Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Glass

To Troy

Every now and then, you let the curtain drop.
Your hands, grown tired of holding tight
To the ropes, let go. It's alright sometimes
To feel the burn of the rope running hurriedly
Under the weight of what's falling. It's alright
Sometimes to see the emptiness beyond,
to hear the silence, to admit your reticence
And the cold that's taken hold so long ago
It's become inseparable from you.

But your dreams tell a different story still,
Tell of a hunger far deeper than the cold.
Will it as you may, you remain human
Under the glass: thirsty, mad, and yearning.
Will they one day, too, turn colorless as glass?
Colorless, cold--but always--breakable.

(Originally posted on October 3, 2013)

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

No Fault

It was my fault
I wanted you to be my revenge on life
It was my fault

It was my fault
I wanted you to be all that I couldn't
It was my fault

It was my fault
I wanted too much, I wanted too little
It was my fault

It was my fault
I bowed at the knees, I bowed too deep
It was my fault

It was my fault...

It was my fault
I looked away when I bit into you
It was my fault

It was my fault
You didn't bleed when I died at your feet
It was my fault

It was my fault
I keep dying the same way
Again and again and again and again
It was my fault

It was my fault
I turned out to be human, all too human
It was my fault

And it was my fault
You turned out to be human, so very human
It was my fault

It was my fault, it was my fault
It was my fault, it was my fault

No fault, but my own
No fault, not my own
No fault...

Sunday, November 30, 2014

In Memoriam: Mark Strand, 1934–2014


The Remains

I empty myself of the names of others. I empty my pockets.
I empty my shoes and leave them beside the road.
At night I turn back the clocks;
I open the family album and look at myself as a boy.
What good does it do? The hours have done their job.
I say my own name. I say goodbye.
The words follow each other downwind.
I love my wife but send her away.
My parents rise out of their thrones
into the milky rooms of clouds.
How can I sing? Time tells me what I am.
I change and I am the same.
I empty myself of my life and my life remains.

-from Darker (1970):
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/30/nyregion/mark-strand-80-dies-pulitzer-winning-poet-laureate.html


I

I am writing from a place you have never been,
Where the trains don’t run, and planes
Don’t land, a place to the west,

Where heavy hedges of snow surround each house,
Where the wind screams at the moon’s blank face,
Where the people are plain, and fashions,

If they come, come late and are seen
As forms of oppression, sources of sorrow.
This is a place that sparkles a bit at 7 P.M.,

Then goes out, and slides into the funeral home
Of the stars, and everyone dreams of floating
Like angels in sweet-smelling habits,

Of being released from sundry services
Into the round of pleasures there for the asking—
Days like pages torn from a family album,

Endless reunions, the heavenly choir at the barbecue
Adjusting its tone to serve the occasion,
And everyone staring, stunned into magnitude.

-from "After Our Planet" (1992):
http://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2014/11/29/mark-strand-1934-2014


Coming to This

We have done what we wanted.
We have discarded dreams, preferring the heavy industry
of each other, and we have welcomed grief
and called ruin the impossible habit to break.

And now we are here.
The dinner is ready and we cannot eat.
The meat sits in the white lake of its dish.
The wine waits.

Coming to this
has its rewards: nothing is promised, nothing is taken away.
We have no heart or saving grace,
no place to go, no reason to remain.

-from Selected Poems (1990):
http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/179131


In Celebration

You sit in a chair, touched by nothing, feeling
the old self become the older self, imagining
only the patience of water, the boredom of stone.
You think that silence is the extra page,
you think that nothing is good or bad, not even
the darkness that fills the house while you sit watching
it happen. You’ve seen it happen before. Your friends
move past the window, their faces soiled with regret.
You want to wave but cannot raise your hand.
You sit in a chair. You turn to the nightshade spreading
a poisonous net around the house. You taste
the honey of absence. It is the same wherever
you are, the same if the voice rots before
the body, or the body rots before the voice.
You know that desire leads only to sorrow, that sorrow
leads to achievement which leads to emptiness.
You know that this is different, that this
is the celebration, the only celebration,
that by giving yourself over to nothing,
you shall be healed. You know there is joy in feeling
your lungs prepare themselves for an ashen future,
so you wait, you stare and you wait, and the dust settles
and the miraculous hours of childhood wander in darkness.

-from Selected Poems (1990):
http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/179137


Lines for Winter

Tell yourself
as it gets cold and gray falls from the air
that you will go on
walking, hearing
the same tune no matter where
you find yourself—
inside the dome of dark
or under the cracking white
of the moon's gaze in a valley of snow.
Tonight as it gets cold
tell yourself
what you know which is nothing
but the tune your bones play
as you keep going. And you will be able
for once to lie down under the small fire
of winter stars.
And if it happens that you cannot
go on or turn back
and you find yourself
where you will be at the end,
tell yourself
in that final flowing of cold through your limbs
that you love what you are.

-from New Selected Poems (2007):
http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/181380


My Life

The huge doll of my body
refuses to rise.
I am the toy of women.
My mother

would prop me up for her friends.
“Talk, talk,” she would beg.
I moved my mouth
but words did not come.

My wife took me down from the shelf.
I lay in her arms. “We suffer
the sickness of self,” she would whisper.
And I lay there dumb.

Now my daughter
gives me a plastic nurser
filled with water.
“You are my real baby,” she says.

Poor child!
I look into the brown
mirrors of her eyes
and see myself

diminishing, sinking down
to a depth she does not know is there.
Out of breath,
I will not rise again.

I grow into my death.
My life is small
and getting smaller. The world is green.
Nothing is all.

-from Selected Poems (1990):
http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/179136


The End

Not every man knows what he shall sing at the end,
Watching the pier as the ship sails away, or what it will seem like
When he’s held by the sea’s roar, motionless, there at the end,
Or what he shall hope for once it is clear that he’ll never go back.

When the time has passed to prune the rose or caress the cat,
When the sunset torching the lawn and the full moon icing it down
No longer appear, not every man knows what he’ll discover instead.
When the weight of the past leans against nothing, and the sky

Is no more than remembered light, and the stories of cirrus
And cumulus come to a close, and all the birds are suspended in flight,
Not every man knows what is waiting for him, or what he shall sing
When the ship he is on slips into darkness, there at the end.

-from The Continuous Life (1990):
http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/182871

Monday, November 10, 2014

"The Story" by Joe Bolton

If it rained tonight
I’d lie down
For a thousand years.

—As if nothing had happened;
As if the story
Wouldn’t tell itself forever:

No more mother, no remembered loves, and my pulse
Purified, the only sound
As I lowered myself into the depths…

But the bells are ringing up the hill,
Punishing bells,
Recounting all the arguments against me.

If I’ve created the story of my life,
Why not now the story
Of not having ever lived at all?

Maybe then there wouldn’t be this burden
Of what was lost
Almost before it had arrived.

Maybe then there wouldn’t be this weight
Of what is
And what I can feel myself already losing.

Monday, September 01, 2014

"The Story" by Joe Bolton

After the life is lived
And the world is what it is,
There is only the story:

At Stevensport, the Sinking, River
Empties into the Ohio,
And the Ohio widens.

Or does the story perhaps precede
The living of it, as the new day
Seems to depend on the cock’s cry?

And do the dead and the unborn occupy
The same dimensionless dimension,
Or are they simply where they seem to be?

It would be easy enough to say
What happened, could you only
Bring yourself to:
______________A girl—
No, a young woman—who has lived her life
With old-time parents on a farm
On what the Indians once called the Dark
And Bloody Ground, and who
Has a perhaps somewhat imprudent appetite
For things sensual, falls in love.
His speech and dress and manner
Are slightly strange to her at first, but she

Is taken with the simultaneous
Inward frailty and successful outward gesture
With which he lives in the world, of which
He seems already to have seen much.

In the summer of your first and one great love,
Stars flared nightly in the architecture of sky,
And the world opened up beneath that sky.
The scenes flash and fade now like summer starfall:
Parked in his white car down some dark road;
Driving to Owensboro and Bowling Green; dancing
In a little dive in Tell City, Indiana...
You see yourself—that self—like the portraits
Of those who, no longer living, live
In the flash and fade of a moment torn from time.

*

Once, the city lured her.
Once, watching the lights
Of Louisville come slowly on in summer dusk,
She thought ... what?
That this would last forever? —Or even
Outlast forever?
______________Later,
Going there to undo
What the two of you had done,
You saw how dirty-gray the city was,
As morning began and the poorer people rose
To the day’s indecencies,
And you saw you were suddenly one of them . . .
When it was over, you had to have him
Stop the car so you could throw up,
Then hugged yourself all the way home.

And she never caught sight of him again.

And so are left to remember the summer nights
When, half-drunk in your daddy’s truck or his white car,
You’d take the hills and turns on Rough River Road
At seventy, just to feel your insides rise.
And laugh for surviving it, and look for shooting stars.

The white car was all that was left of him.
No body, or note, was ever discovered.
—Only the white car, shining in September dawn,
Beside the Sinking River at Stevensport . . .
And which circumstances have, of course,
Led to speculation:
______________that he got you
Into trouble and couldn’t stand himself for it;
That you, never good, drove him. to it;
That he only wanted to make it look
As if he were dead, and is living it up
In Chicago or Indianapolis or some such place.

The rumors, unverified, multiply,
While the people you grew up with
Marry, buy farms, go bankrupt, get divorced,
And move off to the city, looking for work.

The night is starless, utterly still.

You are careful not to let these pieces
Of a narrative cohere
Into anything that might explain too much.

For you, who live in the world,
Must let the world
Remain ambiguous.

And it just wouldn’t be right
To blame a drowned boy
For not floating up bloated,

Or not leaving a note,
Or perhaps not even
Drowning himself at all.

-from "Breckinridge County Suite"

Monday, August 11, 2014

Tomorrow

Tomorrow
I shall pack my bags and leave.
I don’t know where.
I don’t know why.
But I know that I shall not be here any longer.
Tomorrow
I pile new absences atop my old ones;
I shall sniff them one more time, and disappear.
The terrazzo shall feel cold beneath my feet,
and the stale smell of the peeling blue walls shall
part ahead of my sadness. The flaps of the doorway
shall embrace me one last time.
And you, you shall not be there.

Tomorrow,
I tear myself out of my life,
and seek myself anew.
Tomorrow,
I shall renounce myself.
Tomorrow
I shall hone my solitude.

(originally posted on October 11, 2003)

Friday, August 08, 2014

Tragic

No compromise.

When the final curtain falls,
I will come down in flames.
No half exits,
No hesitant escapes.

When the call comes around,
I’ll stay rooted in my place.
No hasty excuses,
No clinging to the earth.

I will take it as I find it,
I will gulp it as it is.
No syrup for me, thanks;
No god with a sweet face.

Tomorrow when I falter,
I will shatter with despair.
I will tell you where I have been,
I will leave without a face.

Tomorrow in the gallows,
When the sirens lose their voices,
When they tell you it will linger,
I will—enough!

Someday there will be none,
When tomorrow doesn’t come.

(Originally posted on January 24, 2006)

Thursday, August 07, 2014

I’m still not ready to leave

I’m still not ready to leave, but dare not say it to anyone. There are words behind my eyes still maturing, still not ripe for utterance. I have made a habit of keeping things to myself, but every now and again they weigh on me. Sadness is like that, it begs to be shared, to be spread like a cold. But I am resisting the decadent temptation, this once.

My throat is ready to leave; it is charred with exhaust. But something in me lingers, not wanting to pack just yet. More things to fold within: these congested streets, my backache, unwrapped endings, and the hesitation of what’s to come—I’ll have to pack them all. But I’ll have to unpack them first: lay them on the bed, fold them one by one—I don’t have much room.

But what to tell the dust coating everything and our lungs? What to tell the tired dust?

I shall return. Every now and then I breathe from a different nostril, and always gasp for air.

(Originally posted on April 14, 2007)

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Exit

It’s time for us to exit
The stage and leave
The animals to shred
Their shadows

It’s time for us to exit
Without looking back
Turn off the light
Set the set on fire
And leave

It’s time for them
To cry our tears
To taste the salt
And the soles of our feet
And lick our spit
Off the floor

We shall burn in their retinas
Like the afterimage of a nightmare
We shall linger
Like the caustic aftertaste
Of regret

It shall burn
And we shall smile
They shall writhe
And we shall smirk
Through their moans

Spill me
Onto their gaping flesh
Like lemon juice
Bitter and bright
Scrape me
Off of their green skins
Like a dead dream

For we shall fester
Wherever they dare to smile
We shall bite
Like a ravenous hunger
They never knew

And we shall recur
Like a hallucination
Like loss
Like life

(Originally posted Aug. 6, 2004)

Saturday, August 02, 2014

"War" by Naomi Shihab Nye

"If this is what we studied for, 
heads bent over books in wooden desks 
engraved with the names of the dead, 
then I have a new feeling for subtraction.   

