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Breakfast in Tunis

The Tunisian is like a sandwich

bready and sliced down the middle

until resentment shows against his spine


He goes about his work carefully, a routine

he has learned all his life. Freedom is a dream,

he slices tomatoes, peppers, spreads hummus


His father worked in the market, grandfather too

nothing changes, toil, poverty, his burning anger

a hot piquant relish he spreads on everything he thinks


Olives, onions, chopped parsley and a helping

of oily canned fish. Far away in Africa he hears

wielders of punishment. They ring their enemies


With black rubber tires, douse them with petrol

set fire to them, laugh while cowards burn,

he takes a plastic bottle from his mind, squirts


A viscous stream of tahina over his thoughts

grabs a sheet of cut paper, twists it around

the sandwich, gives it to me


As a few coins pass into his hand from mine

I can hear him thinking; one day he will set himself

alight, the only way he can answer his oppressors in blood


How could he foresee that his olive stained fingers

his burning wish for freedom, his declaration

would ignite a fire that would consume the Middle East


Spreading resistance and battle over country after country

a fire that would burn dictators, regimes, friends, enemies

mothers, children, brothers, borders – and then the world

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© Johnmichael Simon



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