Desert Storms

I got out of jail the day that my grandmother died.

Reader, this is no metaphor.

It was January 19, 1991, a Saturday morning. Dim light filtered through plate glass into the lobby of the Zone 1 Police Station. This was Pittsburgh, city of three hundred sunless days a year. Pittsburghers should have as many words for gray skies as the old Eurocentric linguists claimed the Inuit had for snow. Ash, charcoal, dove. Gunmetal, iron, mouse. Pearl, platinum, silver. Slate, smoke, stone. To my tired eyes the sky was a television gray, as if I’d woken after an uneasy night on the couch to the blur of a black and white movie.

I could have been in any public waiting room with a scattering of lost souls dozing in hard plastic seats. I hobbled toward the pay phones. The cops had confiscated the laces of my red leather boots as a precaution against me hanging myself, and hadn’t given them back when they released me.

The rest of my possessions were in a manila envelope with my name, Laila Corey, in block letters on the front. House keys, photo ID, tissues, quarters for the phone, and a twenty-dollar bill folded into a prissy little square. No credit cards or jewelry, no wedding band or watch. Except for the mistake about the boots, I’d come prepared.

I was walking slowly, as if trapped in a bad dream. I should have taken the damn boots off, but it was the middle of winter, and it seemed a point of pride to keep them on.

After making me hand over the laces, one of the women cops—tall and gawky with a corona of blond frizz, like a mean Big Bird—had ordered me to remove the boots and shake them out. In nine arrests for civil disobedience, this never had happened to me before. The twenty, which I’d stashed in the toe of the right boot, had fallen to the filthy floor.

“That’s the way the hos do it,” Big Bird had said with a smirk.

“I beg your pardon?” The phrase was out of my mouth before I realized that I’d stolen it from a column by “Miss Manners,” who described it as the all-purpose response to a rude remark. I knew what Big Bird was talking about. I’d seen working girls take folded bills out of their shoes every time that I’d been in jail.

“The hos. That’s how they try to hide their money.” Big Bird and the other cops had laughed harshly as I stooped to pick up the bill and hand it over.

Eleanor Roosevelt said: No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. I don’t think Mrs. Roosevelt ever spent the night in jail. Miss Manners either.

When I finally reached the pay phones, I stuffed everything from the manila envelope into my pockets except the quarters. I punched in my home number, feeling gratitude for this commonplace freedom. My husband, Sean, wasn’t at home—he was supposed be in Harrisburg for an environmental law conference until the following Tuesday—but we’d just gotten an answering machine, the last holdouts among our friends and family. This delay was completely due to my Luddite tendencies, Sean said, because I refused to understand why not being home was no longer a legitimate reason for missing a phone call. That day, I was happy we had the machine. I’d been incommunicado for twenty-four hours, and it felt like a week.

There were eight beeps when I punched in the retrieval code. Two days earlier, Sean had persuaded me to record over my original message: “This is 363-4720. Please leave your name and number after the tone, and remember—Operation Desert Storm is an immoral operation that will wreak destruction on millions of innocent people. It must be opposed. Thank you, and have a peaceful day.”

Sean had argued that an answering machine wasn’t the proper venue for this statement. Most of the people who called our number were aware of my political views, he said, and the others weren’t likely to be persuaded. He’d convinced me to change the message only by asserting that it trivialized something serious—as if I’d intoned, “God is dead. If you have anything to say that tops that, leave a message after the beep.”

The first message on the answering machine was from Sean. “Hi, Laila. Just calling to make sure you got home. Don’t forget to take out the garbage.”

The second message was from my dentist’s office, reminding me that I had an appointment to have my teeth cleaned on Wednesday.

The third message was a recording, a voice on speed calling to inform me that I might be the lucky winner of a Caribbean cruise! I clenched the receiver as it babbled, tape-to-tape.

The fourth message nearly knocked my laceless boots off. “Lolly.” A childhood nickname I despised. I never allowed anyone to use it, with the exception of blood relatives too stubborn to change their ways. “It’s Dad.” He hadn’t phoned me in two years, but I recognized the voice, all right. For a lunatic moment I thought he was calling to offer moral support for my arrest, but after clearing his throat he resumed, “I’m calling with some bad news, I’m afraid.” (Oh shit, what now?) “Your Sitti Laila died early this morning.”

Before I could stop myself, I hung up the phone. Sitti Laila was dead? My grandmother had been at death’s door so many times that the mat said, “Ahlan wa-sahalan, Laila”—a big Arabic welcome—but she’d always managed to rally. Her heart was in fibrillation, her hearing and vision were shot, and she needed a chair lift to get to her bedroom. However, as she reminded visitors who came to bow before the throne of her wheelchair, “I still have my brain.” When U.S. bombs had started falling on Iraq, I’d pictured Sitti Laila hooked up to CNN as if to an IV line, her headset blaring, the magnifying lens on her television blurring the images of war to a fight in a fish tank. I’d imagined that she was enjoying herself thoroughly, dictating a letter to President Bush through my father’s saintly sister, Auntie May, telling the President how misguided he was.

I thought of all the news Sitti Laila would miss, including the account of my latest civil disobedience. Sitti relished rebellion in all forms, despite her idiosyncratic Republican conservatism. “Well, still water run deep,” she had said the first time I’d gotten arrested, for protesting U.S. policy in Nicaragua. Still water, not still waters. In her indelible accent, Lebanese Arabic overlaid with a soupçon of French. I think that she respected me a little more after that.

I coughed hard enough to bring tears to my eyes, dialed home again, and listened to the rest of the messages. Daddy’s voice said that Sitti’s funeral would be on Tuesday, and that he and Mother would be flying up from Orlando to Bullhead that night.

The Village of Bullhead (the nickname Northern folks have for the bewhiskered, bottom-feeding catfish) sounds exactly like what it is—the frozen armpit of New York State. Sean often said that an hour spent in Bullhead was as long as a day spent in a town that had traffic lights. That wasn’t fair. Bullhead has a traffic light.

The other messages were from my brothers and sisters. I have two of each, and they called in birth order. My older brother, Alex, even more solemn than my father: “Laila, did you hear from Dad? Please give me a call.” Sammi, two years younger than I am, sounding as if she was either giggling or sobbing: “Leil, are you there? Leil? Oh screw it—I just dropped my ashtray. Later.” Neena, Sammi’s fraternal twin, born seven minutes after Sammi: “Laila. Something important has happened, but I can’t talk about it in a message. Give me a call the minute you get home.” Peter, the baby, in his sarcastic drawl: “I suppose you know what’s going on, Laila, but if you really want to talk about it, I’m here.”

One big unhappy family. I hung up the phone.

“Laila?” It was Sara, my friend from the protest. I’d forgotten that she was with me. “Is everything OK?” She put a hand with chipped black fingernails on my arm. Sara was a graduate student in philosophy, but she looked like a cross between a punk rocker and a silent film star. A night in jail had intensified the pallor of her skin and dulled the purple streaks in her hair. I had never seen her without her leather jacket, a lethal object with zippers and chains. The cops hadn’t laid a finger on it.

Sara and I were the oldest of the group who’d gotten arrested—four men and four women, like an old-fashioned dinner party. She was thirty, and I was thirty-three. L’age du Christ. The others were college kids, who’d been released a few hours before us and who’d disappeared, along with the tent city that had sprung up in the lobby the previous night.

The students called themselves Operation Desert Rose. About twenty supporters had brought in roses and candles, blankets and placards. A guitarist in tie-dyed long johns had led the group in a sweet, strong soprano voice. “Give Peace A Chance.” That the cops allowed this inside the station had surprised me—they were being tougher on us protestors than usual, because we had gone on protesting after the war or operation or what the hell had started. American logic. As the cops herded us past the tent city, I’d felt nostalgia for a time I hadn’t really known. I was too young to have participated in the Vietnam-era protests these kids were emulating. I’d flashed a peace sign, feeling awkward and embarrassed for the first time that day. The righteous adrenalin that had carried me through the arrest was flagging, and the bad time was beginning.

Now I was at the end of an emotional spiral. Sara gave me a concerned look and handed me a wilted white rose, the kind you see jammed in plastic tubs on street corners, the sole reminder of the tent city. I took it, feeling sour that Operation Desert Rose hadn’t waited for us. Maybe the cops had decided to chase them out.

“My father left a message. My grandmother died,” I said.

“Oh Laila, I’m sorry! Were you close?” Sara said.

“I wouldn’t say that. But I think I was beginning to understand her.”

Sara kept her consoling hand on my arm, giving it a squeeze. “Want to go out for breakfast? Or would you just like to take a cab home?”

“A cab home. I’ve got enough cash.”

“Remember to tell them that you have the money, or they won’t show up here.”

I phoned Yellow Cab and told the dispatcher that I was at the Zone 1 Police Station, and that I needed a cab to Shadyside, and not to worry; I had the money.

As Sara and I waited for our ride, I noticed that one of the people in the plastic chairs was Nia, a woman we’d met the night before. It had been a busy Friday night at the station. When we were shoved in the women’s lockup there was no room inside the cells, so we had to sprawl in the narrow concrete corridor, behind the barred iron door that led to the reception area. The atmosphere was tense. One paunchy woman with eyes that were both bloodshot and jaundiced paced her cell, muttering to herself. Two other women gossiped in resentful whispers. They were friends—or colleagues—dressed in identical black leather miniskirts and white fake-fur jackets, with glassy, wig-straight hair.

“There’s that bald-headed bitch from Station 3,” the squat one said, jerking a forefinger with a long gold nail at a policewoman beyond the bars. The policewoman had the rolling gait you see in a lot of cops, the product of bravado and big shoes.

“The bitch is bald. And she got pigmentation,” said her stringy friend. I knew that was an insulting reference to the irregular brown patches on the policewoman’s face.

“Damn straight. I hate that bald-headed bitch.”

“What you all in for?” asked the woman with the jaundiced eyes, staring at me. Her fingers clenched the bars of her cell. Dark fingers, cracked white palms.

“Protesting the Gulf War. Operation Desert Storm,” I answered.

“Shit.” The jaundiced woman gave a laugh, thick with phlegm. “You all wanna know what’s wrong with this country? I can tell you what’s wrong with this country. Spending money on weapons, and wars, when people got no jobs and children go hungry. Killing foreigners that never did nothing to us. Same old story. Viet-naam, I-raaq, same old story.

“And I’m sick of it! Sick of all the lies and stupidity. Sick! I’m sick!” The woman was shrieking. “I’m sick, I tell you! Somebody better come and get me the hell out of here. Get me out! Get me the fuck out!” She shook her bars, and then struck her head against them, opening a gash in her forehead.

The force of the woman’s screams backed me up against the wall, although she made no move toward me, and there was no way she could have grabbed me. The big barred door flew open, and two cops—one male, one female—rushed in, yelling for those of us in the corridor to get out of the way.

“Quiet down, now! We’re taking you over to County,” the woman cop—it was Big Bird—said.

“Get me out of here!”

“We’re taking you to County, now shut up and settle down!”

The prophet collapsed onto her metal bunk as if she’d been pushed. Big Bird unlocked the door of the cell.

“Christ, there’s blood,” Big Bird said, fear mingling with disgust in her voice. She pulled a pair of latex gloves from her back pocket and snapped them on. The male cop did the same. I thought of AIDS, of hepatitis, of as yet-unnamed viruses that thrived in jails as he went inside, dragged the woman to her feet, and cuffed her hands behind her back in one quick motion.

“I’m sick,” she muttered.

“We’re taking you over to County,” Big Bird repeated. The crisis over, her voice dropped to a register that was almost soothing.

She and the male cop, pushing the woman from behind, guided her out of the corridor and through the outside door, where they disappeared from view.

“County—that’s where they take the crazies,” the stringy woman announced.

“Damn straight,” her squat friend replied. Despite their jaded masks of makeup, I could see that they were shaken.

“Christ,” said Sara, into my ear. “What that woman knows.”

“What she had to go crazy to tell,” I whispered back.

I turned my attention to the two college girls who had gotten arrested with us—who were pressed flat against the wall and staring like gigged frogs. It was their first arrest, and the sketchy list of dos and don’ts they’d been given during a brief training session hadn’t covered this scenario.

“Hey, it’s OK,” I said. “It’s OK now.” My words sounded feeble even to myself. I patted the arm of the skinny brunette who looked about thirteen. She gave me a ghost of a grin.

The other student, a sweet-faced blonde, clutched the iron bars of the door that separated us from the cops as if she might faint without their support. She cried out to use the phone. We’d warned the students that they might not get a chance to make a phone call for hours, if at all, but in her distress the girl had forgotten that lesson.

The “bald-headed bitch from Station 3” swaggered to the other side of the door. “You all shut up!” she said, and walked away.

“Who do you want to call?” I asked.

“My mother,” the student—her name was Melinda or Melissa—said.

“That’s not a great idea,” said Sara, moving toward the girl.

“But I need to tell my Mom that I’m in jail. That I’m—” she broke down, sobbing. Sara put her arms around her.

Sara reminded Melinda/Melissa that she was with friends, that she would be released by morning, that it would only upset her mother without reason if she called her now.

