Monthly Archives: February 2010

Loving like an Arab.

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Or a Mexican. I stumbled on the name Sandra Cisneros on one of my favorite blogs today.
The blog is: http://eethelbertmiller1.blogspot.com

The poet Sandra is feisty. In my drained and dampened mood this week, this week of curious sadness and a sense of defeat, she put back a smile in my body with this poem. I can identify. I remember loving.
Have you ever loved like this?
It’s the only way.

You Bring Out the Mexican in Me

You bring out the Mexican in me.
The hunkered thick dark spiral.
The core of a heart howl.
The bitter bile.
The tequila lágrimas on Saturday all
through next weekend Sunday.
You are the one I’d let go the other loves for,
surrender my one-woman house.
Allow you red wine in bed,
even with my vintage lace linens.
Maybe. Maybe.

For you.

You bring out the Dolores del Río in me.
The Mexican spitfire in me.
The raw navajas, glint and passion in me.
The raise Cain and dance with the rooster-footed devil in me.
The spangled sequin in me.
The eagle and serpent in me.
The mariachi trumpets of the blood in me.
The Aztec love of war in me.
The fierce obsidian of the tongue in me.
The berrinchuda, bien-cabrona in me.
The Pandora’s curiosity in me.
The pre-Columbian death and destruction in me.
The rainforest disaster, nuclear threat in me.
The fear of fascists in me.
Yes, you do. Yes, you do.

You bring out the colonizer in me.
The holocaust of desire in me.
The Mexico City ‘85 earthquake in me.
The Popocatepetl/Ixtacchiuatl in me.
The tidal wave of recession in me.
The Agustín Lara hopeless romantic in me.
The barbacoa taquitos on Sunday in me.
The cover the mirrors with cloth in me.

Sweet twin. My wicked other,
I am the memory that circles your bed nights,
that tugs you taut as moon tugs ocean.
I claim you all mine,
arrogant as Manifest Destiny.
I want to rattle and rent you in two.
I want to defile you and raise hell.
I want to pull out the kitchen knives,
dull and sharp, and whisk the air with crosses.
Me sacas lo mexicana en mi,
like it or not, honey.

You bring out the Uled-Nayl in me.
The stand-back-white-bitch-in me.
The switchblade in the boot in me.
The Acapulco cliff diver in me.
The Flecha Roja mountain disaster in me.
The dengue fever in me.
The ¡Alarma! murderess in me.
I could kill in the name of you and think
it worth it. Brandish a fork and terrorize rivals,
female and male, who loiter and look at you,
languid in your light. Oh,

I am evil. I am the filth goddess Tlazoltéotl.
I am the swallower of sins.
The lust goddess without guilt.
The delicious debauchery. You bring out
the primordial exquisiteness in me.
The nasty obsession in me.
The corporal and venial sin in me.
The original transgression in me.

Red ocher. Yellow ocher. Indigo. Cochineal.
Piñon. Copal. Sweetgrass. Myrrh.
All you saints, blessed and terrible,
Virgen de Guadalupe, diosa Coatlicue,
I invoke you.

Quiero ser tuya. Only yours. Only you.
Quiero amarte. Aarte. Amarrarte.
Love the way a Mexican woman loves. Let
me show you. Love the only way I know how.

—Sandra Cisneros, 1994

Nigel Holt- Cat’s Cradle.

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Nigel is one of our new Dubai poeticians, he is a great instigator of literary adventures and his dedication to spreading awareness on the Israeli Occupation is something I find very moving, unique and necessary. I thank him for coming forward and sharing his work with us, and for his strong words seeking justice. Rock on.

Cat’s Cradle

Our kittens delight their fleeting youth with balls

of wool or string to chase through cosy halls,

to pounce on plants that cling to table-tops

then gorge on leaves like locusts stripping crops.

Young Bethlehem cats chase shadow-mice through the shells of houses,

Ramla cats still hide in holes in spattered red-rag blouses,

Tulkaram cats feast on dead flesh that slops out from foundations,

while Jenin cats await the rescue of the late United Nations.

And when they’ve spent their hours in kittens’ games

to pounce and leap and pad the luscious flowers concealing mines

or play with string or razor wire, the claims

of each sweet-smelling clot of ripped-out crimson Columbines,

in time are paid in full by a generation:

a glass of honeyed-milk; a line of blood – poured out in libation.

Fouad Boulos.

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Fouad was kind enough to send me one of his contributions to the Poeticians in Beirut. I hope he will continue to send us Arabic poetry. Thank you.

حبيبتي

من في حقول القمح بين الأقحوان

حبيبتي

من في تراتيل الرياح، حبيبتي

من في الصباح، حبيبتي

و حبيبتي…

من في كروم الشمس،

في خمر الضياء، حبيبتي

من في صلاة مؤذنٍ عند العشاء…

حبيبتي

من في نسيمات المساء.. حبيبتي

و حبيبتي..

من في سحابات الربيع الحالمات

حبيبتي

من في سلامات الطيور النازحات

حبيبتي

من في ظلال الياسمين، حبيبتي

من في دموع الراحلين، حبيبتي

وحبيبتي..

من ضحكة الأولاد

من قيثارة الأعياد غير حبيبتي

وحبيبتي..

وحبيبتي

في كل زاوية من الدنيا

على كل الدروب

في كل لؤلؤة تزور

شباك صياد المغيب

وأنا الغريب بوحدتي

وأنا الغريب

وحبيبتي في الأرض

شاردةٌ

تفتش عن..

حبيب

Sarah Snowneil Ali- Anthem

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Sarah is one of our beautiful regular Poetician readers. She joined in Beirut and started the Dubai chapter with me. Her support and tireless interest in all things poetry is inspiring. Her own project, Atelier Poetica, has just taken off and I look forward to seeing it grow. Like a shiny purple flower!

Anthem

We walked
stepped over garbage
avoided spit smudged on the sidewalk
and cars intent on making
metal bend to squeeze
through the tight chaos
of streets uneven
resembling women annoyed
their pouts silicon glossy
ageless.
Young,
we walked in Beirut
loud adamantly flailing our hands in disgust
rebels with pretty words on paper
we throw aside
coffee stained and sleepless
to swear like men
and laugh with no shame
at our vulgar tongues
releasing primeval groans
from our fed up mouths
that speak of societies
we wish to revolt
we know we will leave
that we curse with as much love
as we know for anything that doesn’t breathe
finding ourselves somewhere between
the cracked paint, the cigarette filter
and our expression.
She says I don’t deserve this and
my nod is pained as I retrace nostalgia
of that which I didn’t deserve and don’t still.
So we walk,
martyred at our chest
legs we drag scrapping asphalt with annoyance
willing sparks from the ground
we stomp
lifting slender necks to the sky
to try to find the stars
above the concrete,
beyond the wires draped like bandages
we sigh and say
to hell with that musky scent
and anything that makes you cry.

Nizar Wattad- The Roofer.

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Nizar- AKA Ragtop- is a comic book lover, a scriptwriter, a poet, a hip hop artist, a creator and an all round awesome man. He is also very tall.
He was part of the Human Writes Project that flew out to Dubai to perform a hip hop event with us and then grace a luminous and memorable Poetician event before flying back to LA. I am so grateful.

The Roofer

1.

God bless that man”

said Max, relaxed looking

out off the patio

past the bush whose name

I do not know

but back home

we call her crazy girl.

Crazy, like that man

past the bush across

the street atop his roof.

He’s there every day,

even Sunday,

hammering tarmac flat so hot

it reflects the sun blackly.

2.

His daughter left the house

at 6:10 in the morning,

chilly walking fast in the dim

pink light a bundle swaddled

on her chest not

sixteen years old if not thirty.

She clutched her child,

drew him close passing

into the shadow

of that bickering old elm.

She looked like the woman from Atitlan.

Fog kissed the broad lake as her fingers plucked coffee…


Chris Chamoun- The problem of other minds.

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I had the pleasure of listening to Chris only once so far at a Poeticians event in Beirut. He was charming, surprising, thoughtful, funny and a delight. I am so glad he joined us and sent me this poem to share with you. More on him under the poets section and as for the last statement of his bio, I totally agree.

Thanks Chris.

The Problem of Other Minds

by Chris Chamoun.

I – A spark.
Then a million more and
gone is the peaceful surrender
to the ebb and flow of my
breath – I exhale with some
final soft strokes of the
tongue and these sounds fly
into the universe and thus
the others are meant to
know what I am feeling
If only the whole story were
so short, or so sweet, or …
I know it is not so.
The word “you” is a flexible
word; you are only you if I,
the speaker, am looking at you (or you).
This is dedicated to an everchanging you.

II – You are an image without a
memory – only light has
been kind enough to touch
you, then touch my eyes.
Somehow I notice you and
a spark then a million more are
painting a new picture
of conclusions, of capricious truths
that are glowing fire for a moment
then swept away like the last drop
of the painfully red sun at dusk.
Do not speak; do not glance at me.
Let me keep you for a moment,
fleeting nameless. Something about you
is beautiful, somehow. Just for a second
my breath stopped.

III – To get my feelings to you,
I must burn them once and
a million times more and with
their ashes command my
lungs and tongue to say
a sequence of sounds that
are no longer my feelings.
Show me what you’re
hearing… but of course,
you cannot. You are in my
eyesight. Yes, that close and still
worlds away.

