People drift by… half of ’em look defeated. They look used up, harried by infirmity, conformists slouching into numbers they’ve been handed, into the lines set up for them. Checkpoints, the features of the airport. Bit by bit, the world has meted out destinations for each of us; we have accepted a ticket. The little girl I sit next to is different from everyone, all going the same way—the young women fiercely concentrating on their hand-held screens, the paunchy men and their splotchy faces, diffident hipsters paying no attention. This girl has the face of an old woman, but her body is tiny. She looks old, but she’s young; it’s not Down’s syndrome, it’s something else congenital. She chatters non-stop, softly—sometimes to her father who sits large and silent beside her. Mostly to herself. She hugs her pink backpack, she pats it, she rocks in her seat and kicks her feet. Her old face, her sweet voice. Poems by Saadi Youssef in one hand, I listen to her voice. She tells her father, “I want to go, I want to go, I want to go.” He says softly, “No, no, no.”

pelican skull