Thursday, December 22, 2016

Silent Night

Here, where the silence is delicious,
the end is garbled in fragments of song
—repeated, stale, and resounding—
echoing in corners of rooms dimly lit
with bulbs on a string, stars
—dangling and scratched—
like lives spilled into kitchen sinks.

Here, where the drain chokes with leftovers,
a cat snatching a piece of half-chewed meat,
and a voice telling of what should have been,
I fall through the cracks of the silence,
a promise broken at the end of the night
when acquiescence is no more than lack of resistance,
and nods are all there is.

Here, not because it is,
but because the memory of it resides
nestled underneath my breath,
peering from behind my fevered eyes
at the moment as it lapses.
Here, where we persist,
you and I, stumbling eternally,
aimless drifters in a world half-lit.

(Originally posted on December 26, 2007)

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

This & That

Since I haven't been writing much lately, I've been digging in my journals. Here's some more stuff I found. I had completely forgotten about this one, but I think it is worth posting...

To Mama

That winter,
after I’d rejoined them,
they surprised me with an electric keyboard
on which I'd later write sorrowful songs...

In that picture,
where she held my head close to her heart,
my face was a congested shade of purple
that matched her dress...

I'd wake up at night
and follow the sad music to the kitchen
where she'd be hunched over a sinkful of boredom.
She'd turn around and smile
and I'd sit there, at the table beside her
swinging my feet and imagining
the distant harbors of the song...

Those nights
she'd drive us around the city
translating French songs
and sneaking cigarettes.
It was on one of those nights
that she wanted to send me away
to be great...

And now I'm away,
but great is another matter.
These nights
I swallow the air
and wait to get dizzy.
I stare at my feet
and plan for a life without...

These days
I try to be great
but end up small
and solitary and silent.
These days
I turn my face
to endless woods
wrapping me like a shroud...

I hover, I bob,
I ebb and flow...

(Originally posted on June 14, 2006)

Friday, December 02, 2016

Anymore

And then I grew up,
And people no longer remembered my birthday.
I was not supposed to care anymore;
But I did...

Now I collect smells instead of people;
I gather words instead of songs.
I have lost the melody somewhere in between
The sea and the lip of the wavebreakers...

(Originally posted on August 26, 2004)

Sunday, October 23, 2016

"Nothing Pleases Me" Mahmoud Darwish - محمود درويش "لاشيء يعجبني"

لا شيءَ يُعْجبُني

لا شيءَ يُعْجبُني
يقول مسافرٌ في الباصِ – لا الراديو
.ولا صُحُفُ الصباح , ولا القلاعُ على التلال
/أُريد أن أبكي
,يقول السائقُ: انتظرِ الوصولَ إلى المحطَّةِ
/وابْكِ وحدك ما استطعتَ
تقول سيّدةٌ: أَنا أَيضاً. أنا لا
’شيءَ يُعْجبُني. دَلَلْتُ اُبني على قبري
/فأعْجَبَهُ ونامَ’ ولم يُوَدِّعْني
يقول الجامعيُّ: ولا أَنا ’ لا شيءَ
يعجبني. دَرَسْتُ الأركيولوجيا دون أَن
أَجِدَ الهُوِيَّةَ في الحجارة. هل أنا
/حقاً أَنا؟
ويقول جنديٌّ: أَنا أَيضاً. أَنا لا
شيءَ يُعْجبُني . أُحاصِرُ دائماً شَبَحاً
/يُحاصِرُني
يقولُ السائقُ العصبيُّ: ها نحن
اقتربنا من محطتنا الأخيرة’ فاستعدوا
/...للنزول
فيصرخون: نريدُ ما بَعْدَ المحطَّةِ’
!فانطلق
أمَّا أنا فأقولُ: أنْزِلْني هنا . أنا
مثلهم لا شيء يعجبني ’ ولكني تعبتُ
.من السِّفَرْ


Nothing Pleases Me

Nothing pleases me
the traveler on the bus says—Not the radio
or the morning newspaper, nor the citadels on the hills.
I want to cry /
The driver says: Wait until you get to the station,
then cry alone all you want /
A woman says: Me too. Nothing
pleases me. I guided my son to my grave,
he liked it and slept there, without saying goodbye /
A college student says: Nor does anything
please me. I studied archaeology but didn’t
find identity in stone. Am I
really me? /
And a soldier says: Me too. Nothing
pleases me. I always besiege a ghost
besieging me /
The edgy driver says: Here we are
almost near our last stop, get ready
to get off . . . /
Then they scream: We want what’s beyond the station,
keep going!
As for myself I say: Let me off here. I am
like them, nothing pleases me, but I’m worn out
from travel.

-from "The Butterfly's Burden", translated by Fady Joudah (translation copyright © 2007 Copper Canyon Press)

Friday, September 02, 2016

"Wahdon" (Alone) "وحدن"

وحدن
 شعر طلال حيدر
غناء فيروز

وحْدُن بْيبْقوا
مِتِلْ زهْر البيلســان
وحْدُن بْيقِطفوا وْراق الزّمان
بيْسكّروا الغابي
بيضَّلهُن متل الشتي يْدقّوا عَلى بْوابي
عَلى بْوابي

يا زَمــــان
يا عشِب داشِر فوق هالحيطان
ضوّيت ورد الليل عَ كْتابي
برج الحمام مْسَوّر وْعـالي
هجّ الحمام بْقيْت لَـحـالي لَحالي

يا ناطْرين التّـلج
ما عاد بدكُن ترجعوا
صرِّخْ عَلَيهُن بالشّتي يا ديب
بَلْكي بْيِسْمَعوا

وحْدُن بْيِبْقوا مِتِلْ هالغَيم العتيق
وحْدُن وْجوهُن وْعتْم الطّريق
عم يقْطعوا الغابي
وْبإيْدَهُن
متل الشتي يْدِقُّوا البِكي وْهنِّي عَلى بْوابي

يا زمــــان
مِنْ عُمِرْ فَيّ العشبْ عَ الحيطــان
مِن قَبِلْ ما صار الشجر عالي
ضوِّي قْناديل

وأنْطُر صْحابي
مرقوا
فلُّوا
بْقيتْ عَ بابي لحالي



Alone
Lyrics: Talal Haydar
Voice: Fairuz

Alone they remain like elderflowers
Alone they pick the leaves of time
They close down the forest, they remain like rain
Knocking on my doors, on my doors...

Oh time, oh weeds scattered over these walls
I lit the night’s rose over my book
The dove’s tower is fenced and high
The doves fled, I remained alone, all alone…

You waiting for the snow, don’t you want to return?
Call out for them in the rain, oh wolf, perhaps they might hear…

Alone they remain like these old clouds
Alone, their faces and the road’s darkness
They cross the woods and with their hands, like rain,
The tears and they knock on my doors…

Oh time of the age of the weeds’ shadow on these walls
From before when trees became tall
I light up lanterns and wait for my friends
They passed by, they left, I stayed at my door all alone…

You going to the snow, don’t you want to return?
Call out for them in the rain, oh wolf, perhaps they might hear…


Friday, August 26, 2016

"Prelude: Late Twentieth-Century Piece"

And after pain, the calm—dark records on dark shelves:
Some notion of romance we never got over,
Some sweet past theme we kept trying to recover,
Some concept of ourselves as more than our lost selves.

If we cannot be lovers, we will be players,
Throttling sharp-dressed and muscled, guns in our pockets
For good luck, through the new cities of the tropics--
Deco, palm, flamingo, blues and greens in layers.

This is the dead end of the end of the dead day.
Starlit, remembering what we outlived, we lie
Watching old films of us sweep the ceiling: the sigh
Of flesh on flesh, the cut, and the turning away.

- by Joe Bolton, from "The Last Nostalgia"

Monday, June 20, 2016

In Her Shoes

I have just (finally?) watched In Her Shoes, and it is simply wonderful! I highly recommend it. And as Roger Ebert wrote, "It's not every big-budget movie that gets its two biggest emotional payoffs with poems by Elizabeth Bishop and e.e. cummings." And it looks like "books by Elizabeth Bishop and ee cummings have doubled in sales after the poets' works were featured in the movie" (source: BookSlut). So here are, for your reading pleasure, those two great poems:

One Art
Elizabeth Bishop

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

--Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.


i carry your heart with me
ee cummings

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

(Originally posted on Dec. 2, 2005)

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Absolution

To My People 

I absolve myself of you.
I absolve me of the anger
dripping morbidly from turbid eyes;
of the hatred, loud and raucous,
and stupid;
of the ignorance engulfing you
like summer haze:
humid, and sticky, and slowly reeking.
I absolve me of your sins.

I absolve me of your children,
dull and arrogant,
and devoid of hope.
I absolve me of your tongue,
its beautiful words
gone blind.

