Salt-water songs


Ever been surprised by tears making an appearance at the behest of a beautiful song?

Salt-water songs
Dubai, 3/2/2012

Lyrics swim in the forefront of your brow.
You concoct theories, radical,
you insist your heart is proof.
You lay claim to facts, such as,
salt dries faster as I bury more moons.
As if the body, shaking, holds on to its water.
As if drought makes eyes solid.
Teeth may chip but the gaze dams the pump,
builds borders against all that love left behind.
The sun shrivels what once evaporated slowly.
As if the body understands minerals are precious.
As if the soul knows weeping’s worth.
As if those who died in our arms were practice,
the hardening of impulsions, the
quietude of ache.
How noble, composure.
That grace under whirlpools.
That elegance in the undertow.
Pressure that doesn’t mount, a new world entire.
But, no.
Fiction slaps you, hard.
No one ages beyond the need for tears.
One nighttime song you may have forgotten,
slinks in, wrapped in sex and
smacks coercion from faces adamant, hell bent on survival,
once a buried coral-hard reef,
now a lone rip current, free.


Farah- Joy, Palestine and our youngest Poetician


Farah Chamma is one of the best kept secrets of our Poetician life. She is the youngest of the Dubai poeticians and is a remarkable young woman. We all almost envy that she gets up and performs and rocks the mic at such a young age…
She joins the Poeticians only at events that are not held in bars, etc. But when she does, the audience is very impressed, hoots and hollers support and her smile lights up the room.
Strong, independent, full of faith, affection, love for poetry and one hell of an internal lyrical world, I am sure that Farah will be gracing the Palestinian literary heritage for many years. How that makes us happy. How that makes us proud.
She is regularly joined at our readings by an entire clan of family and friends who send positive smiles and support for her across the room, and seeing her beaming as she finishes each poem, memorized, reminds me every time why Poeticians exists in the first place. You go, girl.

I Am No Palestinian

Farah Chamma

I am no courageous,
Fearless, valorous, gallant,
Proud, adventurous,
Selfless patriot
I am a soul in exile
Expressing my thoughts in
All languages but mine
” Hi…I am Palestinian”
” Salut…Je suis palestinienne”
I cut my mother tongue
In half
نصبت المبتدأ و لعنت أبو الخبر
كسرت الضمة التي ضمت ما بيننا
Palestinian poet
Rafeef Ziadeh was right when
She said
”Allow me to speak my Arab tongue
Before they occupy my language as well”
Well… to that I must add
Allow me to be the Arab
That I am
Allow me my right
To learn, to travel, to pray
Allow me to walk through any
Foreign street without having
To feel this shame
Without having to think twice
About my clothes, my face, my name
Or the visa I had to work
Day and night for the claim
Because at the end of the day
I am not the one to blame
For Bin Laden, 9/11, and all your
Other schemes and games
I am but a soul in exile
I am in no hall of fame
I have to opt to be
Someone I am not
Just to fit in your fame
Despite the agony I went through
Despite the struggles I overcame
Despite the diplomas, the degrees,
The awards I acclaim
I am still no Palestinian

No matter how many
” I love Palestine” stickers
I stick on my car
No matter how many times
I cry over Gaza
And argue over the Israeli settlements
No matter how many times
I curse the Zionists, blame the media,
And swear at the Arab leaders
I am still no Palestinian
Even if I memorize the
Names of all the Palestinian cities
Even if I recite Mahmood Darwiche’s
Poetry and draw Handala on my walls

Even as I stand here tonight
In front of you all
I am no Palestinian
أنا مش فلسطينية
And I might never ever be
And that’s exactly what
Makes the Palestinian
In me…



Its really not very surprising that one of my favorite albums as a teenager was Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness.
I still write like a teenager. That’s probably a bad thing.
But to love, to love like a child, is probably necessary for the often aching adult brain.
This one is for Nees, Alex, Rach and JJ.

(For everything that is over)
Dubai, 01/02/2012

crush of lassitude
longitude of screen solitary, electric
don’t glow that one curve of smirk your lips anchor
on my neck,
once offered,
or your fur brown of eyes unaccustomed to
open language
and its pitfalls
that abyss of my violent hands moving to fool the body into rigor
how the ashtrays fill up so quickly
throat still hollow
how wasted were all those muscles yearning
in my face
whether grimaces I sobbed haunted you
or smiles bewitched sadness
I robbed of your dreams
how nothing shifts in sleep scapes
dawn, no longer narrow,
how fat everything feels
the swell of fingers repels dry
you could always find your path to stroke
my spine
as swing for merriment, my skin,
pool of aqua in my waist when all was
once shed rotten red
and sick yellow,
how even the trashcans fill up so quickly,
and I have more evening
and I have more morning
cheeks sallow
conversations in logic regurgitated
masticated in that gift of
infinite delicacy
friends who
empty out junkyards in my ribs,
who insist, despite the seeping bellow
that logic will stamp code rules on all this sorrow,
how I keep explaining of feet bereft, still peeking
behind stumbled movements of white
grey numb collision,
once mellow,
all drab setting of teeth ground against reason,
against limping to bedrooms empty,
mornings silent,
that peculiar lassitude of shoulders,
embraces, counted,
now stored parchment crumbles,
age old love letters you never agreed to send,
hunger barking in stomachs
words, cheap,
words infinite,
vile words that twist, flare and echo.



Thoughts on having children. Or not having children.

Dubai, 28th, Jan 2012.

It is meant to be the animal will
the divine right
the one cry of my aging aunt against the light
the cupcakes in smeared chocolate
the small hugs in the dawn
the squeezing of hands at a doctor’s assessment
the unflinching fear of disease
and betrayal
the alarm clocks for school
the every every day of sameness
comfort and death in every
the one demand your Arab parents make
guilting you into procreation
and the flurry of midnight jaunts
now impossible
now absent,

the reason our thighs intersect
make musical wars
tempests of drums blaring pleasure
the only suitable adornment for my chest as skin graces skin
as gods would
or touch one another
or playfully banter
as heaven might feel under your feet
as only sleep can bring salvation
as morning sun is to forgetfulness
as the moon is to private weeping
all one day,
swept away by the toothless
miniscule smile
stamped by DNA
or sane,
all loss diminished by a first word
or a tottering step of hesitation
and that mesmerizing ability to suddenly read,
upturned eyes with expressions interpreted best in
holy books
written in water
only by mothers
and fathers
perused for eternity by the type of love words can’t define,
measured by sacrifice prisoners of conscience
dare not put into memoirs,
spun silk like fingers clutching,
toes, five little perfect cherubs, drawn in grand design
I cannot will myself to decipher.

It is meant to be the meaning of woman
and man
the solution to decay
life ongoing, ever moving, a
machine so rampant
I am breathless at its beat,
at its harmony,
its brutal candor,
its bludgeoning of the senses, deprived of logic,
or rationale
or mathematical symmetry
or even humor.

It’s the completion of my breath,
the atonement of all sins,
the mirth of glee familial,
agony of responsible admonishment,
that unique creation of spirit separate from your body,
the frantic fear at every second
of every street intersection of
and danger lurking
in even small plastic objects,
and in shadows of
bombs heralding horror,
and for those in war zones,
trees aflame
sky ablaze
the ground a funeral
not a playground,
not a landscape natural.
How do they do it?
How does skin extend?
How does the heart bulge to encompass lavishing nurture?
The pocket as deep as thoughts can grow?
The mouth vessel for wisdom
for punishment
for the lyrical naming of animals,
and clouds,
and clothes,
and continents
and galaxies,
and the explanation attempted at
feelings primal,
alleviation of hunger,
for the type of caretaking without deadlines
or schedules
or tangible compensation
or fame
or fortune,
or the keeping at bay of real life monsters,
how do they do it?

I think of you
I think of you, my love,
that bed you sleep in,
those pillows I gathered,
far from my restless center,
the way our love created only embers,
the way our love created only questions,
your brown eyes in memory
slowly diminished,
once proud,
sky bent,
as dull and as quiet
as chopped greyish lumber,
silences between us,
the lines forming on my face childless,
nothing but fear cavorting in our
dusty corners,
the hands we dislocated from one another,
the way our feet don’t curl up
in slumber,
and how
how do they all do it?

Maybe there really is no planning the future.
Maybe even poetry is incapable of committing to a suitable answer.
Maybe slow steaming love is decisions made
in afternoons of somber
sober reflection,
a careful ascension to personal thrones
of lineage
as grandeur,
and not that furnace we flung ourselves into,
lit brightly,
briefly illuminating a universe entire,
to be then a charcoal portrait
a work of splendor,
extinguished and without name,
forgotten, without even a tremor.

For the days are all my own,
and the nights are all my own,
and I am as far as desire can go,
and as lost as the calling of wind takes me.

In the Womb.


For you, sir, who thinks you have any sort of say over what my body does or does not want to do.

In the Womb
(For those with a penchant for ludicrous laws over my body)

Hey you,
yes you, with that smirk on your lost face,
that beard you hide behind
those eyes of yours shrunk like whatever manhood remains
that manhood you think
can be inflated at my expense,
yes you, you
with the preaching
and your hemlock words
all that insidious pretentious posturing of wisdom you drape like a
sodden halo around your tired sense of self,
you think anything can stop my rampant galloping body?

Hey you,
yes you with the temper tantrum and the clenched fists,
you with the turgid failure that penetrates nothing but spaces of rape,
yes you, with your holy books
stained with putrid bigotry,
yes you,
you with your weeping failure of a mother,
and silent father, and your sons, faced glazed over with loss,
and daughters too pummeled to speak,
you with bank accounts as fraudulent security,
your nepotistic presidents as ammunition,
and guns as loudspeakers chanting faith,
and what you decree as heresy,
you with your idolatry and persecution,
living on myths of what your ilk considered history,
consider this. Consider it at length, and with fear,
and finality.

My body can croon children to sleep,
to laughter,
to satisfied bellies of ecstasy,
can tumble through serene mountain slopes to rivers angry,
can jaunt across all the mental spheres you don’t notice
in your hurry, in your business suit, in
your pathetic finery,
can tell the world of love only glimpsed at in your stale heartbeat,
can tell time, and space and the angels to write poetry,
before banishing all that to
relegated abandoned memory,
can sing,
can dance like the moon never stopped rising,
like the water never dried,
like melody never had to stop pulsating,
like fruit hung off my tongue at every crossroad
of thighs, thrashing,
this body can thrust and yield,
can donate life and
can eradicate it,
can careen off the stars to land on your lips,
foolishly whimpering,
while I entwine the trees in my fingers,
my palms from heaven,
a rhapsody,
this body can conjugate verbs,
differentiate math equations and understand
can bark orders at will, and embrace for eternity all disciples,
this body can run,
and swim,
and offer a thousand strokes of a smile,
healing medicine and witchery,
can laugh till all thunder dies down,
and can storm a lightening love wail to drown all our misery,
can reach across the table and hold the hand of a friend bereft,
can sew, and stitch all the places ravaged by lunacy,
can dream up constellations and sink to ocean depths of
can revise all your sciences to a single snapshot of
the face of
mothers baking cookies,
and can inscribe political slogans of anger you
dare not even formulate, no matter
the savagery, the battery, the tyranny.

Hey you,
you clamping to your skin what you may think is the word
To all my unrepentant sluttery
womanly bravery
all my effusive Arab prowess and seductive history,
you, you who may think
shackles become me,
or modesty,
or invisible self inflicted misogyny,
you who doubt that I can smear war paint
on my eyelids
at every bar in town,
slam dunk sentences of reprieving answers to
every cunning attempt,
every violating treachery,
you who think I cannot find my way home in the dark,
brandishing battle scars and
flourishing integrity,
yes you,
from your apathy,
snap open your slothful slumber and
barge a battering ram into your patriarchy,
fuck it,
send it slinked to a wormhole of contempt,
and our collective mockery.

