Monday, September 06, 2021

A Time Before

A time before you and me

A time before the past was past 

A time before the present got past

And then the future, too--

The future went past

And you and I

Lost in the past

In this forgotten city

Blown up by the sea 

At the edge of an old dusty world...


A time before my mom, and her mom 

A time before my dad forgot the world 

And remembered only his sadness 

Curled it up like a kitten 

Hurled up into his lap

And licked it clean...


(inspired by:

https://www.the961.com/photos-lebanon-1900s-1920s)


Wednesday, September 01, 2021

The Worst of It

My first Covid symptoms appeared on Wednesday, August 4th, 2021. After 2 negative PCR tests, I got officially diagnosed, through a chest scan, the following Tuesday. That day the virus had attacked 10% of the lung. By Sunday, it was 70%; an ambulance took to the ER. I stayed 12 days in the ICU, 15 in the hospital in total. My lungs burst; I have 80% damage in one, 20% in the other. The air got trapped under the skin, causing swelling in the neck and face. Recovery is estimated to take between weeks and months. But it's good to be back home, even if on oxygen.

Living without perfume,
That wasn't the worst of it.
It wasn't coughing while your nose splattered blood,
Nor having to eliminate in a bed as someone watched.
It wasn't the tubes sticking out of you as you tried to sleep,
Nor was it the moving bruise of the ever-shifting IV.
It wasn't the isolation of the gray walls, the viewless window, and sleepless nights,
Nor was it trying to assure your mother as you wanted to cry.
It wasn't the bloated face that greeted you with a scare in the mirror,
Nor the burst lungs, and the air trapped under the skin.
It wasn't the exorbitant bills of a country falling apart,
Nor was it getting out to a room without AC in the midst of collapse.
It wasn't realizing that your father cared more about his suffering than yours,
Nor was it realizing that you cared about yours more than his...
It was realizing that you still had your foot, and your brother, and somewhat your breath,
And you still didn't know what to make of them...

Friday, July 23, 2021

Someday

: Of Hope III
Someday
when it’s all done
and the white foam pours forth
you’ll be telling me
that song we drew when
the grass was freshly mown
was embroidered into
your mother’s skirt.

I will turn
and absorb your face
like it was the last kite of summer
and together we will drip
like old wounds
at the back of the throat.
There will be nothing that night
but the bees that circled our heads
and a sigh that congealed
with a dream.

(Originally posted on February 25, 2005)

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Reasons

      Because in the distance between
when we die and when we forget about it
is where our happiness is pitted;

      Because in the intensity of the green
I seek respite from your drenched words and
pretend that your life doesn't trudge along elsewhere;

      Because in the middle of the woods you only grunted
when I told you that I love you, and I took that to mean
"Yes, me too, very much," and smiled to myself;

      Because the comfort of thinking that this is all there is
is seeping back in, and that the world begins with
my mud-crusted shoes and ends with the jargon in my head;

      Because the possibilities of all the faces passing me by
passes along with them, and their beaming eyes bore through me
holes as big and blue as the sky, that they don't even look through;

      Because I promised, if given another chance, I would grab on to it
though I don't know what that means; and I made a vow of goodness
to a God I don't believe in--and I wonder if He believes in me.

(Originally posted on July 6th, 2006)

Saturday, August 15, 2020

There’s No Forgetting (Sonata)

I have been aching for words to say it; but words are failing me again, and again, and again... And in the end I just return to this haunting poem by Pablo Neruda, perhaps my favorite of his, and on which I based my thesis, "Memory for Forgetfulness”: Registering/Effacing the Memory of the Lebanese War, which has, at once, tragically come back to life and become laughably irrelevant...
Ask me where I have been
and I’ll tell you: “Things keep on happening.”
I must talk of the rubble that darkens the stones;
of the river’s duration, destroying itself;
I know only the things that the birds have abandoned,
or the sea behind me, or my sorrowing sister.
Why the distinctions of place? Why should day
follow day? Why must the blackness
of nighttime collect in our mouths? Why the dead?

If you question me: where have you come from, I must talk
___with things falling away,
artifacts tart to the taste,
great, cankering beasts, as often as not,
and my own inconsolable heart.