“Please listen to me. I’ve been arrested before,” Sara said. She sounded like the professor she soon would be—reasonable, logical. I had a brief hallucination of her in a tweed suit and bun. Sensible shoes. If Doc Martens are sensible.

“Do you see why calling your Mom right now isn’t a good idea?” she repeated, smiling gently at Melinda/Melissa.

“Yeah,” Melinda/Melissa replied, wiping her eyes. She curled up on the concrete floor and promptly fell asleep, her head in her brunette friend’s lap.

It was then that Nia—less than five feet tall in purple overalls—had come in, changing the mood completely. “Girlfriends,” she said, “what is all this shit going down in the lobby? Candles and singing and shit.”

The brunette brightened. “Those are our friends,” she said with a touch of pride. “We were arrested for protesting the war.”

“Protesting the war! Girlfriend, this is some serious fuck. How old is she?” Nia pointed to Melinda/Melissa. Asleep, long fair hair shielding her face, Miss M. looked even younger than the brunette.

“Eighteen.”

“Shit,” Nia said, elongating the word to “Sheee-it.”

“Hey, what you in for?” Nia turned her attention to the stringy woman in the miniskirt.

“Prostitution.”

“Girlfriend, that is some serious fuck too. You the same?” she said with a nod at the squat woman.

“Yeah.”

“They got me on an outstanding warrant. They say I beat this ho up, but she the one went after me. Nia don’t start fights, she just protect herself. You all wanna hear about how I got my man back from this other girl?”

“All right,” the working girls chorused.

As Nia launched into her story, I closed my eyes, leaned against the wall, and let her words flow over me. “…And I never had no problems with that girl until I seen her playing up to him all the time, and then he dare to come home with these love bites on him I know ain’t mine! So I said to him, ‘Which one of us do you want, ‘cuz I ain’t having none of that sharing shit…'”

Weirdly, I was reminded of the time I’d spent in the waiting room of a hospital ICU, where a friend from college had been taken after a car crash. A woman in a purple parka had come in and started handing around a roll of Necco wafers.

“What’s your favorite kind?” she’d asked a man who had been living in the ICU waiting room for a week, ever since a construction crane had crushed his son.

“The black.”

“Isn’t that amazing? That’s the one right on top. Here, take it.”

The man whose son had nearly been cut in two had taken the wafer and smiled.

******************

“Laila?” Sara brought me back to the station lobby by tapping me on the shoulder. “The cab’s here.”

“Just a second.”

On an impulse, I called Nia’s name. She looked even smaller than the night before—weary, defeated. It made the comic energy she had brought into the cellblock all the more touching. I wanted to thank her somehow, but what came out was, “Are you going to be all right?”

Nia stared at me with a combination of scorn and disbelief. White girl, you for real? I could almost hear her thinking. Then she seemed to change her mind.

“Yeah,” she said gruffly. “Don’t you worry about me. I got my witnesses.”

I said goodbye and turned toward the doors that led to the so-called free world.

******************

Both Sara and I lived in what I called “low-rent Shadyside,” the section of the fashionable city neighborhood past South Negley Avenue and below Walnut Street, where big beautiful houses gave way to slightly seedy apartment buildings and the occasional experiment in gentrification. A lattice of concrete blocks obscured the front porch of my building. It was so ugly that a photograph of it had appeared in a national design magazine under the heading, “Remuddled!”

Sean and I were either too old or way too young to live there. When people asked me why we did, I answered, “Property is theft.” Pierre Proudhon, 19th-century French socialist.

“Theft of what?” asked Sean’s mother, 20th century Irish-American capitalist.

“I guess I should stop calling this place The Prison, huh?” I said as the cab pulled up—the first words either Sara or I had spoken since I had given the cabbie directions. The edges of Sara’s thin mouth quirked upward, like a doll’s. She had applied a fresh coat of bruise-colored lipstick during the drive. Before I got out of the cab, she hugged me, and said again that she was sorry about my grandmother.

I smoothed the creases out of the twenty so I could hand it to the driver, who was taking Sara two blocks farther on. “Keep the change,” I said, feeling as if the events of the past day required some kind of gesture.

“Hey, thanks!” he called after me, startled by the ten-dollar tip.

I climbed my crooked cement steps, and shoved open the slab steel door whose deadbolt lock was the shiniest thing about the place. It led to a small dark vestibule. I grabbed our mail from a cheap metal box which, like the others, bore the owners’ hand-printed names but hung open, having long since lost its key. I sank onto the steep stairs whose brown carpet was worn to a crust, kicked my boots off, and flipped through the mail. Junk, bills, a flyer for an anti-war rally that was scheduled to start at noon that day (sorry), and one envelope addressed to me, done on an electric typewriter. No return address.