Olive trees, three acres slashed 
equals zero zero zero. 
That’s my address. The grade on my page.   

If this is the spectrum of pronouns— 
you kill, he or she kills, anyone might kill— 
then I speak a new language without them. 
Words rinse into one another recklessly— 
morning, wishes, windows, paste 
of kisses on a child’s warm scalp.   

If this is why we bow our heads to pray 
in the corner, by the iron stove 
so many years, forgive me. 
Forget words, posture, time of day. 
Blood aches inside my veins. 
Where did we bury Sitti? 
I will wait beside her stone, 
telling the same story she told 
of the river of waiting, how some of us 
fall into it and are not seen again. 
How some end up in another paradox 
with a changed name, Mahmoud to Mo, 
lost in small shops making change 
for gasoline. If this is persistence, 
who knows? I’m stuck in the corner of war 
that’s not even called war, pressed like a pigeon 
into a twig cage, my dry eyes flaming."

-from Transfer (American Poets Continuum)

Thursday, July 31, 2014

“The Only Democracy in the Middle East”

Please leave your house immediately. 
Do not call it a home. 
This is our home not yours. 
Security demands it. 
Always, always, security. 
Our security. 
Take nothing, ask nothing. 
Stand over there, against the rubble, where 
you belong. All young men, come with us. 
You may not see your families again. 
No saying goodbye or hugging. 
We have suffered too much 
thanks to everyone 
but you are the only ones we can touch. 
Don’t give us any trouble.

-from Transfer (American Poets Continuum) by Naomi Shihab Nye

Lament

Tired of defending them like they were my own,
Tired of grieving them as if they were my kin;
I too am tired of seeing their bloodied faces on my screen.
They're not mine. I thought they were humanity's,
But there is no such thing. They're noone's.
Alone they passed through that gate,
Alone they moved beyond...
Beyond this world, beyond its ugliness,
And beyond ours.
May we never be forgiven; we unworthy of clemency.
May their wretched ghosts haunt us, we who watched on.
May their truncated lives curse ours; we deserve no better,
We who live on, as if they never happened.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Someday

: Of Hope III
Someday
when it’s all done
and the white foam pours forth
you’ll be telling me
that song we drew when
the grass was freshly mown
was embroidered into
your mother’s skirt.

I will turn
and absorb your face
like it was the last kite of summer
and together we will drip
like old wounds
at the back of the throat.
There will be nothing that night
but the bees that circled our heads
and a sigh that congealed
with a dream.

(Originally posted on February 25, 2005)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

It Goes...

: Of Hope II
And so it goes…

Wayward it goes,
Forward it goes,
It goes…

Stumbling it goes,
Hurtling it goes,
It all goes…

And we remain,
Seated in our skins
Picking the remains of the sea from our teeth
Sipping the horizon like it never changes

And humming.
(Originally posted on May 6, 2005; re-posted on July 24, 2006)

Verso Books

Following suit of Verso Books, in response to what's happening in Gaza, I am offering my friends free downloads of e-books I got from Verso, as long as you promise to buy from Verso at some point something equivalent to the download's value to support this great publisher: http://wel.ly/verso

The e-books offered are the following:

9781781685617_holocaust_industry-max_141The Holocaust Industry by Norman G. Finkelstein
Controversial indictment of those who exploit the tragedy of the Holocaust for their own gain

Verso_978_1_84467_877_8_reflections_on_anti-semitism_cmyk_300-max_141Reflections on Anti-Semitism by Alain Badiou, Eric Hazan, et al.
Dissecting how facile accusations of "anti-Semitism" are used to stifle dissent.

9781844678686_hollow_land-max_141Hollow Land by Eyal Weizman
Acclaimed exploration of the political space created by Israel's colonial occupation

9781844674503_case-for-sanctions-max_141The Case for Sanctions Against Israel Edited by Audrea Lim
Ebook now available for download for free.


Monday, July 28, 2014

Breathe

: Of Hope I
Take a deep breath.

Hold it
Until you can feel its green lime
Bite at the edges of your being.

Now release it
So far that you cannot tell
It was ever yours.

Repeat,
As required.