This body,
my body,
was sculpted for months in a miracle in my
mother’s body,
was breathed out in a moment of sanctity,
was embraced for decades by her matriarchy,

how the fuck do you ever deign to suppose you can harness me.

Had you met my
mother, you
would bow your head in respect,
relinquish arms,
sunken so called masculinity between useless limbs,
your terror arrested,
your decrees of lawful honor nothing more than
ancient tales
of useless
Yes, you,
you aflush with that murderous lack of bravery.



I met- briefly and for a gorgeous moment- a very very old man on the New York subway. His gentleman behavior has stayed with me for months. On this day of bombs in Damascus, of violence in Cairo, of death in Palestine- so daily- I dedicate this story to him and all the men in the world who treated women- homeland, children, flowers- with beauty. Thank
you, anonymous old man.

(For Damascus, whom I disliked, until she began bleeding)
Dubai, 24/12/2011

Today, in Damascus, they disgraced all memory of Jasmine,
they planted two sapling suicides to blossom not so far
from where my father thought the last
few breaths would be fragrant.
In a cycle of misunderstanding of all that is body and kisses and sunlight,
and the power of energy, and the harnessing of danger
into thoughts malignant in countries sodomized,
We never had a country.
Mourning one is a learning curve,
steeped in dazed arrivals and the whispered phone calls,
wondering at the I.
I have been dreaming of another old man, who by now is steeped in snow
and cataracts invading sight of skyscrapers baffling.
It was the beginning of winter, and the end of my journey,
and New York city a moody bitch lover, haranguing.
Somalia had been sinking, and in it, youth, and laughter.

I could not count on five fingers, the reasons for awakening.

The sentiment of yearning was atrocious, for
everywhere was dirt on streets, prevalent,
the tourists hungry.
Who was I, young once and inflamed by limbs orgasming on motion?

Here again, and again, was the subway, careening
off dungeons imagined,
bequeathed to nothing but rats and the silences of strangers,
private tiny suffering held in Pathmark booklets of
coupon cutouts of cheese rations,
and the homeless mingling with the high, and the beckoning
of brown arms sexy,
the crisscross of the Brooklyn child’s braids as
her watery eyes connived understanding of the
safe, danger, mommy.
I held my belly, its roundness gesturing all that is female,
and torpor, all that is
enveloping organs pumping thought matter
shattered as splintered coke cans squished by teenage
boys oblivious to but her temporary parted lips,
how the gloss
on them tempting made sucking noises when they
dove in for the kiss, public,
and how resurfacing for air amongst a hurtling carriage
was akin to an opera of pining.
A young man in dreads wrote a poem,
misspelt on his smart phone, his ignorance
forever divine in the attempt at memory, lucid
harmony of all his melancholy.
And then I saw him,
I saw the old man in rush hour, and I
stifled physical interference in the natural play
of place taking, sitting, standing, the breathing of
stale air and humidity,
the restless shifting of eyes surveying a jungle
in a carriage meaning
swollen feet could throb a little less,
hands that jittered could be subdued,
the daily hustling rested on metal
and other warm skin, the race perhaps on pause,
the thievery of hope,
He hobbled softly, a slow move
towards the one small seat left, panacea- oh, thank god
balm, resurrection, justice, equality.
I may have had blood
lust jousting between my eyes and all others watching.
I dared them make a
move to his little haven of repose,
and the sanctity of aiding the elderly.

He must have been well over eighty.

