Friday, March 19, 2010

My Beirut (Song of Eternal Damnation)

Forgive me
for writing to you in a language foreign to you,
not that I know what language you speak,
you who speaks them all in silence…

Forgive me
for writing from a distance,
for writing reluctantly,
for writing seldom…

I only write because he asked me to,
he who loves you,
he who lives you.
I write because I’m incapable of refusing him such a request,
and because, yes, I miss you…

But I’m not sure I got anything left to say to you.
I feel that I’ve said it all, and I’ve said it often.
Some have heard it, many have not.
But you, I don’t know if you can hear…
I’m not sure anymore if you exist,
for who are you but those who haunt you?
And those who haunt you are mad, and I’m one of them
even if I’ve abandoned you…

Did you mourn me when I left you?
I did, for the both of us.
But sorrow moves on,
like everything, with time it all does,
as the old song goes…
And what remains when the sorrow’s gone?
Is it love? Or is it only a stale bitter anger?
Sometimes they taste the same…

What I fear is what’s left when even that anger passes;
for that, too, shall pass…
I fear because I do not know the reasons for my anger;
but what is anger if not the lack of reason?
It may not be your fault or mine,
but I’m angry at being treated like a second-rate human
solely for being born to you.
I’m angry because I can’t seem to live with you,
as I can’t seem to live without you,
to quote another old song…
I’m angry because your inhabitants are mad,
and your drivers are mad,
and your leaders are both murderous and mad…
I’m angry because your beauty is invisible,
and no one will take my word for it,
for I too, like the rest of them, am mad…

I look to other cities:
they too are ugly and beautiful at once,
and they too are all mad.
I look to other people;
they are all maddening
and stupid and proud.
But your people have made of chaos an art,
and have made you anything but dull…

I still don’t get it, Beirut.
I don’t get why I insist on addressing you as a person;
I don’t know why we all do.
I don’t know if any other people address their city as we address you.
For you are nothing but our very own collective being,
you are what we call us.
And we love ourselves,
and we hate ourselves,
and we, ultimately, do not understand ourselves…

I shall return to you,
forever and again,
you, my song of eternal damnation.
For I still don’t get you, and I don’t get me, and I don’t get them…
And yet I love you, and I love you, and I love you,
and yes, despite all, I love them, too…
For they are you, and you are them,
my Beirut.

Like This

A great poem by Rumi, selected by the incomparable Tilda Swinton as the inspiration for the latest Etat Libre d'Orange perfume, Like This:

If anyone asks you
how the perfect satisfaction
of all our sexual wanting
will look, lift your face
and say,

Like this.

When someone mentions the gracefulness
of the nightsky, climb up on the roof
and dance and say,

Like this.

If anyone wants to know what “spirit” is,
or what “God’s fragrance” means,
lean your head toward him or her.
Keep your face there close.

Like this.

When someone quotes the old poetic image
about clouds gradually uncovering the moon,
slowly loosen knot by knot the strings
of your robe.

Like this.

If anyone wonders how Jesus raised the dead,
don’t try to explain the miracle.
Kiss me on the lips.

Like this. Like this.

When someone asks what it means
to “die for love,” point

If someone asks how tall I am, frown
and measure with your fingers the space
between the creases on your forehead.

This tall.

The soul sometimes leaves the body, the returns.
When someone doesn’t believe that,
walk back into my house.

Like this.

When lovers moan,
they’re telling our story.

Like this.

I am a sky where spirits live.
Stare into this deepening blue,
while the breeze says a secret.

Like this.

When someone asks what there is to do,
light the candle in his hand.Like this.

How did Joseph’s scent come to Jacob?

How did Jacob’s sight return?

A little wind cleans the eyes.

Like this.

When Shams comes back from Tabriz,
he’ll put just his head around the edge
of the door to surprise us

Like this.

-From Essential Rumi (translations by Coleman Barks with John Moyne)

Make sure you listen to Swinton's incredible reading of this poem on ELdO's website: