Monday, March 27, 2017

"Lament on New Year’s Day" by Joe Bolton

I used to stroll untroubled down the variegated street,
The street I knew as I knew my own mind,
Where everything was real and without novelty.
And giving myself away to the depths of things,
I was gone.

Later, I doubled back down that same street,
Perhaps hoping to find the past lurking
In that wound of a room we'd shared
In the house on the corner.
And it was as if nothing had happened
In the years since her leaving.

Still, they don't come back, the great days,
The cries clarified with distance,
The fragrant lining of a patent leather shoe
Already beautiful beyond its function.

There was a precise moment towards dusk
When the window of a certain room was ringed with light,
And the dark walnut of an antique desk proclaimed
That those who were able to save themselves
Would be twice reimbursed tomorrow for their suffering.

Now, a V-shape of migrating geese
Or bombers on a practice mission
Freezes in mid-flight and turns to blue ash
In the sky above 1986.

- Joe Bolton, from “The Last Nostalgia”

Friday, March 17, 2017

Soon Again

Soon again I'll be home,
Home that's no longer home.
Soon I'll be back where
I left off and I began.
I will circle the rooftops, and throw
my pigeons into familiar skies,
But my pigeons will not return.

Soon I'll be back in my room
That's no longer my room, for I
Have forgotten the color of its walls,
And it has renounced my smell.
Soon I'll be sleeping in your bed,
Like I used to when it was mine.
Soon I'll smile, and they'll smile,
And behind the teeth the distance will cringe.
Soon again I'll be holding your hands,
Looking into your eyes and remembering
Who you are and who I was...

(Originally posted on 17th June 2005 as "In Two Weeks")

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

The Other Way

I remember you vaguely,
an early story of those days when
the world was expanding still...

I remember your name before
it shed a few letters, back when
the night was dark and
engulfed us, ignorant,
in its silent siren song.

I remember, vaguely, the way
I must have felt about you when
my body was uncharted yet,
and without a compass,
you somehow found a way.

Your voice, in those days before
it learnt its modulations--
when I prayed for it on the hour
and god was immortal still...
Now reaches me,
lilting and laden,
and I forget
to recognize it.

And in the silence between
when you extract yourself from
the loudness of your days and
the reverberation of my name,
we say all that we will ever say:
the love subtle and passing,
memories all but inconsequential,
and the two of us long estranged.

I still ponder, with fresh amazement,
at how it’s come to this...
At the full circle of anonymity,
and such dates that compel us
to reach across the vast divide
that has grown in between,
leaving us looking, always,
the other way...

(Originally posted on June 3, 2007)

"Those Who Pass Between Fleeting Words" "أيها المارون بين الكلمات العابرة"

أيها المارون بين الكلمات العابرة
محمود درويش

أيها المارون بين الكلمات العابرة
احملوا أسماءكم، و انصرفوا
و اسرقوا ما شئتم من زرقة البحر و رمل الذاكرة
و خذوا ما شئتم من صور، كي تعرفوا
إنكم لن تعرفوا
كيف يبني حجر من أرضنا سقف السماء

أيها المارون بين الكلمات العابرة
منكم السيف ـ و منا دمنا
منكم الفولاذ والنار ـ و منا لحمنا
منكم دبابة أخرى ـ و منا حجر
منكم قنبلة الغاز ـ و منا المطر
و علينا ما عليكم من سماء و هواء
فخذوا حصتكم من دمنا و انصرفوا
و ادخلوا حفل عشاء راقص.. و انصرفوا
..و علينا، نحن، أن نحرس ورد الشهداء
!و علينا، نحن، أن نحيا كما نحن نشاء

أيها المارون بين الكلمات العابرة
كالغبار المر، مروا أينما شئتم و لكن
لا تمروا بيننا كالحشرات الطائرة
فلنا في أرضنا ما نعمل
و لنا قمح نربيه ونسقيه ندى أجسادنا
:و لنا ما ليس يرضيكم هنا
حجر.. أو خجل
فخذوا الماضي، إذا شئتم، إلى سوق التحف
،و أعيدوا الهيكل العظمى للهدهد، إن شئتم
.على صحن خزف
فلنا ما ليس يرضيكم: لنا المستقبل
و لنا في أرضنا ما نعمل

أيها المارون بين الكلمات العابرة
كدسوا أوهامكم في حفرة مهجورة، و انصرفوا
و أعيدوا عقرب الوقت إلى شرعية العجل المقدس
!أو إلى توقيت موسيقى مسدس
فلنا ما ليس يرضيكم هنا، فانصرفوا
و لنا ما ليس فيكم، وطن ينزف شعبا ينزف
..وطنا يصلح للنسيان أو للذاكرة

،أيها المارون بين الكلمات العابرة
آن أن تنصرفوا
و تقيموا أينما شئتم، و لكن لا تموتوا بيننا
فلنا في أرضنا ما نعمل
و لنا الماضي هنا
و لنا صوت الحياة الأول
و لنا الحاضر، والحاضر، والمستقبل
و لنا الدنيا هنا... والآخرة
فاخرجوا من أرضنا
من برنا.. من بحرنا
من قمحنا.. من ملحنا.. من جرحنا
من كل شيء، و اخرجوا
من ذكريات الذاكرة
!أيها المارون بين الكلمات العابرة..

Those Who Pass Between Fleeting Words
by Mahmoud Darwish

O those who pass between fleeting words
Carry your names, and be gone
Rid our time of your hours, and be gone
Steal what you will from the blueness of the sea and the sand of memory
Take what pictures you will, so that you understand
That which you never will:
How a stone from our land builds the ceiling of our sky.

