Friday, August 19, 2022

Wild Fox of Yemen

Here in August, during the Sealey Challenge, I love the immersion in lives, languages, and cultures not my own. In this book, The Wild Fox of Yemen, by Threa Almontaser (Graywolf Press, 2021), I also loved tracking the wild fox, its brief appearances, its changing meanings...and, as keeps happening, tracking the coincidences--how the books or images in them keep connecting, or how my mind is doing that. I encountered the Tooth Fairy in the nonfiction book, The Tales Teeth Tell, but I was surprised to find her here, in the very first poem, "Hunting Girliness," "It is not tasteful / to fuck with the Tooth Fairy, baby teeth planted // in the oleanders." (And I just made the connection that she is "hunting" girliness, like a fox!)

Teeth again, and precise dental terminology, in "Recognized Language," "Now the words shed from my mouth like deciduous teeth." 

Here is the wild fox in "Heritage Emissary":

                                    At dinner,
     Baba tells a story of his childhood in Yemen.

     About catching a wild fox with his cousin---Arabic
     the medium through which his body can return home.

But imagine my surprise at the coincidence of sharks in the next poem: "In Yemen, I loved sharking / the tall mountains, twining my hair w/ hawk bones." And the coincidence of hair: "I refused to straighten." I loved learning, from "Etymology of Hair," that "The etymology of hair // is nest, from the Arabic..." I might have expected the connection of Arabic coffee in Wild Fox and Hard Damage, but I could never have guessed I'd be able to connect "Kalda the goat herder" in Almontaser's "Coffee Arabica as a Malestrom of Endless Aftershocks" with Peter the goat herder in Heidi, which I am accidentally re-reading prior to adding to the Little Free Library in front of my house. (And the grandmamma in the city sends coffee to the grandmother on the mountain!)

So many wonderful lines: "I plant our spangled plotlines in tin canisters, tempt a flower to rocket out, offering myself as witness." (From "Guide to Gardening Your Roots.") And "I imagine Allah as ever-shiting. As light / that keeps dazzling." (From "Operation Restoring Hope.") And the fox turns up again in "After Running Away from Another Marriage Proposal": "The fox stands heavy over my heart, watching the vast, empty valley, bronzed by the yellow moon."

I'll leave you with that, the yellow moon.

No comments: