It is Thursday, and the city is fasting,
metal gate untouchable by afternoon.
The wild dog lies flat on the ground.
His eyes open, then shut again.
On the side of the hill,
along the narrow lane that passes
between the jail and a corner store,
a donkey is led down cobbles.
His hooves shape small echoes,
head nodding with the steps
of his owner.
I try not to move.
From where I sit, I much resemble
the rusted water pump
standing at the edge of the garden
or the empty fountain
near the Old City stairs.
I have counted
as I licked my lips seventy–two times
since morning, and there are no clouds.
There will be none for a time.
I understand this is purposeful.
My husband is on a chair inside,
is near a lamp. I know he is reading,
turning each page as he mouths words
a wasp crawls in the door of a fig,
a Thursday, where a breeze clears
dust from the leaves
of locust trees, prickly pear
and its fruit.
If I run my hand
over earth, the soil crumbles.
Tara Ballard is the author of House of the Night Watch (New Rivers Press), winner of the 2016 Many Voices Project. Her poems have been published in The Adirondack Review, Diode, Ibbetson Street, Michigan Quarterly Review, The Normal School, Tupelo Quarterly, and elsewhere, and her work won a 2019 Nazim Hikmet Poetry Prize. She is currently pursuing her PhD in English at the University of Nebraska.