O those who pass between fleeting words
From you the sword—from us the blood
From you steel and fire—from us our flesh
From you yet another tank—from us stones
From you tear gas—from us rain
Above us, as above you, are sky and air
So take your share of our blood—and be gone
Go to a dancing party—and be gone
As for us, we have to water the martyrs’ flowers
As for us, we have to live as we see fit.

O those who pass between fleeting words
As bitter dust, go where you wish, but
Do not pass between us like flying insects
For we have work to do in our land:
We have wheat to grow which we water with our bodies’ dew
We have that which does not please you here:
Stones or partridges
So take the past, if you wish, to the antiquities market
And return the skeleton to the hoopoe, if you wish,
On a clay platter
We have that which does not please you: we have the future
And we have things to do in our land.

O those who pass between fleeting words
Pile your illusions in a deserted pit, and be gone
Return the hand of time to the law of the golden calf
Or to the time of the revolver’s music!
For we have that which does not please you here, so be gone
And we have what you lack: a bleeding homeland of a bleeding people
A homeland fit for oblivion or memory

O those who pass between fleeting words
It is time for you to be gone
Live wherever you like, but do not live among us
It is time for you to be gone
Die wherever you like, but do not die among us
For we have work to do in our land
We have the past here
We have the first cry of life
We have the present, the present and the future
We have this world here, and the hereafter
So leave our country
Our land, our sea
Our wheat, our salt, our wounds
Everything, and leave
The memories of memory
O those who pass between fleeting words!

(—Translation from the Jerusalem Post, April 2, 1988)

Monday, March 06, 2017

What Remains

When I loved you, stars were brand new still.

I forget the feeling now,
but I remember the side of your face,
wrinkled with a smile,
framing the rest of the world,
dark, blue, radiant,
and paling...

I remember only that I loved you:
the car parked on the side of the road,
sloping, looming over the winding night,
the music that I bend in my memory,
and the rain…

It was the first time it rained.
Leaves were thirsty still, and smiling.
The night glowed like only a sick mind could,
and danced ahead of me all the way.

I forget how I loved you.
I remember only the cobblestone,
the light—yellow and trite—
and your schoolbook of French poetry on the steps.

We always left the sex kit under the seat of your car:
a stolen vial of lube, condoms,
and the rest of my youth.

Some nights I can taste it still:
the humidity in the trees,
the guilt in the parking lot,
the fantasies we spun of our hunger,
and a faint smell of bliss.

Like the steak sizzling on a bed of salt,
there—where you taught me about strawberries,
and champagne, and the other weapons of love—
I was vacant and anticipating,
and prone on the piled plastic chairs,
and you were generous with the pain.

That I remember well.
When even the anger has dissipated,
something like regret lingers.

I call it love, or what comes after,
or what remains.

I call it nothing when I am tired,
and the world rushes in,
and I can barely remember the name.

(Originally posted on February 15, 2007)

Sunday, March 05, 2017


: Of Grief III
One more night
tumble from grace:
I abandon my senses,
scatter over the gutters
and pray for sleep...

In corners dank and
pungent I find them,
lurking behind my smile.
Throw them across the horizon
that they may cease to be...

Why don't you come
out of your darkness?
Shine once more
like the dying sun!
I curl into a lie and roll...

They cry, but we never hear.
They recede further
into memory;
and in it we drown
behind them...

Do you hear screaming
when it's hoarse?
Do they still rise
like the moon
bloody and round?

(Originally posted on Aug. 1, 2004; re-posted on July 24, 2006 and July 26, 2014)

Saturday, March 04, 2017


: Of Grief II

And now I grieve their lives
Like I grieved my grandmother
Piece by piece
I put them to rest
I kill them all over again
Just to make sure
They're no longer breathing. 

And then I go to sleep...

(Originally posted Jul. 14, 2004; re-posted on July 24, 2006 and July 25, 2014)

Friday, March 03, 2017

Reasons for Living—or Not

It often begins with the low light of early spring:
the distant sounds of life on a chilly Sunday;
your reflection in a screen, bigger than it needs to be;
a dog nearing the end of her life, turning away
from food like only a dying animal can.
                                                            The last
to surrender is often the sense of the beginning,
that what might have been can still be. Instead
is a rigid sense of awakening, that this is all there is
and will be: a cold counting of assets, tabulating life,
seeing it on the losing end.
                                        And in the silence
connecting all—bathing you with your own thoughts
and the smelly leftovers of yesterday’s dream—
nothing much can be said or done:
not the anger, the last remnant of life;
not sweet abandon—only a persistence
as stubborn and meaningless as everything,
a refusal of the game and all it wills.
                                                      And yet
you remain unable to turn away—
not from fear, but from longing:
the closing of the eyes is often
harder than it appears to be.

(Originally posted on March 16, 2014)


: Of Grief I

(To Ahmad)

Like an autumn, Tired of the heat
Like a streetlamp, Bored of its corner
Cry, In every tear, A star, a name, a pair of eyes
Cry, For us, Who have dried...

(Originally posted on Aug. 4, 2005; re-posted on July 24, 2006 and July 24, 2014)

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Watch Me

Watch me dig my hole again
Ever deeper
In it I will bury the whole world.

Watch me tear the sunshine
Once more
And stick it in your heart.

Watch me smear every smile
Off every face
Till nothing remains
But amalgamated lips.

Watch me drown again
And again
Laugh me all the way
To the bottom.

(Originally posted on Sept. 6, 2004; re-posted on July 24, 2006 & July 23, 2014)

Wednesday, March 01, 2017


That day we didn't
Lose our teeth;
You did.
But you don't feel the pain yet;
It only starts when we're gone.

(Originally posted Aug. 27, 2004; re-posted on July 24, 2006 and July 22, 2014, edited)