foreshadowed

we got high on my couch while a waning moon watched from the balcony. I sat on your lap with my skirt open and recited all the poems I had written while you were gone. while I had pushed you away like unwanted advances, requests for change, petitions from street vendors. you laughed like a organ, deep and sad even when it's meant for praise, and when you slipped into me I crawled inside your chest like a cat in a window or a tiger in the ring. all claws and sharp teeth to the crowd outside the tent. to everyone but the ringleader. the guy with the fire.
the second poem said make love to the ones you thought were for you.
I wrote it in the past tense and I think it was a hex. I accidentally put it on the big cat, the one with the long mane. the one who never listened to commands and would end up getting burned.

Letter to a Palestinian Poet

I lie my head upon your belly and listen to the sounds of war. Babies are crying, fathers wailing. This flesh is a map and I follow it through generations. Across back brushed valleys. Graffitied streetways. Lemons litter courtyards where they fall from pregnant trees. Lemons fall like infants from their mothers wombs at checkpoints. Behind a picket fence of ribs your horse hoof heart beats faster faster. Great swirls of dust rise from the stomping of hooves, heels, boots. They crucified your father Mahmoud on the back of a prickly pear tree. They held you for seventy two hours at Allenby while your brothers rot in 1391 prisons that do not exist.

And here in Washington, tucked in by the beltway, you shake and sweat through the dream of a promised forever. Here in Washington we still refuse to let you die like other people. My own brother who harvests figs and will fall down in his field at eighty three. My own father in his own Jeep he will turn too hard to the left on some back road. Lay still, love, on cotton sheets and do not wonder why it is you cannot sleep.

audible.

I search for my voice among old papers, eraserless pencils, bobby pins, shark's teeth, pennies, business cards from failed first dates, receipts for lattes, receipts for vodkas. My voice is over rocks and underwater.

Smooth like a shell and pink pink, plucked from the beach on a Sunday then tossed into the back of a drawer, I pull it out. It takes a liquid shape and moves easily over me. My voice is a man at two am.

Husky and full of prose. Honeyed gravel.  On my knees I wait for him, seductively wet and soft as a lamb. And he comes for me like the Lord for all first born sons.

My voice is a door that is marked but unlocked.

audible.

I search for my voice among old papers, eraserless pencils, bobby pins, shark's teeth, pennies, business cards from failed first dates, receipts for lattes, receipts for vodkas. My voice is over rocks and underwater.

Smooth like a shell and pink pink, plucked from the beach on a Sunday then tossed into the back of a drawer, I pull it out. It takes a liquid shape and moves easily over me. My voice is a man at two am.

Husky and full of prose. Honeyed gravel.  On my knees I wait for him, seductively wet and soft as a lamb. And he comes for me like the Lord for all first born sons.

My voice is a door that is marked but unlocked.

chickpea pasta and other small truths

When I write you poems it is always type delete type delete. Is there anything left to say? We know nothing gold stays. What I felt for you was childhood, pure and then left out in the rain. Playing cards and porcelain dolls. The ones you aren't allowed to touch because they look like art. Mother said so. In high school I left a book under Nate Donmoyer's window and he found it under two feet of snow nine months later. "I was too late getting to this," he said. Years later I would go to his first show and find pages from my old sketch pad framed around the stage. "I found these in a DC garbage three years ago," he would explain. "I wonder whose they are." Time is an ocean of snow and she always retreats enough to show us what has been hidden beneath her wide body.

I loved you like that book. It was called "The Stranger."

New Year

New Year, don't come to our homes, for we are wanderers
from a ghost-world, denied by man.
Night flees from us, fate has deserted us
We live as wandering spirits
with no memory
no dreams, no longings, no hopes.
The horizons of our eyes have grown ashen
the gray of a still lake,
like our silent brows,
pulseless, heatless,
denuded of poetry.
We live not knowing life.

New Year, move on. There is the path
to lead your footsteps.
Ours are veins of hard reed,
and we know not of sadness.
We wish to be dead, and refused by the graves.
We wish to write history by the years
If only we knew what it is to be bound to a place
If only snow could bring us winter
to wrap our faces in darkness
If only memory, or hope, or regret
could one day block our country from its path
If only we feared madness
If only our lives could be disturbed by travel
or shock,
or the sadness of an impossible love.
If only we could die like other people.


- Nazik al Mala'ika

Reborn

 ...Perhaps life is a choked moment where my gaze

annihilates itself inside in the pupils of your eyes—
                      I will mingle that sensation with my grasp
of the moon and comprehension of darkness.

In a room the size of loneliness,
my heart’s the size of love.
It contemplates its simple pretexts for happiness:
the beauty of the flowers’ wilting in a vase,
the sapling you planted in our garden,
and the canaries’ song—the size of a window.

Alas, this is my lot.
This is my lot.
My lot is a sky that can be shut out
by the mere hanging of a curtain.
My lot is descending a lonely staircase
to something rotting and falling apart in its exile.
My lot is a gloomy stroll in a grove of memories,
and dying from longing for a voice
that says: I love your hands...

 - Forough Farrokhzad 

Exception

All of them arrive: river and train 
sound and ship
light and letters
the telegrams of consolation
the invitation to dinner
the diplomatic bag
the space ship
they all arrive
all but my step towards
my country . . .

 

- Mourid Barghouti

you look around and every street, every boulevard, is its own special art form

We planned to meet in person on the corner of Dundas during the 2012 Toronto Film Festival. You, the man who emailed to say I looked like the kind of girl who liked Woody Allen movies, approached from the left. And I, the kind of girl who would not learn for many years that you already knew her better than she knew herself, watched from an alleyway like a vintage shop made of windows no one ever looked in. I bit my knuckles as you dialed my number over and over again. I liked your shoulders and decided I couldn't meet you that day, maybe never. I turned, and left. Had I crossed that street we might've laughed a little bit and touched one another's flesh the way strangers do before they become strangers again.

It has been four years and when I write poems now they remind me of the present, which is to say they are unsatisfying. You call me drunk from Dubai at least three nights a week to confess your various sins. I whisper "meet me at midnight in Beirut" and mean that I'd cross two oceans to hear you list every vile thing you've ever done just so I could tell you that I love to walk in the rain, too.

 "And if the dead by displacement and the dead by weapons and the dead by longing and the dead by simple death are martyrs, and if poems are true and each martyr is a rose, we can claim to have made a garden of the world."

Mourid Barghouti

I used to collect feathers

I want to write to you in secret code. Handshakes. Navajo talk. I used to beg you to speak to me in Arabic. I only know pleasantries and am therefore a delight. I don't know words like snake. I was warned you would break me like a bone, a lock, a promise, but when I was small I would go hiking and wander off trail in search of treasures. Feathers. Tsidii. Ts'in. "Something poisonous will bite you!" they'd yell from the path. It took seventeen more years but something finally did.

the labours

I would've taken you to all the places I love best. Long wooded trails where the earth sweats streams from between boulders. You'd stretch long limbed out on the bank while I would weave you tales like headbands, baskets, webs. Feed you raspberries from my fingertips like a lovesick Amelie. The gods threw these rocks here from the heavens. The gods threw these rocks here just for you. The strength of Hercules only conquered the foes of the god he served, never his own. This is why I daydream about dipping you into the river. I'd grasp your ankle like Thetis with Achilles and let the water give you power. I could hold a man with but one weakness.

"there's rue for you, and here's some for me..."

He asked me to tell the truth about you in the same way you asked about the others. "I need you to tell me. After all this, I know you can."
And I could've. Let cats out of bags, black cats with long shadows. Shadows like night like nights when you'd serenade sway me across the kitchen, yell under jealousy's yellow light, pull me in as a tide, push me out again. Your stray cats could roam a boardwalk beach, your stray cats would've sent you out to sea.
So I did. Tell about soft mornings and how I ached to move your own periods about. The ones with all the hurt would come before me and change the sentences around. "I need you." "Tell me." "I know you." "After all this, we."
We Neverlanded and I never landed quite squarely on my feet after you spun me around, and I fell. "Yes, I fell, I said. "And it wasn't into the sea, but a river where I drowned. And it was I who looked so at home with my woes in that water."
He nodded as if he understood what I was trying to say. That there is no such thing as a lie. There is the truth you tell and the truth you keep.

and Erin and Aisha and Esther, too

I am facing the fence that encloses the dog park, my hands wrapped around the wrought iron bars. Next to me stands a woman in an immaculate red dress. A slight breeze rumples her hair and jingles the tags on her dog's keys. I look down at him. He is white and plump and his eyes look soft but you never can tell, can you. His tail thumps softly but I do not reach down to pet him. He notices my disinterest and leans the weight of his entire body into my leg.

"Christ, they're all beggars, aren't they?" says the woman in the red dress.  I laugh.

"Oh, mine are the same, trust me."

I point to the other end of the field where my dogs are running. For as long as I've lived with them I never can tell if they're playing or fighting with one another.
Now that he wears a suit to work every day Jack has picked up the habit of coming home late stinking of bitches. And Brad, poor lamb, rarely bothers to come come home at all unless he thinks he will get to sleep in my bed. He will have to be put down soon. Steve is good. Such a good boy, yes. I am always surprised by this and often worry I accidentally punish him for the transgressions of the others. The woman in the red dress catches me smiling softly at them and clears her throat.

"Was every one a rescue?" she asks. "Oh, yes." I say. "Aren't they all?"

and the tree is still spilled across the sidewalk (or, soft organs)

I come over late and undress myself. I have never known your hands in my hair. Moonlight pools in the far corner of the room and I long to dip my toes in it. Instead I slip like a dolphin between the ripples of grey sheets. Silence. Sleep abandons you and you turn to speak to me in the language we have known with countless others. The one where your hands whisper "stay" and my pores hear "drown".