Those who cross over with us are no keepsakes,
nor the yellowing pigeon that sleeps in forgetfulness:
only the face with its tears,
the hands at our throats,
whatever the leafage dissevers:
the dark of an obsolete day,
a day that has tasted the grief in our blood.

Here are the violets, swallows—
all the things that delight us, the delicate tallies
that show in the lengthening train
through which pleasure and transience pass.

Here let us halt, in the teeth of a barrier:
useless to gnaw on the husks that the silence assembles.
For I come without answers:
see: the dying are legion,
legion, the breakwaters breached by the red of the sun,
the headpieces knocking the ship’s side,
the hands closing over their kisses,
and legion the things I would give to oblivion.

—Pablo Neruda
© Translation: 1974, Ben Belitt
From:
Pablo Neruda, Five Decades: Poems 1925-1970
Publisher: Grove Press, New York, 1974
Hear this recited at Poetry International Festival Rotterdam, 2004
by Krip Yuso.


No Hay Olvido (Sonata)

Si me preguntáis en dónde he estado
debo decir "Sucede".
Debo de hablar del suelo que oscurecen las piedras,
del río que durando se destruye:
no sé sino las cosas que los pájaros pierden,
el mar dejado atrás, o mi hermana llorando.
Por qué tantas regiones, por qué un día
se junta con un día? Por qué una negra noche
se acumula en la boca? Por qué muertos?

Si me preguntáis de dónde vengo, tengo que conversar con
      cosas rotas,
con utensilios demasiado amargos,
con grandes bestias a menudo podridas
y con mi acongojado corazón.

No son recuerdos los que se han cruzado
ni es la paloma amarillenta que duerme en el olvido,
sino caras con lágrimas,
dedos en la garganta,
y lo que se desploma de las hojas:
la oscuridad de un día transcurrido,
de un día alimentado con nuestra triste sangre.

He aquí violetas, golondrinas,
todo cuanto nos gusta y aparece
en las dulces tarjetas de larga cola
por donde se pasean el tiempo y la dulzura.

Pero no penetremos más allá de esos dientes,
no mordamos las cáscaras que el silencio acumula,
porque no sé qué contestar:
hay tantos muertos,
y tantos malecones que el sol rojo partía,
y tantas cabezas que golpean los buques,
y tantas manos que han encerrado besos,
y tantas cosas que quiero olvidar.

—Pablo Neruda

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

The Worst Is Yet to Come

Shed them one by one
like recent habits,
perhaps, or ancient loves.

Feel the world denting under your knees--
bury your face deeper in the pillow,
and let it out.

Listen to the grinding of Fate's stone
chaffing your thighs,
pencil a smirk across your face
and raise it to the light.

The worst is yet to come.


In lawns that knew nothing
but the breeze dabbling in poetry,
a hammock strung
like angels to the skies;

In dusks wrapped in their own perfection,
and beaches slumbering at the lap of forever;

You sat, eyes wide, words few,
absorbing the sand like it's all that is left,
spitting it out variations on the divine.

The horizon blinked under your gaze,
and repeated itself, fumbling and hurried,
waiting for reassurance
at the corners of your mouth.


Plunge it, once more, into darkness
and burn a sigh.

We make alliances of convenience,
greeting smiles with a stare,
showcasing the cleared lots
like something’s there.

But the words dim, and scramble,
and shift direction on the page.

They know, too, like I do,
like the night falls,
they sing it under their breath:

The worst is yet to come.

(To Katyssima, originally posted on September 12, 2006)

Saturday, July 18, 2020

VI. The Sinking River at Stevensport

Closing your eyes, you can see 
What nobody ever saw:  
It is midnight, past midnight,  
The figure just visible  
In the moonless, dew-laden dark 
Where river empties into  
River, and the water makes  
No sound, or a sound like time, 
Which stands still now on the bank. 
He, too, stands still on the bank, 
Late-summer night wind whipping 
The white linen of his coat-  
For, yes, he always did have  
A sense of style in such things.  
Behind him, the white car shines 
Under what starlight there is.  
He stares at what stars there are 
And remembers—or does he?- 
The flowered dress he bought you 
And raised above your waist here 
So you could straddle his lap. 
Does he think of the river  
Lit at Louisville, where some- 
Thing he can hardly admit  
To himself happened?—happened 
To you, though you both agreed 
It was the best thing to do. . . . 
Does he speak aloud now to  
No one? Does he say a name? 
Does he say your name before  
He walks into the river?  
Or does he just walk away?  
You must believe both stories  
Till the world makes up its mind. 
Either way, the white car shines 
As dawn fights the water, and
 -—All this behind your closed eyes—— 
That wide water seems to hold 
The dead in their element.  

