Monthly Archives: February 2010

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).

Another form of prayer.

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A small taste of beauty, in the form of Ethelbert Miller, a lovely man I had the pleasure of meeting and communicating with a lot this past year. For our secret loves everywhere.

E. ETHELBERT MILLER
Salat

poetry is prayer
light dancing inside words

five times a day
I try to write

step by step
I move towards the mihrab

I prepare to recite
what is in my heart

I recite your name

Loss.

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One of my favorite poets. Inspiring to see how differently people mourn their loved ones, yet how the intensity of empathy remains strong. I love this writer, almost everything he does is astoundingly simple yet profound. Hence the Pulitzer I guess. This poem is for the memory of my own mother, whose birthday it was yesterday. We miss her.

The Routine Things Around The House
by Stephen Dunn

When Mother died
I thought: now I’ll have a death poem.
That was unforgivable.

Yet I’ve since forgiven myself
as sons are able to do
who’ve been loved by their mothers.

I stared into the coffin
knowing how long she’d live,
how many lifetimes there are

in the sweet revisions of memory.
It’s hard to know exactly
how we ease ourselves back from sadness,

but I remembered when I was twelve,
1951, before the world
unbuttoned its blouse.

I had asked my mother (I was trembling)
If I could see her breasts
and she took me into her room

without embarrassment or coyness
and I stared at them,
afraid to ask for more.

Now, years later, someone tells me
Cancers who’ve never had mother love
are doomed and I, a Cancer

feel blessed again. What luck
to have had a mother
who showed me her breasts

when girls my age were developing
their separate countries,
what luck

she didn’t doom me
with too much or too little.
Had I asked to touch,

Perhaps to suck them,
What would she have done?
Mother, dead woman

Who I think permits me
to love women easily
this poem

is dedicated to where
we stopped, to the incompleteness
that was sufficient

and to how you buttoned up,
began doing the routine things
around the house.

Friendship.

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A very dear, very old friend of mine is on my mind a lot this week. He is going through some difficulties and it makes me realize how important basic communication is. So many people I know do not connect with others. I do not know how they do it. People are important.

This next poem is for my wonderful, brilliant and unique friend. He knows how much I love him.

Do your friends know you love them?

Friend

01/02/2009

Dubai

You knew me before i was this woman

poet scrounging for words

elusive

witnessing together the triumph

of that journey we took to

become us, in the making, ever and

again, unmade and replaced by

a newer carcass

lost to our youth, how your smile still dazzles

me and sends me letters in silence

across distance we

never paid attention to,

you knew me awkward and afraid

attuned to the tacit agreements we

signed to love beyond the

geography of convenience

beyond the shape of the atlas

beneath the earth that separates, to dwell in the

quickened internal rhapsody

of your fleeting poems, a prayer, an amulet to protect our laughter

burying the days of despair we count over and over

brutal score keepers noting each other’s failure

fingers unclenched to protect you

from yourself

i am bare,

that hideous form i cower from dispelled in the mirror

of your hands, for

to you, i am no shape

i am no matter

but a collection of stars free in your night

a simple sun ray beaming through a window of time

stretching to where you stand solid

that lights the horizon of memory

from here

to there, to you. And now i am tempted to cup my hand

across your face, to lean in and touch

the absence of distance, to mold

my thoughts after the

pattern of our speech, frazzled,

connected through stutter and the singular way

there is no other like you,

none ever. You keep my past safe in renewed breath,

i forage the world to dream close to you

willing this life to break

gently

a tumbleweed of love fragile

to be swept up

in the free wind

together

Dubai nights, private mornings.

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We went to a party on a boat last night. Drove a long time to get there, with fantastic music blaring, and a great friend singing with me and laughing. I often think that going out and meeting people is a great solution to being alone, feeling marginalized, needing human warmth, finding love…all of that.
Then you realize that if you feel that way, you are going to feel that way even amongst dozens of people. Even dancing on a boat. Even in the gorgeous breeze of the waterfront.
I prefer my own company. Sometimes.
At 5 am, bad poetry happens.

5 am, Dubai is a highway.
For me, where ever I am.
Dubai,
5/2/2010

Her short ruffled skirt flew in creek breezes of paper cups lounging
vodka is finished and thin is this attendance
people do not converge
on boats we visited after late late hours of
forced laughter
everyone wanted to touch her breasts
curves fake and pointed perfect, she was cigarette tipped in this night
plastered a smile on glossed pouts
where those who are lonely looked for too
many bottles
and we don’t have enough bottles
and we don’t have enough breaths for these cigarettes
and I don’t have enough years to keep my smile on,
to nod at strangers on boats who do not
look past what we cannot offer each other

