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)