If Amir was home, I wore pajamas in case I had to pee at two in the morning. More than once, more than a hundred times, I encountered a stranger in the night, in my own halls, some guy awkwardly zipping in a hurry or fumbling with his boxers, as I approached my own bathroom in search of relief. My roommate was alone for as long as I knew him, and often talked about love, but he had a fist tattooed on his forearm and an ink whip winding around the other, and he always went out on the prowl after studying. Sometimes his lovers’ leather boots were jumbled outside his room, while he and whoever banged away against his thin door like two cats at a Mixed Martial Arts competition. Sometimes when I found him stirring the broad beans for foule in the morning, Amir had burns from the poppers on his face or hands. He wasn’t daunted by the spook of HIV, and when it happened, it didn’t slow his hunger or change his sensibility one bit. He would just don chaps and chains and slink into the streets below, dragging home whatever scraps would find him. I don’t know if he found or used the condoms I left on the map of Egypt in his room. If I cared, what could I say? I had my own compulsions to contend with.
One night, stealing in, saturated in tequila with my own lost causes, I found the house dark but for flickering candles and the mournful timbre of Nina Simone’s “In the Dark.” I followed her low growl into the living room and saw Amir, slumped, catatonic, in a soiled undershirt and little else, his lenses sparking back a dozen tealight flames. When I leaned in with a warm hand and a murmur, he did not retreat. When I asked if he was okay, he took off his specs, polished them on the ribbed cotton of his wife beater, and bore into me with an agony I never did let go of. His other side, the scholar who ate books with the same hunger that he devoured men, the broken poet who would trail his finger along sacred lines of ancient Arabic script and weep at their beauty, crumbled to tears. “I’ve just never been able to reconcile my promiscuity with my faith,” he said. It was the only time he ever spoke about that particular intersection. For one split second, there was a silence in the world, then Nina’s voice caught, slipped, changed gears. Amir lit a cigarette, drew deep, exhaled. The kettle started keening in the kitchen behind us, and the moment was gone.
is an artist, writer, editor, and educator from Toronto, Canada. Her most recent book is Pretty Time Machine: Ekphrastic Prose Poems. She usually writes about art, whether in poetry, essays, or an ongoing column on Wine and Art at Good Food Revolution. Her prose and poems have been widely published in several hundred literary journals and a dozen anthologies, and her work has been twice nominated for Best of the Net and for the Pushcart Prize. Lorette is the founding editor of The Ekphrastic Review (established 2015), which is devoted exclusively to publishing poetry and prose inspired by visual art. She is also an internationally collected, award-winning visual artist.
Visit her at: www.mixedupmedia.ca
Artist’s column in Good Food Revolution:
Wine and Art
A Review of Pretty Time Machine: Ekphrastic Prose Poems
by Jenene Ravesloot (4 February 2020) on Facebook
Fresh Strawberries, an ekphrastic prose poem by Ms. Luzajic
in KYSO Flash (Issue 11, Spring 2019), nominated for Best of the Net and
the Pushcart Prize
Four poems and four collage artworks from Risk Being / Complicated: Poems
by Devon Balwit, Inspired by the Collage Art of Lorette C. Luzajic, reprinted
in KYSO Flash (Issue 12, Summer 2019):
I Have Loved You Since the World Began,
Place Me Like a Seal Over Your Heart
You Think You Know Me
You Walk By and I Fall to Pieces