Loss of a Vital Skill

Reviving Our Fluency in Poetic Language

As I was walking up the stairs of Jabal Amman hill, I met some thistle-gatherers. Amman, Jordan, where I live, is a city of hills—to get anywhere you have to walk up and down hundreds of steps—and beside this particular flight of steps, in a steep little vacant lot, a man and a woman were gathering weeds. I paused and called out over the stairway-wall, “What are you gathering?”

They both smiled broadly, and the man walked over to the wall. “Khorfeysh!” he told me, holding up a leaf of milk thistle. Deftly—with bare fingers—he stripped off the prickly leaf-blade and proffered the midrib to me. “Try it!”

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Daniel Witt is a writer and English teacher living in Amman, Jordan.

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