(Originally posted on May 8, 2005; re-posted on July 24, 2006)

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Comfortably Numb

: Of Grief IV
Stuff the slices down your throat
And choke on a smile
The end bounces off of a black screen

The line thins between the zenith and the abyss
He tells me my pain is only resistance
"Grieve!" he says, my agony does not suffice
Grieve loss upon loss until you are unaware of losses

Now it's their turn to fall from grace
From the stars, from above
And my turn to put them back up
Where they belong

My laughter sobs
And I become, I hope
comfortably numb

(Originally posted on Aug. 3, 2004; re-posted on July 24, 2006)

Sunday, July 20, 2014

SONG (re)CYCLE

Here we go again...
Since I haven't been able to write much poetry since this whole nightmare started, I have been mostly translating/posting other people's words: old songs, e-mails, other bloggers' posts... Which made me think of recycling some of my older poetry, much of which was written after the death of my grandmother and around the beginning of the Iraq War, and which uncannily expresses much of the emotion I am choking on these days. Maybe it's because Iraq was a more distant subject for me than Lebanon/Palestine that I was able to voice it then... For the longest time afterwards I hated those poems; I thought they were too angry, too raw, too... But after reading them again today, I felt they voice this cry stuck in my throat quite satisfactorily. So, I have decided to post them again; some unedited, some quite revised...
(Posted originally on Monday, July 24, 2006)

Monday, July 14, 2014

Mahmoud Darwish: "On This Earth" محمود درويش: "على هذه الأرض

على هذه الأرض

:علَى هَذِهِ الأَرْض مَا يَسْتَحِقُّ الحَياةْ
تَرَدُّدُ إبريلَ
رَائِحَةُ الخُبْزِ فِي الفجْر
آراءُ امْرأَةٍ فِي الرِّجالِ
كِتَابَاتُ أَسْخِيْلِيوس
أوَّلُ الحُبِّ
عشبٌ عَلَى حجرٍ
أُمَّهاتٌ تَقِفْنَ عَلَى خَيْطِ نايٍ
وخوفُ الغُزَاةِ مِنَ الذِّكْرياتْ

:علَى هَذِهِ الأَرْض مَا يَسْتَحِقُّ الحَياةْ
نِهَايَةُ أَيلُولَ
سَيِّدَةٌ تترُكُ الأَرْبَعِينَ بِكَامِلِ مشْمِشِهَا
 ساعَةُ الشَّمْسِ فِي السَّجْنِ
غَيْمٌ يُقَلِّدُ سِرْباً مِنَ الكَائِنَاتِ
هُتَافَاتُ شَعْبٍ لِمَنْ يَصْعَدُونَ إلى حَتْفِهِمْ بَاسِمينَ
وَخَوْفُ الطُّغَاةِ مِنَ الأُغْنِيَاتْ

:علَى هَذِهِ الأَرْض مَا يَسْتَحِقُّ الحَياةْ
عَلَى هَذِهِ الأرضِ سَيَّدَةُ الأُرْضِ
أُمُّ البِدَايَاتِ أُمَّ النِّهَايَاتِ
كَانَتْ تُسَمَّى فِلِسْطِين
صَارَتْ تُسَمَّى فلسْطِين
 سَيِّدَتي: أَستحِقُّ، لأنَّكِ سيِّدَتِي، أَسْتَحِقُّ الحَيَاةْ
محمود درويش--

”.على هذه الأرض ما يستحق الحياة”
.مقطع  شهير من هذه القصيدة  لمحمود درويش منقوشة على أحد أسوار مخيم البقعة في الأردن

“On this earth there is that which deserves life.” 

The famous opening line of this poem by Mahmoud Darwish 

written on the wall of a Palestinian refugee camp in Baqa’a, Jordan.

On This Earth

"On this earth there is that which deserves life:
the recurrence of April,
the smell of bread at dawn,
the opinion of a woman in men,
the writings of Aeschylus,
the beginning of love,
moss on a stone,
mothers standing on a flute’s string,
and the invaders’ fear of memories.

On this earth there is that which deserves life:
the end of September,
a woman leaving forty in all her prime,
the hour of sun at prison,
clouds mimicking a flock of beings,
a people cheering those who ascend to their fate smiling,
and the tyrants’ fear of songs

On this earth there is that which deserves life:
On this earth there is the lady of the land,
The mother of beginnings, the mother of endings.
It used to be called Palestine, it will be called Palestine.
My lady: I deserve, because you are my lady, I deserve life."

