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.