ADELAIDE Independent Monthly Literary Magazine / Revista Literária Independente Mensal, New York / Lisboa, Online Edition  







by Timothy Robbins 



Morooj and Hanan

I almost wake up. Almost miss my bonus dream:
Morooj and Hanan coming from the halal sex shop
just opened in holy Mecca. Morooj with her skater’s
slouch, covered with a baseball cap. (She
once came to my class uncovered — her dense
black brush, the plushest I’ve ever seen.)
Morooj in blue jeans and Converse high-tops.
Hanan, formed and draped like a living altar.
As cool and shaded as Nickels Arcade. Jewels
glowing candle-warm. A sky-blue hijab framing
her sly smile. A long pleated skirt flowing from
fruitful hips. Her slippered feet as she glides to
the car peep from the hem, ancient with purpose.
Morooj slides behind the wheel. Hanan cradles the
scented candles in her lap. Waking, I think of Michigan
Snow and Saudi Sand. Woman and Man. Christian
and Muslim. Sunni and Shia. Lipstick and Butch.
If opposites attract it’s because no two lovers are
wholly opposite. Even the most are only a little.
I first wondered if they were lovers when
the school tried to separate their classes and
they pleaded to stay together. It became
clear when I learned Hanan was divorced (the
only divorced Saudi I ever met) and they lived
with her ten-year-old son and never wanted to go
back to Saihat. We started meeting before school,
me coming out of Dave’s little grocery, them sitting
at a table outside the pizzeria, aiming their
cigarette smoke at heaven. These meetings outlasted
thaw and freeze of the Arab Spring. Much remained
unanswered. How did they meet? Was it online? Was it
two years before they knew each other’s names? Did
Morooj and the boy skate-board together?
Why didn’t he live with his father? Our knowledge
of each other was like a festive meal — delicious
and nourishing — but in the context of a life, what is
a single meal? Even the meal at the close of Ramadan,
a wedding’s consummation, the last repast before a
state executes us for our otherwise unstoppable love.
I got an email from Hanan this morning. She’s at
the University of Central Oklahoma. Morooj is
working. Rashed graduates from high school in May.
I think about Lesbians in Arabia and Arabs in the Sooner
State. I have this bonus dream. To be there when he
graduates, to give them each a fierce protector whose
ears are always cocked.






Lullabies are unhappy
in the gray mother’s mouth.
They squirm and complain
like the infants in her care.

By noon, the blue mother’s
milk has soured in the
unplugged refrigerators of
her breasts. She drinks
some herself, hoping for
food poisoning.

The blue and gray bear
mentioning as much as the
transparent mother
with her church-lovely voice
and lyricism that pervades
like the void.






It doesn’t matter if I flush that
seven hundred down the drain,
down my vein, into a publishing
scheme the financing of which
I’d rather not explain. I’m
53 and time limps away faster
than money. 

Mom and I and our phlebotomists
know searching for poems
and searching for love is like
searching for a vein —
sometimes as natural as diving
into a river, sometimes like
digging a well.

Last night’s pill is on my
tongue. Last night’s pill is
still on my tongue.
Last night’s pill is still still
on my tongue. I sucked
yesterday’s kisses into my lungs.
An  idiot child, I thought I
could keep them there like
the kid who kept fireflies in
a mayonnaise jar with just
so much air. (He’d seen the
dragonfly in his uncle’s
paperweight, flaunting its
wingspan, never tiring,
persisting without a care.)





Susan Smith

Bootleg baptism, bathtub
gin, 5 parts barley, 5 parts
kin (my troublesome kids
to be precise).

The prohibition on the rite
stands alone in my head.

The lake is a magnet. The
basket is woven from
metal, not bulrush. The
basket is a bull grinding
its tires in mud. Death is
a matador flourishing a
red cape. The cape is
sunrise warming up the

The bull is a sedan-size
The juggernaut is a
bubble two boys can’t burst
to save their guts. The
bubble is an aquarium.
Those two frightened faces
are swollen guppies.  





Ferguson Academy, Good Friday

The thing about nondestructive testing is:
Does it work on humans? Does it work on
children and other natural wonders? Does it
work on the Marvelous? Say, the Miracle of
the Darkroom? Her womb was a darkroom.
The darkroom was her first refuge. Gently
pulling prints through the bath, she felt the
melting together of emergence and cleansing.
She felt and struggled to accept the needfulness
of darkness in the photographic process. 
Women like her stooping and laughing in an
urban garden, infants in cribs and toddlers
curled on floor mats like cinnamon rolls on a
baking tray — these images allayed her fears.
Imagine her dismay when other images appeared,
faces just below the surface of a hateful baptism.
While children of the rich are dressed up and
dragged to church to gawk at suffering,
a reporter’s microphone is thrust at an anguished
stammering face in an oval of light. (It’s hard
to believe this black is mere night.) Male hands
like collars wrap around female necks. Police
uproot young mothers like weeds from a grave.
Centurions shackle the madonnas’ wrists and
load them into screaming patrol cars. The
power is cut. Doors are sealed. Two days later
in every room, now darkrooms all, pictures that
haven’t been shot develop ex nihilo. All we see
of the reporter is her microphone moving in
and out of the oval of light, approaching to
gather the mother’s answers, withdrawing to
collect clarifying suspicions. “He clamped his
hands around my neck He tried to break my phone.”
It was a battle of sound and sight. To steal the
voices, the graven images. Sound against sound —
sirens to stifle chanters who thrust fingers in their
ears. She sat down on the pavement, her wrists
cuffed behind, her belly swollen with master-
pieces. More Madonnas than Raphael painted.
Innumerable Pietas: dead schools, dead ambitions
draped languidly across her thighs. Black marble
beauties these lines only dream of.





About the Author:

Timothy Robbins teaches ESL and does freelance translation in Wisconsin. He has a BA in French and an MA in Applied Linguistics from Indiana University. He has been a regular contributor to “Hanging Loose” since 1978. His poems have also appeared in Adelaide Literary Magazine, Three New Poets, The James White Review, Slant, Main Street Rag, Two Thirds North, The Pinyon Review, Wisconsin Review, and others.











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