His hat, pink and frayed, said
“20 years anniversary for the walk for Aids”.
I wondered where he got it, a thrift
store, the trash can, the memorial for his
nephew blighted by new diseases and all this modernity.
Oh and then. Then.
He sat. He sat. He sat.
I noticed hearing aids in
hairy ears flapping against lined cheeks, crusty skin
denoting a New York life, far from simple, far from levity.
I kept staring, as
tremors of faith shot up my arms, swelled
my flat chest,
gave forth to a smile, the weight
of bags I carried, a burden
lightened, a thrill
so minute, so infinitesimal, so pretty, I did not speak,
nor prayed, nor sang gospel songs of
gratitude, but a mere
breath let itself fall for the first time that day,
as the old man clutched his tote bag closer to him and stared intently at nothing.

he saw my eyes gawking at him. Instantly,
and without thought, within a split
instinctive second of brevity, he stood up and offered me his seat,
god like bravery, simple everyday kindness and mercy,
He must have been eighty.
Oh Father, how I loved you.

And I trembled and I startled.
And I gasped, assured him with pure physical idolatry
that- never never– he sat back,
please sit sir, never never
down and looked away, and I,
had healed Africa, returned my
mother to her sunlit window in Damascus
to read her DH Lawrence, had given my father
a new contract for youth,
I had witnessed the revolution of peasants against monarchy,
Palestine was a beloved land,
nothing but honey seeped from her blisters,
and nothing but morning silence yielded dreams on
faces of mothers and fathers and
vanquished was the power of their merkavas and money,
and my sister was but a doe-eyed dear flitting in forests serene,
my lungs alchemied nothing but serenity,
New York had not been raped,
Iraq had not been raped,
and every man I ever loved had
never cried because of me,
there was no nuclear bomb to fear,
and there were no cluster bombs left
in Lebanon, our bodies were revered,
and suddenly suddenly,
suddenly suddenly, we lived
forever, and glare in the harsh day we feared
was pure reflections off children’s
running wildly, never having known a ghetto,
or rancid poverty

Suddenly, suddenly,
I stepped off the train in a daze,
there may have been an escalator, New York
at Columbus Circle on 59th, was all
Central Park beauty,
flourish, wealth and complexity,
the road had flowers instead of arrows,
people kissed instead of hissed
on turbulent phones,
and as the wind cuddled
leaves bursting fertility with yellow, orange,
red fire of heaven and all her
palette of divinity,
I could not feel my feet as
they tread paths, silent,
all inside poetic,
all purpose clear,
my heart, steady, steady.
Be kind, for everyone you know is fighting a battle.
What cliché,
what truth,
what calamity.



Sometimes, it is preferable to have the alone heat of a sweaty laptop in your hands, writing, nestled in your lap,

than to be sweaty and flushed with words in the lap of a hot writer, elsewhere.

The following is how I feel about moonlight. You get a silver star if you finish it. I wont bet on it! I will have to chop this rant in half, soon.

For you, the moon.
Iowa City, October 2011.

I love the dark.
The mental synapses can be illuminated in ways that
open are foreheads to the galaxies.
To the birds, the trees, the trash littering rivers,
imprint in sobriety the flower you couldn’t believe bloomed
but my physical body seeks
pockets of spillage,
light leaking to haunt you.


Skip behind little flames.
Light a candle for all that you have lost.
Weep whenever you can.

Let him touch you where he wants,
the flicker of motion gives renewal, both
light and your bodies have much in common.

You can proclaim love,
hidden behind bobbing lanterns on a river if you wish a
postcard for the moment.

Let the humid summer night insects glow occasionally to
guide you.

The street corners are shade,
are temples of all your familiars. Undress as you should,
the skirt barely lifted by a breeze, his eyes burst with
a love story can be born in cracks of walls,
by alleys, hushed
voices their own galaxy.

The sun benevolent to his brown
face while a shadow protects all that
alabaster in her, and on
her, and in her spring,
the steps she takes,
a clothes line,
fluttering she is,
to it are her half-snapped photographs,
the woman is a phantom when you tighten your
chest to remember her, the dart
of her glances is all answers.

You know she was singing.

You send prayers to the light changes, for her
appearance, savior.

Think of sunsets.

All the many you promised yourself you’d stamp on your
forever, while they slipped
to the necessary
housekeeping of the soul.
The sun dissolving into a palette without borders,
degrading into space,
now you can start.


In a poem about love in the dark,
one cannot but display the word,
Yes, lurk around the hallways of his privacy.
Leave a glimmering part of yourself to mesh with his
the walls he has are now only places where she has
no more than that.


Stare at the face of your child in perfect darkness,
you might still learn forever the contours.


Perhaps the way the window pane reflects his eyes is
in a slash of light errant.
There must be welcomed intrusion of
day, refracted
the way his eyes crinkle at the edges, reminds
you perhaps of your first love,
the one that was not and yet you are so full of being,
staring at a window, thinking of a tattooed woman
reading poetry to her last love.


His knee should be dipped in darkness,
his not giving bare the stripped body in
noon light but a fortress
of somber shadows to adorn it,
the way I could move like a ghost in your bed,
slithered vital
conversations, half a dream away.


I would rather, my love,
the infinite repose of soles in sand on
afternoons where kissing the sun
is possible, her molten lips simmering, warming
yours like that one grasped soft hand
under the sheets, asleep
in December.  You can
lick the sun, when
the world is behind us,
our day vanished, like another planet.


Give the physical body not
the laboring of midday excursions, where baring the self
is endemic, the loss of power.
Their faces bleached by the direct rays
and when they rest,
to breathe, they
maybe silent.


For me, the languid talk of dew, the desert evening,
dark skin a mattress,
my fingers a scorpion.

The nurtured annotations on my scarred skin are mine.
For you,
the fantasy of shadows.


Words can be chosen to lighten
fasten all the loose ends lost by this fluid
dance in the dark I love.
And you could say anything to me.

I can listen
and even the bed sheets do, and that bottle of lavender,
the books steal your lines,
and our invisible sleep.


Cluster to one’s self in daylight, where
the face prepares for night.
Release of its alertness,
the jumbled colors have left the sunset to swim sepia
over your smile.

I can see your tongue peek
out, so very
rumbling in my chest is awareness
of its taste.  You can
still see love, in enclosure, black.

Yellow ripples
Moss green, color of rot
sometimes, are the brushed strokes of

Do not speak to me of your mistrust of darkness.


bathe in orange by the street lamp, restless
to throw its body
around yours, hard metal to all her curves, the hardness
within you,

the nearest wall,
pin a moment,
your feet firmly planted, the
night- suddenly, lava.


Consider existing in the night. Consider language.
That unwinding of
all that is responsible,
all those allowances-
please fall into yourself, you
have lost all the clocks they gave you.


Bury work,
that gnaws at your 2 pm hunger,
and the daily sandwich,
coffee a respite in that loop you may find yourself in,
but the night, well my love,
the night knows
how to have its differences.
A fingerprint.

Even you, touching my thigh absent mindedly
reading a gorgeous
book that isolates me, even you,
beautiful sleepy you,
aren’t here tomorrow.

Try living in the shadows, in the
backs of rooms perhaps,
letting poetry tell you in huddled stolen
stories, eyes sting
and wonder, all you
could ever need to muster
of a sudden understanding of the other,
and the smallness of physical separation,
and solitary exhaustion,
fall into a poem whose words can fit her hips, when she

In the dark, some plants glow.

In the dark, plants can grow,
and music is made
by millions,
to save you. Try listening to the same music in
and keep only few
note the sensation that you are altered, possibly
transfixed in one plateau, or suddenly
able to hold her hand, or
toss her on a bed, or
crawl up her navel,
smash sofa edges to the mercy of her stretched neck,
where only that
and music, is a planet that you own, a
home that can save you, the continuous burning of a
resurrected altar.

