Gamila and the Evil Eye

by Vikram Masson

Can I ever forget old Gamila, my mother’s friend,

who loved me as her own when she lost her son--

a boy as handsome as the boys in Cavafy’s trysts,

with auburn hair and deep-set green eyes?

I still remember her tears when the warden whispered,

those marks on his arms come from needles,

as he trembled in a tangle of wires and drips.

 

My mother would say to her, My boy is your son now,

protect him from the evil eye. And Gamila would take

a scrap of paper and scrawl the names of those

she thought might hate or envy me -- aunts and uncles,

friends, anyone who dared call me handsome. 

She’d stab it through, rip it to slivers and set it ablaze

while muttering something in Arabic.

We’d watch its fragments dance, blink and burn

before resolving into a rubble of nameless ash.

She’d smear a hot pinch on my forehead

and run her hands through my hair, sealing me 

away from the pain that others could cause you.

Then she’d look at my arms and pray.

About the Author

Vikram Masson is a lawyer by training who lives near Richmond, Virginia. His poetry has been recently featured in Glass, the American Journal of Poetry, and Young Raven's Literary Review, and is forthcoming in Third Wednesday and the Blue Mountain Journal.