulls, until the mountain was expunged

(though the rats remained like loyal pets) and we had reclaimed our natural land.


Then on one numbered day, our fishermen returned with mad talk

of scaled creatures floating on the sea like slaughter,

of fetid screams that bubbled in pain and refused to lie down on their sides.


And one unconscionable morning, we gazed out the window

to find we had shoved the sea out of our way.




(Title quoted by Arpi Kruzian in “No End to Crisis in Sight as Lebanon’s Garbage Mountains Grow” by Ellen Francis. Reuters, February 4, 2018)









She tucked the Downy-scented shirt

into his pants, rolled up the long cuffs—

You’ll grow into it.

She tied his boot laces, his pink fingers

not yet deft enough for the bunny bow—

two loops…cross the bunny ears…pass one

through…now pull


The trigger set at rabid hyperburst defers the

recoil impulse and significantly augments

the hit probability in cases requiring

a wide-scale quick kill.


He slept best on his tummy.

On his back, he glowed

in the dark like baby Jesus, always sentient,

pulling at the folds of his belly fat, blessing

mother as she stopped by every night

and hung over the crib, his breath rising

and falling on her ears like praise.


The weapon is also equipped with the red

light-emitting diode which supplies the aimpoint.

An illuminated dot on rapidly shifting blood

guarantees accuracy irrespective of eye position or skill.


At three he would not wean.

Respect his need, read the section in

the booklet on child-led gentle weaning,

and so they played hide and seek

with mama’s breast—dressed up

as magician, he’d conjure out

her softness from behind

the silk veil of her blouse.


The projectile ejects with muzzle

velocity more virile than sound.

The feral ripping of some membranes

and the permanent crushed cavity created

as the soft tissue is forced away into

a massive keyhole wound

may be recorded as collateral

damage or death fulfilled.


Once outside catches up with him, it will offer

him grownup toys. He will step into the

oversized world, eager to pick a team

and play a game. He will try so quick

to grow and fill it, just like he had inside

mama’s belly.


He will take every rot

out of Pandora’s box into his mouth

and suck for the honey of her breast.

Outside will feed him fillers in

her name, replace her sweetness

on his tongue with the grease of god,

and rich dreams. Stuffed with freedom,

he will toddle on his own, eyes gaping-open

to the slaughter. His smile will shine so bright

even then— a man never forgets how to love.






Rooja Mohassessy

Rooja Mohassessy is an Iranian-American living in Northern California. She is currently taking a break from her job as a high school English and drama teacher to pursue an MFA in poetry. 

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