I remember you on a couch, lean legs stretched, a face to haunt all that comes after
I burn slow with mornings of sheets like maps to eternity
I burn slow with conversation like water, ebbs
and wanes in streams of thoughts you
could slaughter
and be rebirthed in your arms, a habit accepted
a home beyond the rivers of Dubai
dry
with no movement
we dance on a docked boat
stagnant like my curls trembling
the heels slip on cheap spilled red wine I retch
solitude and drink in breath of those stars
we share regardless of
travel
look at her ass we say
I’d like to touch her tits we say
she wants to come home with you, he says
lick his neck in a gesture of plea
accept the rotation of bodies in and out
of momentary rapture
and I burn slow with your eyes dark
your glances heavy
the weight of spoken ruptured flesh we made poetry
the creek ripples to taunt and say
I reflect light
I flow unhampered by desire
and I
I shatter at fleeting aches in regions hidden

and there is no love here
and there is no love here
and I drown slow with the tides of departure.

Tina Fish- Panda Wisdom.

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Tina Fish is one of the original Poeticians who came to that first meeting in my living room in Beirut in 2007 and recited her work in a room filled with wine, candles, listening faces, a guitar, cameras, food, smiles and the birth of something much bigger than all of us. And friendship.
Three years later, she is still a Poetician, reciting lanky long sexy poems about cities and bodies that make us laugh and desire. I thank her.

1-20908: Panda Wisdom

You’re filled with perfumes and bright colors,
Even your secrets smell sweet.
Faces start to mix
And I’m transfixed by the glow
Emanated–
was it the setting sun?
bronze, gold, and green meadows,
purple, indigo, pale pearl,
and an orange fuchsia orb.
white clouds?
or freckles?—
Or was it you in a tree branch?

Swinging like you got it right
Fighting with an ego that we called your own
With secrets that smell like home.
Ten years from now we’ll call
These sweet stoned memories
And laugh,
Confuse haze with hash
And taste the red–
acrylic smoothing surface for a minute
we looked in the mirror
and the Devil smiled back.
grinning, licking, vampire chops,
white teeth contrast with red paint
or blood drops?–
And we laugh because we forgot.

True to form though I looked quite hot,
True to your eyes I was in animation
A stellar Beiruti manga sensation
Trembling lips and everything.
Snap, snap, and shot after shot
I saw, I conquered, and I came to life,
The Devil named me his Wife
And you named me Desire
And caught the playful fire that danced
Across my lips–
with all these images still not one kiss.
except for the one in the past.
except for the one in the future?–
And I smiled because the present is a gift.

Blogging from Ajman.

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On the road this week. Myself and a whole bunch of cool guys who work with our TV show. Thank the universe for some laughs, lots of laban,sea water all along the horizon, many a sunset shoot, aircon when we need it, a tripod I can carry to exercise a bit, strong muscles moving in the sun, mountains with cold breezes and an oud player whose voice still echoes in spaces of memory I hold with me amongst the skyscrapers. I should start adding pictures to this site. I promise to do so soon.
The guys are setting up shots inside. We are talking to an older photographer who reminds me of the politeness of my father. I am missing poetry, here is one of my favorites, as a lovely young man brings me orange tea steaming and the mosque starts its prayer. Caffeine, poetry, film.
Still waiting on the Poeticians to send me more of their work and bios. Ahh, I have become nazi like in my virtual stalking of them. I’m hanging on to their promises, promises.
And now, a poem.

Lovesong
by Ted Hughes

He loved her and she loved him
His kisses sucked out her whole past and future or tried to
He had no other appetite
She bit him she gnawed him she sucked
She wanted him complete inside her
Safe and Sure forever and ever
Their little cries fluttered into the curtains

Her eyes wanted nothing to get away
Her looks nailed down his hands his wrists his elbows
He gripped her hard so that life
Should not drag her from that moment
He wanted all future to cease
He wanted to topple with his arms round her
Or everlasting or whatever there was
Her embrace was an immense press
To print him into her bones
His smiles were the garrets of a fairy place
Where the real world would never come
Her smiles were spider bites
So he would lie still till she felt hungry
His word were occupying armies
Her laughs were an assasin’s attempts
His looks were bullets daggers of revenge
Her glances were ghosts in the corner with horrible secrets
His whispers were whips and jackboots
Her kisses were lawyers steadily writing
His caresses were the last hooks of a castaway
Her love-tricks were the grinding of locks
And their deep cries crawled over the floors
Like an animal dragging a great trap
His promises were the surgeon’s gag
Her promises took the top off his skull
She would get a brooch made of it
His vows pulled out all her sinews
He showed her how to make a love-knot
At the back of her secret drawer
Their screams stuck in the wall
Their heads fell apart into sleep like the two halves
Of a lopped melon, but love is hard to stop

In their entwined sleep they exchanged arms and legs
In their dreams their brains took each other hostage

In the morning they wore each other’s face.