I absolve me even of myself,
this guilt of being,
this exhaust of writing,
this ball of fury in your throats.
I absolve me even of this,
the need for absolution.

(Originally posted on May 22, 2007)

Thursday, June 02, 2016

No Return, No Exchange

Here's my life; take it,
see what you can make of it.
Like a gum that's been chewed
for far too long, it's lost its flavor.
I'm done with it; and I'm afraid
I've made quite the mess of it...
There, see if you can do better.
And let me know; I'm curious.
But I won't hold my breath;
I don't care enough to.

I've waited on sidewalks
where busses don't pass,
and the riders have all fallen asleep.
I've lingered in the fog of old songs
and teenage dreams, and woken up
to find me lurking around
a playground, overgrown
into the swing-set I forgot me in.
This adulthood, I fear, is not for me;
but then again, neither was childhood.
I'm not angry to have come to this world,
but I don't think I'll miss it much.
And to be honest, I don't think
it'll miss me much either...

(Originally posted on February 10, 2012)

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore


Such is the world we inhabit: while wasting time on Facebook, between political news and recipe videos, an obituary of someone you know, half a world and years away, appears… Death asserts itself everywhere.

I met Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore in Philadelphia on Saturday, May 21, 2005. I don’t recall that because I have good memory, but because I blogged about it that day. Daniel was a judge on the Philadelphia Reading Series Open Poetry Competition, which was held at The Book Corner, a second-hand bookstore near the Free Library of Philadelphia, and around the corner from where I worked at the time. I’d been writing poetry and posting it online for a couple of years then, but that was the first time I’d read it in public. I was terrified… and I won second prize! Daniel came up to me afterwards and congratulated me. He was an editor of English translations of Mahmoud Darwish, one of my all-time favorite poets, and it meant so much to me.

The following year, thanks to Daniel, I was featured in the Other Voices International Project. But soon after, Daniel was there for me during one of the darkest episodes of my life. During Israel’s war on Lebanon in the summer of 2006, I was in Philadelphia while my family was under the bombs in Lebanon. I was at my wits end, feeling helpless and hopeless. I was in the streets demonstrating, reading my poetry to anyone who would listen. Daniel was part of a poetic "call to arms" I held online; and along with Laurie Pollack and Arlene Bernstein, helped me form Philly Poets for Peace, which raised money for the UNICEF Emergency Relief Fund. Daniel and I read from Darwish’s To an Iraqi Poet, he in English and I in Arabic; it helped me hold on to my sanity during that nightmare. A year later, Daniel helped me publish four poems in Islamica magazine...

And then, as they say, life happened. We lost touch, I wrote less and less, and eventually I moved back over the Atlantic to Europe… I’m ashamed to admit I followed the news of Daniel’s illness recently on Facebook in silence. Words may be what brought us together, but words failed me… I didn’t know what to say, so I said nothing. And here I am, at a loss of words again. So I’ll just borrow from my younger self, and dedicate to you one of the poems you helped me publish, The Flight of the Swallow… Forgive me my silence.

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Flight of the Swallow

In memory of Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore

What do they know
Of the flight of the swallow
Or the crane and how it dives?

What do they know
Of the life under your eyes
Or your smile and how it wanes?

What do they know
Of the gathering of the night
Or her waist and how it sways?

What will they know
Of the taste of the sea in your bread
And your embrace trembling under my sleep?

They'll know nothing
But the snow gathering under their fingernails
And the horizon as it folds onto itself...


(Originally posted on May 10, 2005)

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

"Hard Country" by Joe Bolton

"It is, even now, a hard country to live in.

Full summer is invisible fire under cypresses
Dying of thirst,
And you think of the dog days it got too hot
To do much else but sit and sweat
And watch the ground bake till it cracked.

Or, wintering, it could be the New World:
The empty duskward distances
And killing promise of mow.
You still remember the night it fell to fifteen below.
You were sitting at the kitchen table,
Ten years old,
A blanket on your lap and a bowl
Of snow cream in front of you.
Your mother was stoking the stove.
You saw, through the window, the west field
Silvered with snow and starlight. Saw
The figure of your father crossing the field,
And the load he carried curled in his arms:
A calf that had picked a bad night for being born.
He brought it in to warm by the stove,
Red ice of afterbirth melting into pools
And the poor thing’s ears already frozen off.

