Afternoon Baklava

In a cobblestone town in the Bekaa Valley,
my brothers and Babba feed us 
a feast of Lebanese cuisine. 

Shukran, you say with a Canadian accent
I wonder if you feel the outsider, 
the one with a different surname 
and golden hair, emerald eyes. 

I fell in love with those eyes in my family’s restaurant
where I served you arak and Mama’s hummus, 
stuffed grape leaves, kibbeh nayeh.
A visiting professor in the Middle East.

Days later, we kissed in the olive grove,
your emerald eyes lighting up in the fading sunset. 
We danced together, 
our shadows touching ancient branches. 

Mama loved you like a son.
But before our marriage, she made a request:
keep your maiden name, remember your roots, habibti. 
I loved you even more when you nodded and 
said anything for Mama 
as she made baklava for our wedding day.  

You kissed me at the altar 
until I was as open as the olive trees 
I left for maples and snow a year later. 

I prayed in another country,
far from the vibrant red-roofed house I grew up in,
where Mama lay dying in her room. 

After we visit her grave,
jasmine petals float from my hands to the earth,
forming a path to guide Mama back home 
if only for a little while to chat and laugh 
over her soul-soothing food and baklava.

© Sonia Saikaley