-- for Yaseen Nabeel
On Fridays, the Muslim women wept. Lavish tears in the swirling shapes of black abayas, these plunging arabesques of sadness and want fell to the dry earth and saturated the empty clay streets of Damascus.
On Saturdays, the Jewish women took their turn, expelling their doubt and regret in aqueous beads one after the next, puddling the ancient avenues from St. Paul's to Saladin's Tomb.
On Sundays, the Christian women's terrific hopelessness and sense that all had gone irremediably wrong welled up and expended itself in gigantic cruciform tears filling the plazas and coating the travertine patios, till some of the devout began to question whether it would, in fact, be fire next time.
But Monday mornings the streets of Damascus were solemn and quiet and all that could be heard was the soft slicing of the atheists' ice skate blades as they zipped across the vast rink of chilled sadness that had formed overnight -- that and of course their whistling, sibilant and tuneful, as if every empty block through which they axeled and lutzed were a graveyard.
A Pushcart Prize nominee and the winner of the 2007 Harriette Arnow Award for short fiction, Damian Dressick teaches creative writing and literature at Robert Morris University and is the founding curator of Pittsburgh's UPWords Reading Series. His work has appeared or is slated to appear in more than 25 literary journals, including failbetter.com, New Delta Review, McSweeney's (online) and Gargoyle. He lives in Stanton Heights. Many writers featured in Chapter & Verse are guests of Prosody, produced by Jan Beatty and Ellen Wadey. Prosody airs Tuesdays at 7 p.m. on independent radio, WYEP 91.3 FM.