Now, in autumn, walking the long mile
Back from the empty mailbox,
You can see the place, what’s left of it:
Two Plymouths and a ‘34 Ford
Squat rusting, wheelless, home
To broken tools and rotten clothes, mice.
Gray barns and outbuildings lean graying.
And the white house is white
Only in memory,
For the photographs, too, have faded.
Back of the smokehouse, from limp fur, the skull
Of an eaten raccoon grins skyward.
You wonder if there was ever any glory to be had here,
And if not, then why, for two hundred years,
Anybody has bothered....

A hard country to live in, yes,
But not a hard country in which to find
A place to drown oneself.
You think of water, of the names
Of water: Sinking River. Rough River Lake,
South Fork of the Panther.
And all of it flowing Ohioward, Gulfward.

For water everywhere rages to be with other water;
Or, held isolate in ponds, in the hoofprint
Of the thousand-pound heifer after rain,
Reflects the utter emptiness of sky.

And water is as empty as sky, only
Easier to fall into,
Heavier to breathe."

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Kill

Kill, kill, kill everything.

Kill the light falling on this page
like a false promise of warmth;
kill the news of a world in spiral.

Kill time, cruel time, ruthless time,
endless time, fleeting time, time
laying at your feet like a bored dog.

Kill hope, lazy hope, easy hope, hope peeking
like misguided blossoms in a snow storm.
Kill this, the need to reach out and touch,
say I am here, and you?

Kill that, the urge to call them, to hear them,
to assure them as only you want to be assured.
Kill it, kill it all, kill the want to live again, kill
the want to die, kill the want to be, to become.

Kill it and remain, not a reminder, just
a hollow shell mistaken for what was,
just an answer to a question that has
long ago given up on one.

(Originally posted on February 03, 2012)

Monday, March 21, 2016

Traumatique

It is, as such.
Long expanses, and then.
One after.
Endless-ness.
Falling. from.
Again.

It is, as it is to be.
Unfolding, after the fact.
Rolls of skin, and.
Incessant-ly.
Always, from.
It is—feel it!
As such.

Start again,
from where sentences flow,
from whence the clothes hit the carpeted blankness,
gingerly,
and then.

Start, from the end.
Skip all that happened,
and say, nothing at all.

Start from where it doesn’t need to be said,
from the night breaking off on the windshield,
shattering, renouncing,
boundless.

Start from after,
the return, the happy ending,
as if nothing.
Start.

(Originally posted on May 13, 2007)

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Interruptus

There was honking outside,
rare, but reminiscent
of other more vocal towns.

There was an image inside
of what you could see
in such a place.

There were footsteps and barking,
the sounds of my silence;
there was me nodding and moving,
if only for the sake of motion.

There is this never-ending floor
and you somewhere dying -
- are you breathing still?

There is this scar, refusing to heal,
itching like an absence...
If I hold my breath, would you feel it?
If I hold still, would anybody notice?

Somewhere else, something else,
another...
If I leave this unfinished,
would -

(Originally posted on November 21, 2011)

Friday, March 04, 2016

Myself to Blame

I only have myself to blame
for you, my victory, my downfall,
my need, my hunger, my flame...

I only have myself to blame,
hoping endlessly, as my mother
waits for my dad, against hope
for you to change,
for you to become
what I want, to be
somebody else...

I only have myself to blame
for this, the burn that is my life,
this lie that I insist on telling,
waiting, against the odds,
for me to become
someone I want...

(Originally posted on May 14, 2013)

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Splintered

We gave up our dreams to fumble at adulthood;
playing house isn't what it used to be.

Our low bed, littered with the week's routine,
was sulking underneath.
It has tired of the relentless cycle of sheets.
The green ones don't look like spring anymore;
only the one that passed: faded, and old.
And the flannel is no longer warm;
its worn out childish comfort now plain immature.

This trudging of the banal,
this endless march of inconsequence,
our illusion of the grand scheme falters under its gravity.
Only frames of domesticity, of ruffled canine fur,
and the reminder of a smile frozen elsewhere;
it buckles under the promise.

Here is life as I would have given you,
sparkling and easy, and devoid of questions.
Here is life as I would have wanted,
clean of choices, and clairvoyant.
Here is life, hurtling onto the landing
padded with dust, and fragile of bone.

Here, where it wouldn't have mattered, did I declare,
Here, I shall remain, a splinter in its eye,
for visions like these are worthless.

(Originally posted on Feb. 23, 2007)