Scoundrel Time

The Aayrouni Olives Always Grow Best

Was it the bomb or the daughter
that came first? The vow
and a promise to fig trees

and ripe lemons, brown pools
of sugared dates, my father’s eyes
burned with memories of air raids.

A ceasefire buried in sumac
and honey. I grieve for something
I haven’t lost. Our family’s story

runs wildly in my mind.
When the olives burned, my father
said you could hear them moan.

The smell of burnt green
flesh, the way Aayrouni ruptures
in one loud scream. Will I grow

to love the bitter taste of Aayrouni,
and learn to carry glass jars of oil
as bounty for safe passage

and a turned eye at the Israeli checkpoint.
The oil is as thick as blood.
Will I remember the right

Shami words to be allowed through
without a bullet in my chest?
The Aayrouni grew best in

the north of Lebanon;
here, in the South,
a voice reminds me

that the soldiers would crave
the green flesh and salty souls
like the land they want.

One jar might help turn their glance.
Three might make them hungry
for more than I could give.

The ancient olives burned
near to extinction
by the Israeli Army.

How quickly it burned.
If I do not know the faces, will the
olives keep me safe?

What will be left of this year’s harvest?
Was it the daughter
or the bomb that came first?


Ari L. Mokdad is a Detroit-born poet, choreographer, dancer, educator, and interdisciplinary artist. She received three Bachelor of Arts degrees from Grand Valley State University in Dance, English, and Writing. Ari received an MA from Wayne State University and an MFA from Warren Wilson College. She lives with her partner in Northern Michigan on the ancestral and unceded land of the Ojibwe, Odawa, and Pottawatomie people, The People of the Three Fires.


Image By:,_Corfu,_September_2005.jpg