Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Insistence of Being

And if I disappear, where would I go?
The silence left behind will not be heard
Amidst the noise. How long would it take
For anyone to notice the absence? And
Would it matter? Would any of it matter?

A church bell tolls, water gurgles,
A bird chimes another, as if in peace.
Life thrust upon us, an insistence of being,
An echoless voice in a chamber too full,
Is there any choice besides its negation?

I do not reject you, fellow prisoners,
I reject this, the sentence, the ruthlessness 
Of being, of time, of life, 
Of that essential loneliness that envelops us, 
That wraps us all like a shroud since birth.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Prison

We made of love a prison
To hold us both
Like we couldn't hold each other

We furnished it well
With all the love
We couldn't show one another

And in it we drowned
In a display of domesticity
Born of our fevered dreams

But we ended up forgetting
Where we started
Or what it was all about

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Smells

You'd think progress is a continuous forward motion, but it apparently meanders, loops on itself, and sometimes feels like it's going nowhere. Such is the case of gay rights in Lebanon apparently. Twelve years ago this poem was included in Helem's From Heart to Soul: A Feast on Poetry. The poem wasn't anything special: it's not anthemic, it's not heroic, but it is at times explicit in a casual manner. And it is this casual explicitness that feels revolutionary now. I repost it here, on the occasion of the first Beirut Pride and its continuing struggle against homophobia and religious intolerance, because it pisses some people off, those that need to be pissed off. #WhenWeRise #وصمة_عار

The clouds floated out the window
above their chatter;
it was the time when happiness was
capturing their radiant edges
in freshly discovered tempera.

The sea was stoic still in those days,
a giant ashtray for sunbeams.
I had just discovered Michelangelo:
David and Adam glowed
with the sheen of first porn.
And it was raining in Beirut.

My dad waited all evening for my call
and I stubbornly waited for his.
In the end, we didn’t speak.
When I spoke to him today
his voice sounded metallic
like the rain in Beirut.

In between spells of poetry
I cleaned my cum off the bathtub floor.
I awaited something to happen that night,
But nothing stirred.
So I taped myself jerking off
and jerked off to it.

Not knowing what to do next,
I poured my values into a large plastic yellow bowl
and popped it into the microwave,
hoping that in the patter
I may divine my answer.
But my values melted
with the smell of Styrofoam.

The hallway was growing longer,
sprouting doors as it went.
I just stood there,
scratching a carpeted post.
And for some reason,
if you came close enough,
you could smell the sadness, too.


(Originally posted on 23 November 2005)

Friday, May 12, 2017

Somewhere

Somewhere there’s a revolution, I hear,
Somewhere I used to know...
And here, in a darkening dusk,
In an expanse of grass
Turned purple by the silence,
I turn away...

This is life stripped of excesses:
No one else for days,
Voices all digitized,
The constant hum of a world
Churning itself.
I laugh just because
I miss the sound.

And they come
Seeking life;
They turn them away
Not knowing
It is life they bring.
Tell no one this,
I say it here in confidence,
Throw it to the dustbin of words.

There used to be someone
He wanted to be great
But forgot—
Where was I?

Ah, yes…

(Originally posted on Sep. 17, 2015)

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Dark

Here, in this dark little space before sleep,
I take a look back at the day, limp with apathy,
and the days before it, the wide
yawning expanse of them...
I glimpse behind the purpose I made for it,
ill-fitting like an older sibling's,
and tenuous like hesitant sunlight...
What else are we to do, with this drudgery
of time making a mockery of us all?
What idols are we left with, now that
family and friends are only two more words?
The dark isn't dark enough, I can feel it in me.
It's not still enough, the scratch of my breath keeps it
awake--as if the gray creeping up my temples
wasn't sufficient a delusion of adulthood--
just because I look it doesn't mean I'm ready.
But it's not like anyone is... We all turn away,
drop our gaze, pretend we're going somewhere...
You don't have to believe when you can forget.

(Originally posted on 22 November 2014)

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Silent Green

We pass through death quietly,
Sight unseen--
Slipping like ghosts at a party,
Unnoticed--
Haunting the spaces that carry
Our smells like second skins...

Sideway glances in a crowd,
The sound of laughter receding,
Entering the cool darkness of the air
Willingly--
On the other side, imagined relief,
A new beginning, or respite
From weathered selves?

The train passes. Let it go.
Another will come. You wait.
You listen into the tunnel:
Fluorescent light on white tiles,
And a faint hum...

The story continues. The world
Never fails a beat. You want it to
Notice the absence. But it churns
Beings like dust, lives like smoke,
And hurtles on...

Someone will notice. Someone will choke.
Someone will face the night alone tonight.
Reaching an arm across an empty bed,
Someone will feel the cold of the sheets.
Absence will resonate somewhere,
Will echo, and rage, and plunder...

Facing the night, with the knowledge
Of life elsewhere, undeterred--
You hold your silence,
You face your absence--
This once you will not look away.
It is here. And you are ready.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Jellyfish

She stood in the middle of the sea
With dead jellyfish floating around;
She opened up her arms and said,
My heart is big enough for everybody.
I did not believe her.
I still don't.

The plucking of the strings
On a white wall that's rubbing off,
Footsteps on cobblestone
And a silence that only the heat is capable of...
Her lies smell like orange peel,
Tart and bitter.

I still comb the shore every now and then
For pieces of jellyfish from that day
But there's nothing on the sand but foam
And the smell of orange peel.

May 2017 selection for BaseNotes' Scent Verse
(Originally posted on Sept. 8, 2004)