Losing Foot

Shahe Mankerian

When a bomb fell on the Phoenician sundial 
near Souk Sarkis, Father decided it was time 
to abandon the apartment and move 

into the shelter. For a week, we lost trace 
of time like the three-legged lizard hiding 
under my brother’s piano. If the bomb exploded 

any closer, my brother’s damn piano 
and the sheet music for Moonlight Sonata 
would’ve decorated the sidewalk. The poor lizard 

didn’t lose a leg because I was fascinated 
with scissors. Rather, it was my brother’s doing. 
His foot kept reaching for the pedal and assumed 

echo drowned the rat-a-tat-tat of bullets raining on Beirut.

The Wait

Shahe Mankerian

You lit a cigarette and checked your watch.
The peg-legged porter swept the sidewalk.

It was past closing time. The retractable 
awning shaded the fruit stand, your suit 

stained with sweat, your stare toward 
the scuff of my feet. I had promised 

to help you after school, carry boxes
of persimmons and prunes into the storage.  

I couldn’t think of an alibi; I had muddy 
shoes and battered knees to prove otherwise.  

Streetlights came on. You saw me and took
quick steps—stopped—your nostrils flared. 

I squeezed a satchel full of useless books 
to my chest. The porter dropped the dustpan. 

He who spares the rod hates his son. 
You made me recite that verse out loud 

before a beating, before your black leather belt 
scraped my earlobe, my chin, my crooked spine. 

I hid bruises under my uniform because I always 
chose the dirty alleys of Beirut over you.  

Proper Burial

Shahe Mankerian

Tucked between patches 
of mint, Father noticed 
a severed index pointing 

at God. A trail of red 
ants neared the outer dying 
stems, crawled over 

dry bloodstains, and circled 
the exposed bone. Father 
dabbed the sweat on his neck 

with his handkerchief, 
knelt on the sidewalk, 
and stared at the finger brushing 

against mint. A murder 
of crows settled on telephone 
wires and cawed at Father's 

brazenness. The bruised 
nail, torn from the cuticle, 
resembled the lozenge 

dissolving in his mouth. 
Being late, he gripped the finger 
with his handkerchief, 

placed it in his breast pocket,
next to his fountain pen,
and dashed to work.  


about the writer


Poet Shahé Mankerian is the principal of St. Gregory Hovsepian School in Pasadena and the co-director of the Los Angeles Writing Project. He is the recipient of the Los Angeles Music Center’s BRAVO Award. In 2017, three literary journals, Border Crossing, Cahoodaloodaling, andLunch Ticket nominated Mankerian’s poems for the Pushcart Prize. Recently, Shahé received the 2017 Editors’ Prize from MARY: A Journal of New Writing.