The Absent Tailor

Was it the accidental jabs in the thumb or the awkwardness of thimbles
or the machine, coughing on thread, wheeled over its black esophagus
that made the tailor fatally slice the wrinkled skin of his abdomen?

He processed seersucker, tulle, satin embroidered with
lace, ribbons, silky chrysanthemums,
sewing, at times with pricked fingers, hearts made of velvet.

Fairouz sang in the background from a crackling tape
about a crowded bus to Tannurin*
that never reaches its destination.
* These lines refer to the lyrics of
'A Hadir il-Bosta'
by the Lebanese singer Fairouz.
For more information see:

The Singer tick-tocked along, threading time towards
the peculiar singularity of extinction.

Make no mistake, none of this reveals much.
He worked the Singer for twenty years,
listened to Fairouz twice as long.

The home front was no more chaotic than before,
kids expenses in keeping with inflation,
wife faithful, weather stable,
parents firmly underground.

No note was recovered, no explanation designed to extract guilt.
Just a decided absence, a hole punched through the cloth.
He fell backward, wiry calves draped over the stool's legs.
The treadle rotated for
several thousand microseconds in his absence.

I used to pass the shop window on my way.
Faded is the image I hold of him
hunched over the machine.
A glimpse from a dusty century.

Famished was his frame,
sadness languished in the pools of his eyes
or could this be
a reinterpretation of the written scenes?

At end of day,
his bony arms stretched
up towards the metal grate. He bowed down
for us, his grateful audience.
This rare, inconsequential man folded
himself, neat as a pile of shirts freshly pressed,
into a wooden box, pre-paid for, forever in darkness
once shut.

Fairouz slurred her song towards the end,
as her voice chewed through the haggard tape
that had always threatened to snap.

Hassan Abdulrazzak


If you've any comments on this poem, Hassan Abdulrazzak would be pleased to hear from you.

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