Prayers on Our House Roof
We were boiling bananas on the roof of our house.
My mother’s laughter clutched the heart of my ears.
She was gossiping with her neighbor, knocking softly on my body with her delicious words.
Although my mother doesn’t know how to write, her telling is as sweet as poetry.
I loved to watch their tongues playing music that called a conversation.
My mother and her neighbor were working on their knees; their chests pumped gladly, their noses colored by the smoke.
For us boiling bananas equals praying
We murmur with verses, we sing with faces up
We live in our own paradise, making art through peeling bananas, slicing it into pieces of
heaven, boiling it on the fire, hoping for a kiss on a cheek from a bird, or an old hymn to bathe
the exhausted soul.
I was sitting on my mother’s hip, my special view overlooking the cavern of God
There, where i could spy on the kingdom of mercy,
I saw god cooking for children like me
Just like me and the only difference was that
They were dead, but i was still alive
Every time we boiled bananas, i watched god preparing the dinner table for the dead children
He was feeding them sweetly
I felt the warmth of their soup, i touched the magic of their setting
Every time I ran to my mother, crying in childish tones, saying that i saw god cooking for dead children.
My mother smiled and continued her talking with her neighbor
I yelled at my mother, but she smiled again.
Then, i kept watching and spying
God was making delicious food upstairs. One hundred children on their knees looked forward to
tasting the yummy dishes.
I was waving to them, smiling at them, but they didn’t notice me at all.
They were gathered around the God, in longing, in awe,
I have always wondered if god boiled bananas for the children like our mothers do for us.
And i imagined many times how delicious is it.
The smell of our rooftop carried a kind of hope.
Under my little bare feet, bananas peel and two bowls: one for us and the other one for the
hungry people in our neighborhood.
It became a habit since we heard of the
One hundred children who died of hunger, one hundred innocent souls vanished, disappeared, all
my folk said that, but i swore to them, i swore to my mother that i saw god cooking for the dead
children, but they said nothing, just kept smiling at me.
Amera Elwesef is a freelance writer based in Egypt. Her prolific output includes general interest articles, novels, short stories, songs, and, of course, poetry. Five of her books have been written in Arabic, and much of her English work has appeared in a great many cultural magazines. Her work has been translated into Spanish, Kurdish, Hindi, and Arabic.
Her poems have appeared in several print and online publications, including South Florida Poetry, Birmingham Arts Journal, Hawaii Review, The Meniscus, The Chiron Review, The Hunger, Writers Resist, and Right Now. She also has a poetry collection, For Those Who Don’t Know Chocolate (Poetic Justice Books & Arts, 2019), and a children’s book, The Cocoa Boy and Other Stories, published in February 2020.
She won the BBC prize for the best short story in 2013. Her poetry book was shortlisted in many international poetry festivals: Hombres Poetry Video 2019, Kanivfest Kaniv International Film Festival 2019, VI International Film Festival Golden Frame 2019, Ó Bhéal Poetry-Film, and the Blissfest333 International Film Festival.