Every night, small awaiting of finitude,
little deaths of the daily I, who
are we, those passengers of tales we
ascribe to our inner, constant elusive of all your
hallways in the personal architecture,
giving the night only palor,
and ardor, and fervor to claim
the word “shadows” beyond the etymology of
mere parlance of the word

The night
and its dark is separate
cellular matter, a
universe, the rules once attempted, now
a drifting planet
where you are creator, and yet also the murdered by dawn,
Give me the cool of your language at dawn.
The half profile of you,
sentences tumbling at discreet intervals, my
parted sides contained by the way your eyes are a mirror.
Touch me,
I can see you.
For me, give me the nights you could not sleep,
and not the mornings after,
the days where death openly saunters,
mocking our expressions,
our dry eyes unblinking,
parched for the possibility of water on the moon.



I am so lucky that every (afternoon) as I have my morning coffee, Joel ambles up to the river bench and smokes with me, and we look at flowers and talk of poetic syncopation and the gossip of last night, and invariably he offers me a new name, a new poem, which he thinks I would like. He is usually correct, smart soulful man. Today it was Mary Oliver, and how hot the sun suddenly, on our black attire, on our toes, the coffee burning more than my lips and his warnings that she may make me cry, but in the greatest way possible, the way only poetry can do. Enjoy today’s tidbits.

Wild Geese

Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

In Blackwater Woods

by Mary Oliver

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.
Every year
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.


Iowa City Blues


Random thoughts on a grey afternoon.


Iowa City blues

Iowa city, 17th Sept, 2011.


That river, once blue in your mind’s eye, is swirling mud green,

you can feel the squelch in your toes and

the vile teeth of creatures that mean you harm, even

if distant, even if voiceless.

The clouds are in gestation, their grey omnipotence harkens

whirling gusts of sorrow.

Please rain. Perhaps that will distract from

a small desert I have put through a sieve,

inside my gathered splintered spaces.

There was a promise once made to never write of nature, but

a midwest rakes a brow,


and there is an understanding of why they wrote of birds and flowers.

I would like to write of your shoulders and

other homes I have relinquished.

I would write of wars enclosing,

and even your words would be part of that assault.

But the clouds are pregnant with witness,

I share a landscape with no one but my sobriety, and on days like this,

the flushed rose of hips is alchemy, now blubber, where

beached whales of my perception of self are choking on a bed,

charting an ocean between us.

I promised to not write of the river, but

but water is reflective, and

it has not rained.


Can’t keep up…


With the pace of what’s happening. Yet, I am always inside my own head. And can be found alone, often. Or hiding. Or laughing in semi alone privacy, when there was a full moon, a roof and so much light creeping through metal, through trees, our silences and sentences and lit glowing tips.

I wanted to write and tell you about Pittsburgh and Sonia Sanchez. Her genius. She is 77 years old and put on a roaring show. The energy vibrating through her was ricocheted all throughout our bodies and smiles. She eats macrobiotic food and hugs everyone. Called me sister. Is there anything more beautiful than the African American habit of calling each other sister and brother?

I could have told you about the audience. And how shiny I felt, on the inside. How many people loved Palestine and came up to me in tears after, to say so. What a blessed experience. I don’t have the will power and the inspiration to write a lot today.

I have fallen in love with Stephen Dunn. It is official. I always suspected it, but now it is confirmed. I don’t care if he is in his fifties, married, with kids and way out of my league, I have fallen in love with Stephen Dunn. I will write something this week about how he took over my brain for two days, probably why I am not in any shape to write much today…

Here are some poems. It is impossible to pick ones that would explain how reading an entire book makes one feel. Its not fair, to choose a couple. I have previously posted some of my favorites. A little (lengthy) stalking of this blog will send you back to them. Yes, yes, I know I should start tagging. Sigh.