IV – When I cannot see you,
you are a memory without an image,
frozen until a spark
wakes you up, in a moment’s
chance, and a million more
paint a picture alive with
color and with feelings that are
glowing fire, white hot metal
that sweeps away coldness like
the last drop of ice upon your
tongue when you sip your Manhattan.

V – What is the word for the
million and one more sparks
that fly around in some
breathtaking pattern when
you are there, somewhere…
could be anywhere?
If someone dies in a room,
unaccompanied but by
silence, and their last
sentence, heartfelt, unheard,
begins with a “you” or
ends with a “you”,
don’t you wonder who that
you might have been?
It is worth wondering.
I’ve seen an aura in a
bath of red and I still
have not forgotten.

VI – “Let me explain why I’m right…”
Every conversation secretly starts
with some whisper of intention.
Every word is a smear of ashes.
Once, a spark and a million more ago
it was a capricious desire hiding its
face behind the present moment.
And after every word, in the
imperceptible space before the next,
when you’re not really thinking,
there is a tiny drop of what
might have been and isn’t…
what was real when it was nameless.
It moves down the back of your neck
and along your spine, where you
can’t see it.

There are many things that make life
worth living. None of them involve talking.

Late night poetry.

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I have enough tears to bathe heartache, shine it clean, show it off to the world that still smiles at me. Adrienne Rich, a strong woman and poet.
I read this alone, every couple of years, in bed, late.

A woman dead in her forties
by Adrienne Rich.

1.
Your breasts/ —sliced-off —The scars
dimmed —as they would have to be
years later

All the women I grew up with are sitting
half-naked on rocks —in sun
we look at each other and
are not ashamed

and you too have taken off your blouse
but this was not what you wanted:

to show your scarred, deleted torso

I barely glance at you
as if my look could scald you
though I’m the one who loved you

I want to touch my fingers
to where your breasts had been
but we never did such things

You hadn’t thought everyone
would look so perfect
unmutilated

you pull on
your blouse again: —stern statement:

There are things I will not share
with everyone

2.
You send me back to share
my own scars —first of all
with myself

What did I hide from her
what have I denied her
what losses suffered

how in this ignorant body
did she hide

waiting for her release
till uncontrollable light began to pour

from every wound and suture
and all the sacred openings

3.
Wartime. —We sit on warm
weathered, softening grey boards

the ladder glimmers where you told me
the leeches swim

I smell the flame
of kerosene —the pine

boards where we sleep side by side
in narrow cots

the night-meadow exhaling
its darkness —calling

child into woman
child into woman
woman

4.
Most of our love from the age of nine
took the form of jokes and mute

loyalty: —you fought a girl
who said she’d knock me down

we did each other’s homework
wrote letters —kept in touch, untouching

lied about our lives: —I wearing
the face of the proper marriage

you the face of the independent woman
We cleaved to each other across that space

fingering webs
of love and estrangement —till the day

the gynecologist touched your breast
and found a palpable hardness

5.
You played heroic, necessary
games with death

since in your neo-protestant tribe the void
was supposed not to exist

except as a fashionable concept
you had no traffic with

I wish you were here tonight —I want
to yell at you

Don’t accept
Don’t give in

But would I be meaning your brave
irreproachable life, you dean of women, or

your unfair, unfashionable, unforgivable
woman’s death?

6.
You are every woman I ever loved
and disavowed

a bloody incandescent chord strung out
across years, tracts of space

How can I reconcile this passion
with our modesty

your calvinist heritage
my girlhood frozen into forms

how can I go on this mission
without you

you, who might have told me
everything you feel is true?

7.
Time after time in dreams you rise
reproachful

once from a wheelchair pushed by your father
across a lethal expressway

Of all my dead it’s you
who come to me unfinished

You left me amber beads
strung with turquoise from an Egyptian grave

I wear them wondering
How am I true to you?

I’m half-afraid to write poetry
for you —who never read it much

and I’m left laboring
with the secrets and the silence

In plain language: —I never told you how I loved you
we never talked at your deathbed of your death

8.
One autumn evening in a train
catching the diamond-flash of sunset

in puddles along the Hudson
I thought: —I understand

life and death now, the choices
I didn’t know your choice

or how by then you had no choice
how the body tells the truth in its rush of cells

Most of our love took the form
of mute loyalty

we never spoke at your deathbed of your death

but from here on
I want more crazy mourning, more howl, more keening

We stayed mute and disloyal
because we were afraid

I would have touched my fingers
to where your breasts had been
but we never did such things

1974-1977

from The Dream of a Common Language, Poems 1974-1977 (W. W. Norton, 1993).