Shower.

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I wont comment too much on the poem below. Allow inference. I am stranded in another airport for another few hours and the sunlight hates me. The big city vibe of this airport is nervous after the Iowa river sunbathing and its midnight conversations. I want to hide in poetry but the airport is never quiet, is it.

I wrote this poem a few days ago, not sure why. I am on my way to perform poetry at the City Of Asylum Jazz poetry festival in Pittsburgh. I have to choose a poem that a jazz collective will play to. Sounds a little frightening. I havent chosen the poem, I cant seem to. Should I be Palestinian? Or a lover? or a mourning daughter? or none of the above.

You get one shot to claim a persona for an audience of strangers. I might leave the choice for another person to make.

It is dangerous living with nothing but poetry on your mind. Everything real is so distant and I know the crash is coming. But what delight to have the labour of your day fulfilled by emails for poetry, blog posts on poetry, plane rides for poetry, updates to letters on poetry, and the reading of poetry on airplanes, turbulent.

I may have died a little and gone to language heaven. It will be a rude awakening come November.

 

Shower

Iowa City, Sept 6th, 2011

 

I have littered the room with cups of coffee,

all bits of bitter sludge

in the attempt aftermath,

all almost-but-not-finished.

At night, the scent of hazelnut- fake chemical– is noxious

in the room, but I keep them,

thinking maybe less sleep

is a gift given or dream interrupted or a chemically induced state of

resurrection of self.

Instead,

I have vacuumed into my belly a hundred poems today

in torpor and angst

the arms ache from shaking across screens -transcendent lines-

whose words now combust with the radioactive

remains of all that brown sugar and late night thoughts of kisses I digest,

but even after this cleanup,

nothing is clean

not yet

sentences wobble on dust motes

the sun is phosphor glowing through

drooped eyelids stubborn but the rain would have told better

stories- I know, I have read them-

I tried to sleep

I am not sure if the poem is what always awakens you.

But the body must rise,

brush off the orange and purple

glance discreetly at the mute TV where they can sell me myself,

when I have lost everything. The body must rise and not stop to wonder-

who are these people yanking and shoving and screaming their lives out, like soda pop water, my mother used to always warn…It’s nothing but water and sugar and will rot your teeth..here, some fruit…how could they also share a world where your remembered lips are still so round, little tongue, mango fuzz,  clean, little slip triangular at my unbecoming blushing, the dismantlement of all resolutions of resolve, the opening of thighs for life anew –

the body must rise, even to cold coffee cups and

a swollen tongue,

lingering of bitterness, teeth shooting complaints, fire.

Unfetter the eyes from glasses,

the hair from wrapped entanglement,

run water

run water

run water on everything you could not heal with a hundred poems.

Be naked with the silent TV, outside your

bathroom, where you question

your waistline

and how far your fingers can reach.

Then you must paint.

And

sew

and lace the body further –prettier, smarter, softer, healthier, stronger, better, feistier, forever-

set the sun outside for yet another meeting

of literary minds

who will speak of such calamities- of thousands killed in buildings that reflected another sunset

your own longing

is minute now, a tremor.

Perhaps, you think, I can still learn something,

which is not read by a sorceress from the remains of a

coffee cup, the

way your grandma used to –the passing down of her Nazarene dreams,  her warnings

you should be able now to hear the door crashing behind you,

don’t forget your eyeliner –armor

and you must then

-this here might need some preparation-

say thank you to the man who opens the hotel front door,

and you must find the right sentence that commands thighs to other motion,

and you must walk,

even after having spoken to no one,

even after being without.

 

Quiver.

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This is the saddest excerpt from a poem I have read all week. I read over 120 poems the past few days, which causes a certain madness in the brain and a certain un-quelled longing in the gut. In discovering Robert Hass, I came across this, and it moved me. Then I was meandering online, and it popped up again, randomly. I figured I must share it. Maybe it will mean nothing to you.

(I only realized how appropriate the title of the full poem was, till now. Magic, it exists. I swear.)

 

September Notebook: Stories

Robert Hass

 

He found that it was no good trying to tell

what happened that day. Everything he said

seemed fictional the moment that he said it,

the rain, the scent of her hair, what she said

as she was leaving, and why it was important

for him to explain that the car had been parked

under eucalyptus on a hillside, and how velvety

and blurred the trees looked through the windshield;

not, he said, that making fictions might not be

the best way of getting at it, but that nothing he said

had the brute, abject, unassimilated quality

of a wounding experience: the ego in any telling

was already seeing itself as a character, and a character,

he said, was exactly what he was not at that moment,

even as he kept wanting to explain to someone,

to whomever would listen, that she had closed the door

so quietly and so firmly that the beads of rain

on the side window didn’t even quiver.

 

For the full poem go to:

Privilege of Being

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We had an all American lunch yesterday, lots of meat, little veggies. The sun had blossomed beyond description and it was the calmest breeze I ever did feel. We wandered around looking for coffee and food, as everything in our hotel had shut down for Labour day. On our way to food, we stopped by Prairie lights to pick up books, at least the guys did, and this made all the difference. What went from a warm, languorous afternoon, with beautiful people and a very cloudy sky, to a poetry fest at lunch. Evidence below. It was the most poetic french fries I ever did ingest. I was introduced to the poetry of Robert Hass, which also made my afternoon spiral into various directions, all luminous, all flickering with lights on water moving, the way the young man took his sandals off and read by the trees, the loud girls taking photos on the bridge screaming about being cover girls and so hawwwttt, the way you could almost forgive them the defilement of silence as they were so young and beautiful and unaware. I enjoyed the book a lot and the rest of my mad evening, which is another story altogether. This is the poem I was requested to read out loud at lunch, by Joel. It is gorgeous.

Poetry lunch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Privilege of Being
Robert Hass

Many are making love. Up above, the angels

in the unshaken ether and crystal of human longing

are braiding one another’s hair, which is strawberry blond

and the texture of cold rivers. They glance

down from time to time at the awkward ecstasy—

it must look to them like featherless birds

splashing in the spring puddle of a bed—

and then one woman, she is about to come,

peels back the man’s shut eyelids and says,

look at me, and he does. Or is it the man

tugging the curtain rope in the dark theater?

Anyway, they do, they look at each other;

two beings with evolved eyes, rapacious,

startled, connected at the belly in an unbelievably sweet

lubricious glue, stare at each other,

and the angels are desolate. They hate it. They shudder pathetically

like lithographs of Victorian beggars

with perfect features and alabaster skin hawking rags

in the lewd alleys of the novel.

All of creation is offended by this distress.

It is like the keening sound the moon makes sometimes,

rising. The lovers especially cannot bear it,

it fills them with unspeakable sadness, so that

they close their eyes again and hold each other, each

feeling the mortal singularity of the body

they have enchanted out of death for an hour or so,

and one day, running at sunset, the woman says to the man,

I woke up feeling so sad this morning because I realized

that you could not, as much as I love you,

dear heart, cure my loneliness,

wherewith she touched his cheek to reassure him

that she did not mean to hurt him with this truth.

And the man is not hurt exactly,

he understands that his life has limits, that people

die young, fail at love,

fail of their ambitions. He runs beside her, he thinks

of the sadness they have gasped and crooned their way out of

coming, clutching each other with old, invented

forms of grace and clumsy gratitude, ready

to be alone again, or dissatisfied, or merely

companionable like the couples on the summer beach

reading magazine articles about intimacy between the sexes

to themselves, and to each other,

and to the immense, illiterate, consoling angels.

 

From HUMAN WISHES (Ecco Press, 1989)

Eviction

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This is the first draft of a poetic-ish commentary on the Dean Young reading I went to last week. If you read the previous blog post, you’ll see that it was a benefit to collect money in a variety of ways to help heal the heart of a beloved writer, by his community. They, as poets, were not used to selling things. It was endearing. I thought of how we poison our own bodies, sometimes with garbage food, sometimes with poisonous people, sometimes with our own thoughts. This naturally led to some majorly cheesy questions and the poem below. Those of you who know me will probably forgive the silliness of wanting to write about hearts at a poetry benefit.

Eviction
Iowa city, Sept 5th, 2011.

Sometimes, the heart plunges outside of
the tucked self, refuses
that purpose, its sole ticking mission, crumbles the rules, unwritten by you.
A wastepaper basket of all what should have been.
You can beg it, but it has moved, and left
you no stone trail. In its invisible structure,
decisions have been made,
while you were out drinking,
searching for brighter stars.
The hum of the air conditioning is louder than my heart,
and what comfort. The trees wobble outside, and I know a sunrise can be counted on.
Even the sky is still blue, as I will
it to turn over, close its eyes, so I can be naked.
Some hearts are not so pliant.
You may need health insurance, stitches, your
children, a nurse and private weeping you
may only imagine on your wife’s face, upturned to her own god.
You can perhaps imagine how they all sat in silence.
Expected, respected, your words were
masters, from a far away time we have
not abolished. Poetry is concrete around these weightless figures, in a bookstore,
where not even feet made themselves audible. Your poetry was at stake,
but could also save, could even play
hunter to hearts that fled, with abandon.
Your friends, that word never quite
synonymous with visceral spheres of action
and speech and all that handholding entailed,
your friends have gathered to save your heart.
What is in the heart, but blood pumping common matter?

Why all the squalid love stories?

What you required was money, and what
you could offer was poems. And
in an alternate fiscal system, there was enough to barter.
Beloved
beloved by many
and your heart
and their money
and your words
and their time
and your legacy
and their energy
a young driven woman with tresses
whose older poet lover also sang lines, a stake through my own center.
In poem after poem, we sat,
stood, crossed stealthy our ankles,
remembered, yearned for precise revelations of what
language could still offer,
in the recedes of our faces which knew too much,
a room of books and lovers,
a plain for solitude as far as the mind can think, a brink, the precipice
of expression, tugging at clefts in my own boundaries,
while they kept wading
to save your heart, waterlogged in congenital spells and damnation.
They ventured out as far as the worth of poetry is measurable.
Down as far as the imagined sea pocket was deep.

I kept thinking of my own heart,
not blighted at birth,
nor aging.
I know humans die alone,
but what of the multitudes who will protect you from the journey?
I trembled
in a bookstore where
the pages ought not scare you. My knees shook from all
that I do not know yet. And all that leaving behind of what I once knew to be true.
The questions on inherited heart disease, how
that forms future rows of plastic chairs
and the drinking of wine, and the distribution of song.

What would you store in the heart to brew evil?
How do we ferment what is fresh?
Was I born lucky?

What could you write if you were ending.
Do fingers offer more to the mind on slow decline?

You must wake up, and speak to the body of sunlight,
for a poetry reading can save you.

To hide away from the malice of the heart,
start with a hand on your breast, pray to nothing but skin,
and what comes in between.
How will love live there?
Find an answer.

Brown eyed man, who could not see beyond the breast and my laughter,
who could not unite life force with a history,
I have mistreated my heart long enough.
I clog it up with late night commercials,
with the sugar and grease of traveled gravel and
necessary pit stops, with the filth of
daily news and massacres, elsewhere, stored
and unremembered.
It droops with flashed images of what
is pornographic in its hunger,
harbored,
as the chaste heart gallops, saying I, to every river.

The clouds are still white, and my teeth solid, in anger.

Beaten muscle, thank you.

Set aside the nicotine, and the
caffeine of buzzed skin rubbed on steaming
curved corners, the traces
of salt survival in every vein, the morphine
of happiness we drip like smiles,
clutching at semblances of a lone sentence
to finish one poem that will keep you,
benign, untarnished, sheltered.

This here is
tremor of faith in aortas that stride,
that withstand Palestine,
and the wilting of jasmine flowers,
of humans.
If this fist sized secret can conquer sunlight,
and understand the moon,
it can serenade my sister,
hold a child who deciphers it,
leave always a window open for the scent of my mother,
why would I allow you room for rental?

If a poetry reading can save you,
why summon in the sorceress of malady, the harbinger of sickness?
Brown eyed man,
this,
this here, is notice
is the last paper slip of eviction.

The much debated heart of Dean Young.

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I went to a benefit poetry reading recently which was organized to help collect funds for the health care required by the heart of a poet named Dean Young. He is beloved by many. Discovering his poetry has been a pleasure, if very intimidating. I wrote a long piece on my own heart after hearing about his congenital afflicted one. Apparently, I am not alone in this. We laughed over the french fries in the cafeteria as another told me of all the American poets who strive for less and less sentimentality now struggling to write about Dean and his heart, the word “Heart” coming into play far more often they would have liked to. How to write about mortality and love and friendship and poetry without all the necessary cliches. I fail at it. Of course.
I shall post up my own poem when I summon the courage this week, but for now I leave you with one of the poems I enjoyed at the reading, read by James Galvin, head of poetry department at Iowa Uni. James has a ridiculously fantastic way of reading, slow, sexy and deliberate, with a deep voice, and all the correct pauses, making humor arise of situations written that may have evaded a reader. It was a joy. This is the poem he read by Dean.


Sources Of The Delaware
by Dean Young

I love you he said but saying it took twenty years
so it was like listening to mountains grow.
I love you she says fifty times into a balloon
then releases the balloon into a room
whose volume she calculated to fit
the breath it would take to read
the complete works of Charlotte Bronte aloud.
Someone else pours green dust into the entryway
and puts rice paper on the floor. The door
is painted black. On the clothesline
shirttails snap above the berserk daffodils.
Hoagland says you’ve got to plunge the sword
into the charging bull. You’ve got
to sew yourself into a suit of light.
For the vacuum tube, it’s easy,
just heat the metal to incandescence
and all that dark energy becomes radiance.
A kind of hatching, syntactic and full of buzz.
No contraindications, no laws forbidding
buying gin on Sundays. Not if you’re pregnant,
if you’re operating heavy machinery because
who isn’t towing the scuttled tonnage
of some self? Sometimes just rubbing
her feet is enough. Just putting out
a new cake of soap. Sure, the contents
are under pressure and everyone knows
that last step was never intended to bear
any weight but isn’t that why we’re standing there?
Ripples in her hair, I love you she hollers
over the propellers. Yellow scarf in mist.
When I planted all those daffodils,
I didn’t know I was planting them
in my own chest. Play irretrievably
with the lid closed, Satie wrote on the score.
But Hoagland says he’s sick of opening
the door each morning not on diamonds
but piles of coal, and he’s sick of being
responsible for the eons of pressure needed
and the sea is sick of being responsible
for the rain, and the river is sick of the sea.
So the people who need the river
to float waste to New Jersey
throw in antidepressants. So the river
is still sick but nervous now too,
its legs keep thrashing out involuntarily,
flooding going concerns, keeping the president
awake. So the people throw in beta-blockers
to make it sleep which it does, sort of,
dreaming it’s a snake again but this time
with fifty heads belching ammonia
which is nothing like the dreams it once had
of children splashing in the blue of its eyes.
So the president gets on the airways
with positive vectors and vows
to give every child a computer
but all this time, behind the podium,
his penis is shouting, Put me in, Coach,
I can be the river! So I love you say
the flashbulbs but then the captions
say something else. I love you says
the hammer to the nail. I love Tamescha
someone sprays across the For Sale sign.
So I tell Hoagland it’s a fucked-up ruined
world in such palatial detail, he’s stuck
for hours on the phone. Look at those crows,
they think they’re in on the joke and
they don’t love a thing. They think
they have to be that black to keep
all their radiance inside. I love you
the man says as his mother dies
so now nothing ties him to the earth,
not fistfuls of dirt, not the silly songs
he remembers singing as a child.
I love you I say meaning lend me twenty bucks.

of course, James ended his reading with saying…”No, seriously, lend him twenty bucks”. Which the audience smiled and smiled at.

Gifts

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Helen Wing is one of our newer Poeticians, who for me is an example of the precise raison d’etre of the collective. Helen decided to pursue writing much more seriously, and in some very distant beautiful places, because of her involvement with the collective. Or so she tells us, and I radiate joy at those emails. She only read with us a few times, but her absence will be felt, and here is hoping she will return at some point in the winter to Dubai to perform some more. Today I woke up to rain, and sweet foggy memories of heavy moments in a twinkly night, and for sustenance, I was given these poems below, by Helen, to share on the site. Thank you, darlin. I hope you enjoy them, anonymous readers.
(And Rewa :P)

Of daemons in the duster, and of the most important things

Of the most important things

I simply cannot speak:

of passions old and new,

(although I do, but don’t do too,

if you get my drift,

not in any way that means that

we can seamlessly,

in blazing cherubim honesty,

stand here holding

each other’s feathered hand),

of babies’ toes, of undone

laces and straightenings,

of the agony of just one line of verse,

of yearning the size of Ireland

and potential not existing yet

even in the ancient patterned

dry-brown wet-red

pebbles

I line up by my bath,

as lapidary taunts

that reminisce the suppurating disconnect

between the my long lost bodied earth

and the light years hence out-distancing

of my spirit forsaken sky,

of the leagues between who I meant to be

and who I then became

and how

none of the stones I stepped upon

the peach chalcedony, the jadeite,

the insect snare of the agate seam,

the darkest hidden antimony,

or the weathered vicious flint,

were supposed

to slice

anyone

but

me,

of insignificant, shadow-ash

small, domestic pain,

strung like a grey grease-stained

stinky-stale dishcloth over

the tarnished lip of the sink

of my down-the-plughole type of life,

the enemy of Jif;

of mammoth envies

and sluggish rusted antonyms,

of fizzed-up dreams and nicotine

blasphemies and coked up, choked up,

staunched and cauterised desire,

of things I lost and cannot find,

of who fits in and who does not,

of whys and hows and whens

I really should have known,

of things in the end that I never even realised

I was supposed to try and understand.

No, of all these,

shall we call them,

important things

I simply

cannot,

cannot,

ever

speak

(though I am finding now,

since these translucent, polished light

swarming,

caressing and consoling

gentle whisper

angels

came

fluttering around the kitchen,

and the bath

and the stairwell

and the hall,

(all the places people secretly have to weep),

witnessing the ablutions

of my suspended in mid-air violet whittled life,

since these gorgeous fluttering winged creatures came,

I am finding

that of at least a few of

these seemingly important things

one day soon,

perhaps,

I may

be able

to

write).

So?

So?
So, she starches your shirts,
turns your collars,
and
replenishes
all your
underwear
every
three
months.
Spic and span!

So?

Wouldn’t you rather she took you in her mouth and
pulled on you
like she is dragging the shirt off a fidgety child?

Don’t you still want her to
….
draw you out until
you release from the depths of your belly
the moan
that is the nearest you can come
to a pin-striped
cosmic om
…..
which while it lasts
threads every part of you
onto
the silk skein of the frothing web
that spreads out
to every last corner
of the
universe?

‘Well, yes
and
no’
you say…

You say
you would prefer
to have

both…

So?

So, you already know that,
as time succeeds
where you
don’t,
eventually
you’ll prefer the shirt.

So,
you tell me as a mark of pride
that she is very clean.

So?

So, explain to me why this one thing
will never change
will always stay the same,
explain to me
that feeling as you button up
your freshly laundered shirt,
break out new pants,
pull on your navy
matching
socks,
explain to me
how spic and span
and primped and cleaned,
she makes you feel
like
dirt?

Hart

Thought:
that all that is
beautiful
should be
taboo.

Desire:
that your fingers trail the length
of my carnelian, carnal cave,
my teeth
buried
deep
in your stag-white,
snorting
throat.

Need:
that the past
should
cease.

Wish:
that we treat
this new
with a tenderness
reserved for all new-borns,
that we think
as one
unsplintered
soul
about
giving
it
a
name.


(Hymning him who brings the light) and now the light

I was always so afraid of death

but now

your words roar into me with the brute-purple force

of

immortality.

Your words run like slaughter swords,

like knives, they cut into my flesh,

your crimson, blazing courage

roaring

into

Your red, red words

burn into me,

leaving scars

upon

my

flesh,

slice right through

the thicket I had grown around my heart,

battering,

scorching,

razing,

flattening,

did I say battering?,

the wilderness

of

cyan weeds,

ochre’d, stinking corpses

and bulbous, silvered flies,

obliterating

the hecatomb

of

my

misery.

I was always so afraid of death.

Now dripping lupine teeth,

your cut-cut words,

slash and tear at me,

grind me down

and

leave me

scattered

on

the

ground.

I was always so afraid of death

but

now

I will die with the vision of your Tyrian eyes

flaying

the

redundant

crinkled skin

of

my

quailing,

….

of

my

sacrificial

dread.

An archangel carrying the flaming sword of my rendition,

your words,

terrible, brave and fierce,

like

…..

immortality.

My body part exists for this:

to atone,

that you might

cut,

eat,

kiss

and kill,

kill

and kiss,

consume

….

bring me back to life

if that should be your wish.

Your words roar into me and I am no longer afraid of death.

All that is

….

is

light.

Enough.

At-one

…..

for with words alone you inter me in your violet sky,

endlessly

…….

unearthed.

And so it starts.

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I am currently on a long trip to the USA to attend the Iowa International writing program, with 36 other lovely writer/poets/journalists/filmmakers and free spirits. It took a lot of suitcases, hustling and bustling, manic last dashes to taxi cabs and a little heartache to get here. It took too many airport coffees to mention, and the notion that one can only go forward. It took self discipline and not answering my phone. It took rummaging through bags in late nights to collect the odds and ends of lives, now ready to sleep. It took maniacal laughter on drunken buses celebrating the love of my newly wed friends, who are glorious. It took experiencing an earthquake in a house that shook, conversations with a woman who is 97 years old who told me everyday she still enjoyed life, who told me I was beautiful. It took a lot of rain, and dirt on my toes and a hurricane and laughter as my wondrous sister said the things that only she can say, to my heart.
And now I am here, and life is anew, and there is starlight and sunlight and moonlight and very cheap, very tasty alcohol, and more poets than the soul could bear. There are bookstores, and good looking healthy youngsters, like a balm on tattered thoughts. There is mexican food and hazelnut coffee, and more trees than I can manage to climb in three months. There are mischievous smiles across local bar tables, and the surprise of the discovery of a shared love of poetry and far off deserts.
I have so much to write in the next three months, and vigor flows through all the tired tendons in my elbows and wrists. I am working on my film, and dreaming of evictions of the heart, and older poets reading words I can only fathom writing in a far off blessed future, and in the meantime, after the fragrant colored smoke drifting off river walks in the late night, there are poems, poems that make no sense.

Poem that makes no sense.
Iowa City, August, 2011.

Nothing here reminds me of you, not the languid frogs in the trees,
although, in retrospect, many parallels could be made.
And I like frogs,
I do.
Nothing much. At the end of it. Not the hexagon
shapes of possible lights over other moving ripples,
and me and my curls and waving hands,
all the insects in leaves, humming a
funk tune private for my sorrow.
Not even the thighs of young bodies flitting by, briefly humping
everyone’s kinky imagination before furiously
dying as they jog us by,
doomed to motion.

Not even the ungirdled breasts bouncing on cement.
Those smoke-free streets, where
burn still happens.
Not the glorious 4 dollar
shots of kickass whiskey, nor the hawk eye repetitions,
even though you
and I
are no strangers to animals of prey.

Not the blonde braids you would have
noticed on sweaty foreheads,
pupils dilating.
Not the wide bed, half
alive, not the dead
bed which still has use, that mobile shifting of covers and oblivion, vital.
It is good to sleep in new places.

Not the lack of sand, and everything
being so luscious, not the texture sweet rough dreadlocks
on my gentle new friend, nor
nor the peace of cream cheese on blueberry
bagels, and the search to find ubiquitous coffee,
and finding plenty, nothing
nothing about the
sunlight reminds me of you, not the green green green
not even the damned blue echoing to where we parted.

Not the mania,
as if
as if we needed more salting of what we slashed,
not the music, suddenly
suddenly
from a forgotten jukebox time, now
also a match lit in the memory shelf of song, which
is like no other,
that recognition of self amongst worlds disparate,
that pitch of human and
machine which stays with one,
when one leaves,
even when one leaves often.
And that other, lighter,
ice blue in
the face of a tamed
wolf who liked table spoons, etched on wrists, because of poetry
and something else within him,
which I may never know.

Not even his hands reminded me of you.

That jukebox manna crashed
across a strange bar, casual,
and, not even
the silence in me reminded me of you.

It is all really rather silly, all of it, in
the end, the
moaning and groaning,
and the unexpected yearning which abates,
and the lack of will to always go into
all of that breaking, and this evil
notion of time,
and not even thoughts of my mortality, grisly, reminded me of you.

It is 1:21 in the morning,
this here is a new continent
wrists flounder and probe,
back hunches, and stretches to maintain life,
waist distended and spine
out of righteous sphere,
head a little askew in its orbit,
and my eyelashes a horizon of all I could have
possibly seen before
you, all that which did not tell of your name,
i am cold
and I will not sleep,
for it is important
it is important to write a poem that does not remind me of you.

Which, perhaps, makes sense.

This Kind Of Love

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First draft, quickly written, upon remembering how many people helped me achieve the small things in life. Due to love. Not love for a person, but love for a just cause.

This Kind of Love

For Samia,

Dubai August, 2011.

Sometimes, it is that specific hate that brings us closer. A history so besieged, so maligned, the boundaries of where your hurt stops and mine starts are indefinable, are intrinsic to all our coincidental unavoidable encounters, are the essence of the way you understand my jumbled sentences, and the many accents, can foresee the suitcases that are shadows of a nomad existence, and the weary shake of the head that smiles in recognition…

Where are you from, in Palestine?

I used to be from Jaffa.

My family used to live in Safad.

Our village was called Tantura, but now that’s a name we associate,

with hate,

with a massacre, with indelible fate, with inconceivable suffering, with the knowledge that are impotent, that we are always too late.

Sometimes, yes, it is the hate.

And sometimes, when the alignment of all that is sacred in this earth pitches its voice to serenade our worn hands, sometimes, when we can smile, sometimes when we forget, sometimes in order to forget, it is love, it is only love that binds us. It is the line, the hook, the sinker, the bait. Without a trick, without the charade, without the games of emotional trade.

She sits, so regal, so masculine, so determined and in a state of grace.

She sits in her studio, paint and regret etched in her face, more than seventy years battling canvases to remind, battling New York rats, refusing to hide, refusing to bind her crotchety hands that weaved magic olive trees in our hearts, forever. She sits in her studio, wary of me, and my stories, and my desires and the longing for help, and the need in my center, and the gasping at seeing her embroidered dresses hanging, the gentle way I catch her eye and ask…please can I borrow them? I promise to return them, to watch over them, to not be late.

Please help. And she does. And she does, and here I am, years later, celluloid engraved with her kindness, her dark face and bitter eyes following my camera on paths to scribe the legacy she drowns me, the guilt she pushes me forward with, the duty she smears on my chest, the painted protest signs she created for street fighters still ringing in my dreams…

They said…”Arm Palestinian civilians”. Oh Samia, you are almost 80, and so much stronger than I.

Sometimes, it is tough, but it is love.

He sits on the edge of his seat, shaking his knee, wanting a cigarette. He is so handsome I forget my projects. I forget to behave and to be polite and wait to be befriended. I forget about hate.

He must have wanted a cigarette to extinguish whatever fire he lusted up with my eyes. He must have wanted to escape knowing I would ruin his peace. He must have known I would trip all the fuse wires in his bereaved and calmed senses. He should have known better. He falls in love with her stories, and all the vine leaves curling in her waist, and all the brown soil dripping from her honey eyes, and she is the land not forgotten, and her young body is the refugee camp he had to flee, and she flows clean water and daisies.

And she is the laughter of his sisters as babies, and she is the hope of life burgeoning in the futures unwritten, and she is the savior and the butcher, the saint and the whore, the scent of all that is Arab, and all that is in love with his American self, and more. She is the center of Manhattan and the entire field he remembers in lives, past.

And when the warrior inside her is too tall for him, and when her voice echoing tales that refuse to be silenced is too wide, she is then the memory of his failure, she is the loss of another home land, she is another olive tree, uprooted in fear. And sometimes, this too, this attempt, this sadness, is love.

The falafel shop was small, and the customers blonde. The recipes Palestinian, the owner Syrian and the hands delivering tahina sauce across counters from Egypt. The students at NYU, colors of rainbows. They listen to her stories. The meals offered for free, for students in need of Arabian aromas, the scenes she describes in her films, the dreams she enacts on pages and in computer screens, the actors she replenishes with hand crumbled chickpeas, the culture inherent in the ancient dynasty of our kitchen tables, and our dining habits, and our happy bellies are enough, are enough to fill cash registers with pride.