--Mahmoud Darwish
(Translated by Ashraf Osman)


Sunday, June 29, 2014

'Tropical Lament'

"It rains so long and hard here, I'm remembering
All the rain of my childhood, the pearls
Of hail I'd hold in my hands
After a storm.

This rain isn't going to stop
Until it's made a moat around me,
A grave the shape of a ring.
______________________This rain
Is falling now wherever she is, who survives me;
It's soaking her clothes through to the skin,
Which used to be all fire.

When will it finally drown me?
Sometimes, remembering her hips, I feel afraid.
Sometimes I'm afraid she's gone—
That memory and music are all that's left of her.

But I'm tired of the rain's dark harmony.
I'm tired of everybody telling me:
Lift yourself up, never go down!
Don't we maybe lift ourselves, going down?

And the rain keeps singing on this coast without a sea."

Joe Bolton

Sunday, May 11, 2014

"The Name of Desire"

The Holiday Inn Vanderbilt, Nashville 

After the many-colored but mostly blue
Seasons of our two solitudes—the hours
Of longing and the flight from longing, the years
Spent remembering as if memory were true—
We stand together on a balcony
Above the city of losses, the city of lights
Bouncing back off a starless sky, the city
Where we'll try to save this night from the death of nights.
Ours has become a life in which the self
And the self's other begin to anticipate the chances
Taken in the name of desire. Desire:
That sweet song the body sings to itself,
Or under the best of circumstances
The song two bodies sing to each other.

--Joe Bolton

Sunday, May 04, 2014

"Letter to N.Y." by Elizabeth Bishop

For Louise Crane

In your next letter I wish you'd say
where you are going and what you are doing;
how are the plays, and after the plays
what other pleasures you're pursuing:

taking cabs in the middle of the night,
driving as if to save your soul
where the road goes round and round the park
and the meter glares like a moral owl,

and the trees look so queer and green
standing alone in big black caves
and suddenly you're in a different place
where everything seems to happen in waves,

and most of the jokes you just can't catch,
like dirty words rubbed off a slate,
and the songs are loud but somehow dim
and it gets so terribly late,

and coming out of the brownstone house
to the gray sidewalk, the watered street,
one side of the buildings rises with the sun
like a glistening field of wheat.

—Wheat, not oats, dear. I'm afraid
if it's wheat it's none of your sowing,
nevertheless I'd like to know
what you are doing and where you are going.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Mahmoud Darwish, "The Smell of Cities" محمود درويش, رائحة المدن

“المدن رائحة: عكا رائحة اليود البحري والبهارات. حيفا رائحة الصنوبر والشراشف المجعلكة. موسكو رائحة الفودكا على الثلج. القاهرة رائحة المانجو والزنجبيل. بيروت رائحة الشمس والبحر والدخان والليمون. باريس رائحة الخبز الطازج والأجبان ومشتقات الفتنة. دمشق رائحة الياسمين والفواكة المجففة. تونس رائحة مسك الليل والملح. الرباط رائحة الحناء والبخور والعسل. وكل مدينة لا تُعرفُ من رائحتها لا يُعوَّل على ذكراها. وللمنافي رائحة مشتركة هي رائحة الحنين إلى ما عداها... رائحة تتذكر رائحة أخرى. رائحة متقطعة الأنفاس، عاطفيّة تقودك كخارطة سياحية كثيرة الاستعمال إلى رائحة المكان الأول. الرائحة ذاكرةٌ وغروب شمس. والغروب هنا توبيخ الجمال للغريب.”
 'محمود درويش, 'في حضرة الغياب―



“Cities are scents: Acre is the scent of marine iodine and spices; Haifa, the scent of pine and rumpled sheets; Moscow, the scent of vodka on ice; Cairo, the scent of mango and ginger; Beirut, the scent of sun, sea, smoke, and lemon; Paris, the scent of fresh bread, cheese, and the derivatives of intrigue; Damascus, the scent of jasmine and dried fruits; Tunis, the scent of night musk and salt; and Rabat is the scent of henna, incense, and honey. And every city not known for its scent is not worth mentioning. And lands of exile have a common scent, which is that of longing for elsewhere… A scent remembering another, a scent of intermittent breaths, emotional, leading you like a tourist map that’s been used too often to lead to the scent of the first place. Scent is a memory and a sunset. And sunset, here, is beauty's rebuke to the foreigner."
―Mahmoud Darwish, “In the Presence of Absence” (translated by Ashraf Osman)

Saturday, March 22, 2014

On the Prowl

To Foxy

It's the absence—always the absence—that gets us.
A habit lingering long after, a slip of the tongue,
a look in the direction of what remains...