- Joe Bolton, from "The Last Nostalgia"

Thursday, December 05, 2019

Comfortably Numb

: Of Grief IV

To the victims of suicide, and those they left behind..
Stuff the slices down your throat
And choke on a smile
The end bounces off of a black screen

The line thins between the zenith and the abyss
He tells me my pain is only resistance
"Grieve!" he says, my agony does not suffice
Grieve loss upon loss until you are unaware of losses

Now it's their turn to fall from grace
From the stars, from above
And my turn to put them back up
Where they belong

My laughter sobs
And I become, I hope
comfortably numb

(Originally posted on Aug. 3, 2004; re-posted on July 24, 2006)

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

Exit

Of callous politicians everywhere

It’s time for us to exit
The stage and leave
The animals to shred
Their shadows

It’s time for us to exit
Without looking back
Turn off the light
Set the set on fire
And leave

It’s time for them
To cry our tears
To taste the salt
And the soles of our feet
And lick our spit
Off the floor

We shall burn in their retinas
Like the afterimage of a nightmare
We shall linger
Like the caustic aftertaste
Of regret

It shall burn
And we shall smile
They shall writhe
And we shall smirk
Through their moans

Spill me
Onto their gaping flesh
Like lemon juice
Bitter and bright
Scrape me
Off of their green skins
Like a dead dream

For we shall fester
Wherever they dare to smile
We shall bite
Like a ravenous hunger
They never knew

And we shall recur
Like a hallucination
Like loss
Like life

(Originally posted Aug. 6, 2004)

SONG (re)CYCLE 2019: Lebanese Revolution Edition

As Sylvia Plath wrote:
"I have done it again.   
One year in every ten   
I manage it——"
Well, maybe not every ten, but every few years it seems to happen. Something momentous happens (in the Middle East) that I feel the need to respond to. But since my words have not been serving me as well in recent years, I've resorted to this poem recycling.. I resumed this edition without planning, a reaction, a need to borrow words from my past self to respond too current events. Thus Absolution appeared in Kalam Thawra. I'd left the previous cycle unfinished a couple of years ago. So I thought I'd continue where I left off, auspiciously I'd like to think, towards the end of grief and beginning of hope. So let's hope..


Monday, December 02, 2019

Perduto

“You’ll never be great,” he said.
“And I am fine with that,
“But you are not.”

I sleep
But wake up like I haven’t
The skyline looks at me
Grey and cold
The same green windows
That soon won’t be there

I sit
I stare
I breathe deep
And suffocate
A beam, check where it is
Erase
Damn, it’s gone
Irretrievable

Songs rush through my head
In tiny white tubes
I am numb
Numb is good

I revolt
Against good
Against beautiful
Against my own ill-defined self
But I don’t have the energy
So I let it be

Perduto…”
She sings in my head
Like memories of our life there
Like the train tracks we waited in front of
And the night wrapped us with a dream
Flavored of hazelnut gelato

On it goes
We laugh together again
It is snowing
I can’t wait to be home
With you

(Originally posted on January 20, 2005)

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

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)

Monday, November 25, 2019

Alternatives

Tomorrow, don't wake me up
Nor the day after
You are not mine anymore
And I'm not sure
I like that world

I know I opened the door
So how could I blame you
For walking out
Heart first?

"It ain't exactly easy
But what’s the alternative?
Tread water
For the rest of our days?"

I have known the darkness:
I have looked into the abyss
And seen my name
Written in absence.
So how am I to write it now
In lights?

I have seen the exit signs.
I know other
Alternatives.

(Originally posted on July 11, 2018)