And sometimes this, this free food in the land of check out counters, this is love.

And what of the countless strangers? And what of the eyes that widen in recognition to whisper…

I know. I have been there. Say nothing more, wander no longer.

Here, take what you need. Give me nothing that you can’t offer.

Here, my gut is open to you, and in it is my family name, and in it is all the giving I can muster,

and here is my palm, once clenched, now ripped open asunder by secret keywords,

villages razed, midnight tales of grandparents that ached, and hidden attics of photographs

that have not crumbled, and what of the countless lovers, yet unmet, who know that in your eyes,

and in your limbs, and in the curve of your thighs are all the round rocks of mutiny we can

stand, are all the soft winding rivers we can thrive on, are all the walls of homes we turn to for a harbor.

Yes, often it is the hate that I know which brings us closer.

But a legion of nomads are sung to in soft murmurs of love, secretly in nights alone, a siren song of such pitches that tremble, and armor, and hunger, a tinkling chime that ceaselessly wails dirges in our heavy lips, an incandescent candle blotting out the spiraling dark…a legion of brothers and sisters.

If I could arm all the magic hands I have touched on this earth who offer nothing but understanding,

I could create an invisible army unbeatable, I could wipe out the smears of Merkavas,

and root out the weeds in my olive groves, and roam a butterfly,

orange, red, yellow and pink, a resplendent being amongst your upturned faces,

a legion of warmth,

a country of hope,

a nation without passports or borders or ID numbers.

And we would laugh on love, and we would feed on hate,

we would excrete that hate,

and to hell with that common enemy,

and to hell with that fragmentation of our stories,

and to hell with our bodies separate,

we would jot down Palestinian love stories in wine and bread,

and we would dance,

and that would be another face to love,

now and forever. Here, inside, and across all the nomadic spheres, yonder.

Moved.

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I was moved by this poem today, I do not know why. I believe it is a translation from Farsi. Who wants to explain to me what it means?


Dear Fahimeh

Translation by Hubert Moore, Nasrin Parvaz

That day,
that hot day in July,
when the Evin loudspeakers
called out your beautiful name and your lips
smiled, your eyes said to your friends,
‘So today is the day.’
You went and your walk
was a perfume filling the corridor.

Everyone gasped, everyone asked with their eyes,
‘Is today then the day?’ The Pasdar
flung back an answer : ‘Where is her bag?
Where are her veil, her socks, her money?
‘A rumour went round that you’d given a sign
that yes, today was the day :
‘I don’t need my food,’ you had said.

So tonight is the night.
A silence hangs in the heart of it.
Friends look at friends and tell themselves
that perhaps you’ll come back.
Fahimeh dear, tell us, spare
a word for your friends. Is
the sky sad where you are, does it weep?
And the wind, does it ruffle your veil?
Back here, the ward sweats for your news.
And a message gets through:
wind-blown breathless dandelion
comes from the mountains to say that clouds are
massing up there and they’re big with child.
Head held high, you are standing and waiting for this,
for the clouds to open,
for you to be mother of change.

Rifles crack.The moorland holds its breath
at a star shooting across it.
It would be good to sing and go with friends
to face the firing squad, to dance,to float in the rain.
In the long sea-silence,a wave lifts, oars clip at the water.

A young fisherman bringing his boat to land,
rice-growers trudging home,
they shape their lips to your name.

Your name is beautiful for young girls born in July.

عودة الماء

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Oh you lucky people. Those of you who can read Arabic. This is by Edmund, who is a Poetician I love.

عودة الماء
by Edmund Hedded

مع كلّ مسافر أرسل لك ثوبك

كرسالة حب

على بطنك أحددّ شكل رجولتي

وأغفو،

تسهر علّي جنّيات النوم

تنسى يدكِ في شعري

مع كلّ مسافر ارسل لك جسدي

كبطاقة بريدية

على بطني أرسم لحناً

وأغفو،

توقظني شمس خجولة

تتكأ رأسها على رسمتي

مع كلّ مسافر أرسل لك طائرة

كباقة زهر،

وأغفو

أشعر في بطني أنّك عائدة

تشعرين عودتي

ننام مثل جفاف دمعتين وعودة مائهما إلى السماء