When I tore open the envelope a newspaper clipping fluttered out, a cartoon that showed a beetle-browed Saddam Hussein crushing Kuwait with a thick black boot. THIS IS REALITY YOU COMMIE BITCH, someone had printed in capital letters along the top. I guess the clipping was too small to push through a typewriter, was my first thought. I turned the envelope over to look at the postmark. Pittsburgh, yesterday. How efficient of the Post Office to deliver it so quickly, was my second thought. And they said you couldn’t get good mail service anymore.

There was nothing to do but head upstairs, boots in one hand, mail in the other. Who? I thought. Some so-called friend who didn’t like my politics? There were several, but none whom I thought would stoop to anonymous letters. Someone Sean knew? It had to be someone who was afraid of being recognized through his or her handwriting, or who was plain paranoid.

I told myself that I wasn’t afraid—I was just disgusted, as if I’d gotten an obscene phone call. An apartment I’d sublet for a summer after college had come with a breather, a guy who would call at three in the morning and wheeze into the phone. He didn’t do it well; his breathing sounded faint and asthmatic, not horny. The sleepy thought that he was someone in distress—I guess in a way he was—got me every time. I would say, “Hello? Who is this? Hello? Hello?” like an idiot before slamming the receiver down.

The hate mail would make a good topic of conversation at our hearing for the civil disobedience two weeks from now. Badge of honor. And I’d find out whether anyone else had gotten a letter, although that would be no help in discovering who’d sent the thing.

My second-floor apartment smelled stale, as if I had been gone for a long time. No, it smelled foul. The garbage. Sean’s phone message had reminded me about the garbage. I dropped the mail on the scarred blond wood coffee table, put the boots on top of the pile, and then went to our bedroom closet for a pair of running shoes. I pulled on the shoes and tied them—oh, the luxury of laces—and then strode seventeen steps to the kitchen to drag the garbage bags from underneath the sink.

The trashcans were at the side of the house, which showed its original yellow brick—the kind of brick you often see in Pittsburgh, a few shades lighter than the winding road to Oz. The cans were old and dented, with smashed, rusted handles. I had to wrench off the lids to deposit the garbage, cursing the landlord’s cheapness under my breath.

Back inside, I opened the kitchen window as far as it would go and stood there for a few minutes, breathing what passed for fresh air. I put on the teakettle, and went into the bathroom to wash my face and hands. On a small white sink with pitted metal legs was a bar of Lava. The gray pumice didn’t lather, but its thin, scouring film made me feel cleaner after the eruptions of the past twenty-four hours. It smelled of nothing—or faintly, of ashes.

I looked at myself in the mirror that covered a shallow medicine cabinet. In my inventory of basic possessions, I forgot to mention my thick steel-rimmed eyeglasses. They were so much a part of me that I took them off only to wash or sleep, and noticed them only when the elements caused them to fog or drip—or when I woke up in the middle of the night, and had to strain to read the numbers on the bedside alarm clock through an aperture I made by curling my right finger against my thumb. Perhaps the cops had seen them as part of me, too—a good thing, since without them I was legally blind.

The eyeglasses emphasized the scholarly cast of my pale Semitic features and my almond-shaped black eyes. My wavy light-brown hair, cropped so that it hung straight and barely needed a comb, made me look even more ascetic. Because I was, as Sitti Laila used to say, “fair,” I was hardly ever recognized as an Arab (White girl, you for real?), but was sometimes taken for a Jew, both by Jews and by anti-Semites of the well-mannered WASP variety. “Corey? We know a delightful family of Coreys in Squirrel Hill…” (Squirrel Hill, two miles from Shadyside, is one of the last urban Jewish neighborhoods in the United States.) In my family’s case, “Corey” is a corruption of “Khoury,” the Arabic word for priest, a common name among Arab Christians.

The first time that I’d been arrested, I’d been mistaken for a minister by my cellmate, a skinny sixteen-year-old in hot pants who’d been picked up for prostitution, and who kept asking me—in a voice hoarse with tears and cigarette smoke—if she should tell the cops that she was underage, even though it meant that she’d be transferred to Shuman, the County’s nasty juvenile detention center.

Her name was Liana. She’d decided to tell the cops her real age and go to juvie without me doing anything but nodding sympathetically, and handing her sheet after sheet of Kleenex.

The teakettle wailed. I pulled out an Amnesty International mug, and dunked a bag of Lipton until it was the color of creek water, having rejected the tin of loose herbal tea that looked like a crumbled funeral wreath, a gift from Sara. I drank my tea with a tablespoon of sugar but no milk—which had gone sour in the fridge—as I sank into the couch, a legless green hulk I’d had since college. The Indian bedspread I’d thrown over it made it look even more like a trash heap find, but I loved it. I lay down, meaning to rest for just a few minutes.

At first, I didn’t realize that I was dreaming. I was at the house in Bullhead, watching television with Sitti Laila. It didn’t seem strange that the TV was in her bedroom, perched on her Art Deco vanity table with its clutter of prescription bottles and ancient vials of evaporated perfume. I could see everything clearly except the TV screen. Sitti’s rosary of pale brown cedar beads, draped across the round mirror that was lined with curling Mass cards secured by bobby pins. Her luridly familiar print of the Blessed Mother, scarlet heart pinned to sky-blue dress by seven swords that represented the seven Sorrowful Mysteries. Even Sitti’s celluloid back scratcher—its translucent pink hand cupped like the relic of a saint.

Sitti sat beside me on her narrow, nun-like bed, her stockings rolled down over her swollen legs as usual but her ankles crossed jauntily, like a teenager’s. She didn’t look at me; she was concentrating on the TV.

I heard an announcer say: “Iraqi claims that the building destroyed in the latest round of bombing was a baby food factory have not been proved.”

I turned from Sitti’s stern profile to the television. The fuzzy images sharpened into a scene of soldiers and civilians sifting through the wreckage of a bombed building. A woman in a hijab fell to her knees, wailing over a body wrapped in a shroud.

The camera closed in on the woman’s face—and I was looking at myself.

“Laila! I’m surprise at you,” Sitti said. “I didn’t think you have the nerve.”

Jesus. I woke with a start, grateful to see the water stain on my living room ceiling—the perpetual dark cloud over my head—even grateful to answer the shrilling telephone.

It was my mother. “Lolly, where have you been?”

“In jail, Mother.”

“Did you have to do that again?”

“Someone had to.”

“I don’t understand why it always has to be you.”

“If not me, who?” I said. My mother responded with a few beats of angry silence. Sitti Laila would have argued the point, but I bit my tongue, out of respect for the living.

“You are coming to Bullhead for your grandmother’s funeral?”

“Of course.”

“Your father is very upset, you know. Despite everything.”

And that’s the closest you’ll ever come to saying how you really felt about Sitti Laila, I thought. I bit my tongue again. By the time Sitti’s funeral was over, it would be the consistency of kibbee nayee, the ground raw lamb I still craved, longing to spoon its spicy richness into my mouth with slices of raw onion, in defiance of my lukewarm vegetarianism.

I told Mother that I knew she had a lot to do before the trip, and choked out, “Give my love to Dad.” Anything to get her off the phone. I went into the bedroom, the hazy idea of packing taking shape in my mind. I was like someone stunned into action by a house fire, without a clue about what to save first. I started with the top of the dresser, rooting through the inlaid mother of pearl box from Beirut that I used to hold jewelry, looking for my string of decent fake pearls.

My eyes locked with Sitti Laila’s. I was staring at her immigration photograph, enlarged and placed in a scrolled silver frame, which Auntie May had given to me the previous Christmas. Sitti Laila stopped me cold with her big black eyes, which expressed all the furious expectations of her youth.

“Your grandmother is one who never will die,” Sean had said after our last visit to Bullhead.

I wouldn’t be surprise to see that on her tombstone.

Angele Ellis’s poetry has appeared on a theatre marquee (after winning Pittsburgh Filmmakers’ 2009 G-20 Haiku Contest), and her poetry and fiction has been published or is forthcoming in numerous journals and anthologies. The author of two books of poetry, Arab on Radar (Six Gallery), and Spared (Main Street Rag), a 2011 Editors’ Choice Chapbook, she was a 2008 recipient of an Individual Creative Artist fellowship from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, won third prize in RAWI’s 2007 Competition for Creative Prose, and earned honorable mentions in the 2011 Shine Poetry Contest and 2012 Grey Sparrow Flash Fiction Contest. She lives in Pittsburgh.

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One Response to Desert Storms

  1. Pingback: Fresh Words from Angele Ellis | Six Gallery Press

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