Scoundrel Time

You have a DNA match!

“Each match holds a different part of your story. Compare aspects like ethnicity, common ancestors, and communities to start assembling your family’s bigger picture.”

Overnight in my inbox they arrive
stacked like layers of history,
from Rochester, Cairo, Ottawa,
and other places I never imagined,
to ask me what I want to remember. 

I remember we were like the fig trees
someone planted, that no one wanted.
Under stone fields, the clay earth
burned our feet. Where each stone ended
the Mediterranean sand burnt our feet.  

We congregated like family,
smoking and slapping tawla tiles,
because there was always time
for that. After rice-milk ladled
for breakfast, we rolled grape leaves,
as if there was time,
as if we belonged. 

Here where it will soon be light
again, I sit surrounded by cold fields.
Outside, a clear eye of water,
surrounded by stones. And behind
the brick row-houses along the Melford Road,
sheets hang to dry like in the old country,
though after rain.

When under different stars
we divided into what we each intended,
on separate maps we found
what we thought we were after:
the memory of sand that burned our feet
while tiles slapped nearby, 

or meadows cool to the touch
that smell like rain
and the pleasure of arriving home
through woods, alone at a cold eye of water.  

And the world between us
wider than any map we could have ever imagined,
filled with something burning that split us
in two, then four, then hundreds.


Born and raised in Cairo, Egypt, Victor Basta emigrated to the United States with his parents when he was eight. Now based between NY and England, he works a ‘day job’ helping African companies raise money from international investors.  He began writing poetry in 2019, and has  been published in the Euphony Journal, the Spoon River Poetry Review, the Cumberland River Review, and featured in the Grub Street Annual Review (2021) and by Indolent Books among others. He is currently an MFA candidate in poetry at Warren Wilson College, graduating in 2024.


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