Stewart Moss

Morning Hunger
February 20, 2020 Moss Stewart

Morning Hunger
Why not in the icy clarity of morning,
each edge carved by the sun,
vibrating and pale as it comes into form –
a mud wall framing my view,
a rug woven crimson and black
in delicate balance
and the serrated, purple hills of the Rif,
hungry for words, for the vowels of prayer –
why not forget everything?
Easy in this voracious place
where dreams die fast, un-nested
by the search for food
before the dew dries,
dries so quickly in Morocco,
a sight glimpsed rarely by travelers
and this first time by me
as a sheen fading
from a hanging rug.
Sitting against the wall,
our hunger building,
we see the sheep collapse, as if
weighted down by a fullness
beyond itself, its tongue pushed out,
its eyes rolled back and white,
and my friend asks, Is the sheep dead?
I ask Mohammed in French, who in Arabic
asks his uncle the same,
and he a lithe brown shadow
with white turban ends flapping
beneath the turquoise sky,
raises himself and kicks the sheep,
which bleats its last, like a doll
pushed over on its side,
returning its message – Arabic
to French to English,
words melted and recast
in the metallurgy of the throat –
The sheep is dead.
For breakfast there is clotted goat milk,
sweet mint tea and discs of bread
fragrant with cardamom.
Syllables of praise rush past my ears,
are aspirated, fleeting and become
the cantorial droning of flies
spiraling in ecstasy above the sheep’s eyes.

As a former Executive Director of The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Maryland, Stewart Moss helped establish creative writing programs for adult immigrants and members of the military being treated for neurological and psychological trauma. He has taught literature and creative writing in both the USA and abroad; Scotland, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe and Nepal are among the countries where he has lived and worked. Moss has essays included in Retire the Colors: Veterans & Civilians on Iraq & Afghanistan, ed. Dario DiBattista (Hudson Whitman/Excelsior College Press, 2016) and Plume Poetry, and poetry in Plume, Goss 183 and Origins Literary Review. His chapbook of poems, For Those Whose Lives Have Seen Themselves, was published in 2021 by Finishing Line Press, and his collection Arrivals & Departures: Poems will be released (also by Finishing Line Press) in 2023. Moss has been awarded an Independent Artist Grant by the Maryland States Arts Council; he has also been featured in “The Poet and the Poem” podcasts at The Library of Congress. A native of Boston, MA, he resides in Annapolis, MD.