And the night—always the night—mercilessly
weaving ghosts out of shadows, the cold
confrontation of mind facing sleep.

Your stained bed turned a wailing pad,
where your smell lingers we now muffle our cries.
Your bowls soaking in the kitchen sink,
your leash by the door, your food going stale
in the closet, along with half-chewed bones.
We no longer have to sneak out, but
nor is there a bark now to welcome us back.
The only sound is his sobbing,
like a jackhammer to my gut.

The last time I saw you,
after you drew your last breath,
I buried my face in your neck
to take one more breathful of you.
I think of the first time we saw you,
shivering in a cage,
big brown eyes I melted in,
and the way you drooled over
the backseat all the way home.

But I can't think of where you are now,
can't give substance to your absence,
cannot materialize it.
I turn my head, bite my tongue,
stifle a sob, and start cleaning.
And when the night comes again,
when your absence is back out
on the prowl, I'll be here...


Saturday, March 15, 2014

"In Spring (2)" by Joe Bolton

You do what you can
to be modern in a country
of fields stitched together
with barbed wire the hunters cut through
before it has a chance

to rust, fields
mapped off by gravel roads
that refuse to swerve,
that make paths for the sun to follow each day.
You do what you can.

But you are late
or early for stylishness,
and all the cities and affluence you will know
are delicate tendrils the white motion
of your slender hands
can raise from the thawed earth.
(By Joe Bolton from"Uncollected Poems" in The Last Nostalgia)

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Self-Sabotage

 http://www.taniabruguera.com/cms/111-0-Self-sabotage.htm

Last year I interviewed an artist (Tania Bruguera) who'd played Russian roulette as an artwork—not once, but twice! No one I spoke to outside the art world seemed to get it, piling on incensed superlatives of outrage and accusations of insanity. Tania, very appropriately, called her performance “Self-Sabotage”. And recently, with what’s happening in Lebanon, I could think of no other work that sums up the situation there so succinctly and powerfully: the entire country is playing Russian roulette! Not once, not twice, not three or four or five times, but… But how do you even count this? By cars? By people? By days? And where do you even start? Every time I hear about another car bomb in Lebanon I feel like another gun went off at my temple. But it’s not my life that’s at stake here; it’s the lives of my loved ones. This time they’re safe, and the last time they were, too; and the time before that… But how many times can we all play this insane game of collective Russian roulette before we all lose together?


January 21, 2014)

Friday, January 31, 2014

Here

Here,
Here I mourned you,
And now it’s over.

A wall of brushed concrete—
How I hated its birth;
A breeze squeezing its last breath
Through the cracks.
An angel in the mud,
Smiling from below
To a chime that keeps sighing.
Here, on these steps,
With the azure flanking me,
She told me.
Here, in this hallway of a room,
Over salad greens,
I wept.
And there you still hang,
On top,
In the row of the deceased.

I’ve got cat hair all over my sweat,
A furry smile,
And eyes that squint like yours.
I’ve got rooftops aplenty,
And branches to match,
All of magnolias in bloom.
I’ve got skylines to give,
A blue open wide,
And insinuated stars.
Here, at the heel of the world,
I’ve got similes run amuck!
I’ve got graffiti, and Tupperware
Filled with yesterday’s blood.
I’ve got you running in circles
Under my breath.
Here, where you ended,
An immense yawn began,
A treetop, a squirrel, and a humming bee.
Here, in the silence,
You still crumble down the wall
As long as my cat chases ghosts.

(Originally posted on June 16, 2005)

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Another Day in Paradise

Another day of pretending it didn't happen: it's just news on the TV, only as real as "reality TV"… Another day of counting blessings: they're alive, it was close, but they're all okay; all those I care about made it through… Another day of moving forward: everyone's okay, move on, next; there's a project to work on, a symposium to organize, the things of the civilized world, the world where people voice their misapprehensions instead of bomb them… Another day behind the impregnable borders of this world, this safe grey world of rules: try as they may, desperate outsiders can only dent the peace of its gates by their insistence of dying against them every now and again…  Another day, another reminder of mortality, of distance, of the frailty of life, the futility of our endeavors, the silliness of our humanity…

Terror strikes again in Beirut southern suburbs, five dead

(Text originally posted on November 19, 2013)