The Clothesline Swing

by Ahmad Danny Ramadan



The Clothesline Swing tells the epic story of two lovers anchored to the memory of a dying Syria. Hakawati, a storyteller, relays remembered fables to keep life going for his dying partner. Each night he weaves stories of his childhood in Damascus, of the cruelty he has endured for his sexuality, of leaving home, of war, of his fated meeting with his lover. Death himself joins the conversations, eavesdropping on the two men's secrets as he awaits their final undoing.

AHMAD DANNY RAMADAN'S personal experience as a Syrian refugee and advocate has made him passionate about volunteerism, democracy, social justice, and LGBTQ refugees' rights. He has previously authored two collections of short stories in Arabic and has been published in The Washington Post, The Guardian, and Foreign Policy. Ramadan lives in Vancouver, B.C., where he works at the Greater Vancouver Food Bank, and was very recently elected to the Board of Directors of the Vancouver Pride Society.




IN THE DARKNESS of the night, I used to hear my parents whispering loving words. They used to tell each other stories. My mother used to write down Fairuz songs in a large blue notebook. On the balcony, my father built her a swing, using old clotheslines and an abandoned pillow. Every morning, my mother sat on the pillow, listening to Fairuz, drinking her coffee, slowly swinging back and forth, enjoying the warmth of the sun as it filled Damascus with life. She used to pick me up in her arms in the early afternoon hours, sit me on the clothesline swing and push me higher. My feet never touched the ground; I imagined myself a grey dove spreading my wings across the hills around sleepy, calm, sunny Damascus. In my child’s mind, the world was limited to what I could see of Damascus from that swing, rising higher than the walls of our balcony. I could see the latest blooming jasmine flowers in our roof garden. I could see the Barada River dividing Damascus in two. I believed that I could see the edge of the world, while I was sitting on the edge of that makeshift swing.


My mother had the brilliant idea of planting seeds in the pillow of the clothesline swing, and they grew stronger with the winter

rain. She sat behind her window, sipping on her Turkish coffee, listening to Fairuz and watching the jasmine tree growing from

the cotton pillow, climbing the clotheslines, until it created a fairy tale swing, beautifully braided between the jasmine flowers and the clotheslines.


Spring came, and she returned to using her swing in the early morning hours. As she pushed the swing higher, she felt like she could fly; she was a princess with long, smooth hair; a beautiful dame with love for the sun. The swing took

her high, and she felt capable of anything. She heard the sound of cars beneath her as she playfully looked down the three-floor building. She used to fear falling from the balcony, but she didn’t care anymore.


Excerpt from: The Clothesline Swing by Ahmad Danny Ramadan ©2017. Published by Harbour Publishing, Nightwood Editions. All Rights Reserved.    



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