The sister I never had
enters my wife when I am
sleeping next to her.
So many times
I’ve watched my sister
come from her separate room,
the room that long ago
in a house of brothers
was an extra room
down the hall from where
I would dream her alive.
She climbs into bed
on my wife’s side
and I touch my wife awake
for now my sister and she
are the woman I must talk to
about incompleteness and love.
Awake, she doesn’t know
my sister is in her,
she doesn’t know why my embrace
has so much gratefulness in it,
why my questions are all
whispered as if
a father could overhear us.
She thinks I want to
make love but I remove
her hand and hold it,
ask another question
about high school and loss,
the kind of loss
that repeats itself every day
like being born
without a leg.
I watch my sister leave
as my wife takes me
in her arms, says hush
you’ve been talking again,
sleep now,
and I curl into her
as if it were possible
she could be everything to me,
alone like this,
just ourselves.

Beautiful Women

More things come to them,

and they have more to hide.
All around them: mirrors, eyes.
In any case
they are different from other women
and like great athletes have trouble
making friends, and trusting a world
quick to praise.

I admit without shame
I’m talking about superficial beauty,
the beauty unmistakable
to the honest eye, which causes
some of us to pivot and to dream,
to tremble before we dial.

Intelligence warmed by generosity
is inner beauty, and what’s worse
some physically beautiful women have it,
and we have to be strapped and handcuffed
to the mast, or be ruined.

But I don’t want to talk of inner beauty,
it’s the correct way to talk
and I’d feel too good
about myself, like a parishoner.
Now, in fact,
I feel like I’m talking
to a strange beautiful woman at a bar, I’m
animated, I’m wearing that little fixed
smile, I might say anything at all.

Still, it’s better to treat a beautiful woman
as if she were normal, one of many.
She’ll be impressed that you’re unimpressed,
might start to lean your way.
This is especially true if she has aged
into beauty, for she will have learned
the sweet gestures one learns
in a lifetime of seeking love.
Lucky is the lover of such a woman
and lucky the woman herself.

Beautiful women who’ve been beautiful girls
are often in some tower of themselves
waiting for us to make the long climb.

But let us have sympathy for the loneliness
of beautiful women.
Let us have no contempt for their
immense privilege, or for the fact
that they never can be wholly ours.

It is not astonishing
when the scared little girl in all of them
says here I am, or when they weep.
But we are always astonished by what
beautiful women do.

“Boxers punch harder when women are around,”
Kenneth Patchen said. Think what happens
when beautiful women are around.
We do not question
that a thousand ships were launched.

In the eye of the beholder? A platitude.
A beautiful woman enters a room,
and everyone beholds. Geography changes.
We watch her everywhere she goes.
-Stephen Dunn



Waiting with Two Members of a Motorcycle Gang for My Child to Be Born

by Stephen Dunn.


I was talking to “The Eliminators”
when you were born,
two of them, high as slag heaps and
uncles to be,
all in black for the occasion,
All you wanted was out;
you couldn’t have known that you
were Life;
when you came, or that your father
was let loose
from graduate school, a believer
in symbols.
I expected “The Eliminators” to
disappear, snuffed out
by a stronger force, a white tornado
of my own.
That’s not what happens, though,
in life
as you will learn. They smiled when
they heard of you
and shook my hand. And another time
it might
have been my head. May you turn
stone, my daughter,
into silk. May you make men better
than they are.


some things i wanted to say to you

If the horse that you ride

is blind it’s good

that it also be slow,

and please stroke it

a hundred more times than you would

the powerful dazzling one.

To be generous is one thing,

but there’s a clerk in some of us,

quick to say yes.

Worry about the command

in the suggestion.

Worry about smiles, and those men

whose business is business.

There are joys and enigmas

of an evening alone

to appreciate.

There are always the simple events

of your life

that you might try to convert

into legend.

Did you know

a good dog in your house

can make you more thoughtful,

even more moral?

And sex without conversation,

sex that’s erotic or sleepy…

oh don’t let anybody tell you

there’s a wrong way to have it.

Tell your lovers the world

robs us is so many ways

that a caress is your way

of taking something back.

Tell the dogs and the horses

you love them more than cars.

Speak to everything

would be my advice.