Archive for April, 2010
Hajer was kind enough to read to us in Arabic in our last Poetician get together in Dubai.
Even people who did not speak arabic were moved by her stance, he physicality,
her deep voice and husky tones, her clear strong eyes and rigid, courageous body. Here, I am copying one of her poems in English. Soon, I will post her Arabic one. Welcome, Hajer, hope you will always join us.
ps. She is Palestinian… am just sayin!
Definition of a Hand
It is your hand I remember
Not your face
The colour of your eyes
Or the deep cleft in your chin
But your hand
That’s what I thought
Your left hand
The back of it
The weight of it
I will take it with me to the grave
Left hand falling like thunder on left cheek
My left cheek
The imprint of your alma mater ring tattooed on it until now
A birth mark
Nails so white and clipped,
A well-taken-care of hand
Knuckles giving way to dark hairs like grass on a meadow
I could swear it happened
I slept there
But then your ring
your fraternity ring on my cheek
Right above the jaw
Where I bled for hours
Tells me I must be wrong
How could I have ever slept on barbed wires?
The palm I do not remember
No life lines or money lines or marriage lines
The palm always pointing away from me
A dismissing hand
The dorsum is another story
Blood vessels connecting with arteries
And the skin
A tight drum with a muting sound
I cannot hear with my left ear any longer
But I have the mark of your ring
Right where the leather strap of your watch is a creamy circle
Is where my eyes stop
I unhinge it
Take it aside
And set fire to it
But I will
All 27 bones
(a prehensile appendage for physical manipulation
according to Wikipedia)
Physical manipulation of the backward blow
Finger stretched so straight
I could have woven a shroud around them
A heinous sight
My mother was a weaver of lies
People looked at you
And envied her
She is dead now
I seem to be always leaving. Never a homecoming for me. Never an everafter. Haven’t managed the till death do us part bit.
Today I was looking at the exquisite photos of the baby girl of my friends. He used to be a love of mine, in another life. His wife is a treasure. A true friend. And their baby girl is an element of dreams, a creature of light and laughter that removes any and every sorrow I ever imagined carying in my curls.
It made me think of permanence, those photos. How she will grow and grow, and I will fade and fade, and the love we will have for her will never diminish. It made me realize I do not have that in my own life.
Instinct and love beyond the mind? No.
I am off again, days here and there, films to pursue, books to launch, people to interview, deserts and waters to visit, suitcases to schlep around and curse, strangers on vehicles of movement to befriend and then semi- forget.
At least, I have poetry. And you, anonymous cyberspace dweller.
Here is an old old poem I wrote.
All that may not happen
i may never know who you truly are
or what paths of secret devil
schemes and voodoo magic
brought your face
to my smile
i will not retrace the journey
to this gift of your arms
and i may never sleep till death
by your laboring flesh
but for the promise of pleasure
in your cadence by my side
at all the motion
repressed or broken wild
this promise of soft vapor after
is worth a thousand words
of a debt i now
i owe you lines of kisses
and poems of inconceivable wealth
i offer the
sacred nothing i can offer you
fingers to clasp
silence with every morn’s dew
a memory of
my calm breath in the night
Loving, loving, missing this, and words that are inside skin, love love love.
“Immigrant Blues” by Li-Young Lee
People have been trying to kill me since I was born,
a man tells his son, trying to explain
the wisdom of learning a second tongue.
It’s an old story from the previous century
about my father and me.
The same old story from yesterday morning
about me and my son.
It’s called “Survival Strategies
and the Melancholy of Racial Assimilation.”
It’s called “Psychological Paradigms of Displaced Persons,”
called “The Child Who’d Rather Play than Study.”
Practice until you feel
the language inside you, says the man.
But what does he know about inside and outside,
my father who was spared nothing
in spite of the languages he used?
And me, confused about the flesh and the soul,
who asked once into a telephone,
Am I inside you?
You’re always inside me, a woman answered,
at peace with the body’s finitude,
at peace with the soul’s disregard
of space and time.
Am I inside you? I asked once
lying between her legs, confused
about the body and the heart.
If you don’t believe you’re inside me, you’re not,
she answered, at peace with the body’s greed,
at peace with the heart’s bewilderment.
It’s an ancient story from yesterday evening
called “Patterns of Love in Peoples of Diaspora,”
called “Loss of the Homeplace
and the Defilement of the Beloved,”
called “I want to Sing but I Don’t Know Any Songs.”
Its been such a mad couple of weeks, poetry has been left to suffer. I apologize to the probably non-existant reader out there who may have suffered -aha- without poems for the past few days…hmmm, as always, I start these little silly blog notes without knowing what poem I shall offer up today, and it starts to dawn on me after a while…so far, nothing, maybe because my uncaffienated brain is focused on travel and packing and certain brown eyes and work and phone calls and whether living in dubai is something I can really do well, as opposed to passively experience.
I will stop, make some coffee and find you a good poem (or two) to apologize for this lame update.
Why We Sing
by Mario Benedetti
If every hour comes with its death
if time is a den of thieves
the wind is no longer a good
and life is nothing more than a moving target
you might ask, why do we sing?
if our bravos are left without support
our homeland dies from sorrow
and the heart of man is smashed to pieces
even before the shame explodes
you might ask, why do we sing?
if we’re as far away as the horizon
and if over there were left the trees and the sky
if every night is always some sort of absence
and if every waking is a missed encounter
you might ask, why do we sing?
We sing because the river is calling
and when the river calls, the river calls
we sing because cruelty has no name
and destiny does have a name
we sing because the child and because all
and because someday and because the people
we sing because the survivors
and our dead want us to sing
we sing because to shout is not enough
and the crying and the cursing is not enough
we sing because we believe in people
and because we will defeat failure
we sing because the sun recognizes us
and because the fields smell of spring
and because in this stalk in that fruit
every question has its answer
we sing because it rains over the furrows
and we are the militants of life
and because we neither want nor can
allow the song to be turned to ashes.
and one more of my favorites:
A poem by palestinian poet TAHA MOHAMED ALI. Sad, so sad.
At times …
I wish I could meet
in a duel
the man who
killed my father
and razed our home,
expelling me into
a narrow country.
And if he killed me,
I’d rest at last,
and if I were ready—
I would take my revenge!
But if it came to light,
when my rival appeared,
that he had a mother
waiting for him,
or a father who’d put his
right hand over
the heart’s place in his chest
whenever his son was late
even by just a quarter-hour
for a meeting they’d set—
then I would not kill him,
even if I could.
I would not murder him if
it were soon made clear
that he had a brother or sisters
who loved him and constantly longed to see him.
Or if he had a wife to greet him
and children who
couldn’t bear his absence
and whom his presents thrilled.
Or if he had
friends or companions,
neighbors he knew
or allies from prison
or a hospital room,
or classmates from his school …
asking about him
and sending him regards.
But if he turned
out to be on his own—
cut off like a branch from the tree—
without a mother or father,
with neither a brother nor sister,
wifeless, without a child,
and with no kin or friends or neighbors
and neither colleagues nor companions …
then I’d add not a thing to his pain
within that aloneness—
not the torment of death,
and not the sorrow of passing away.
Instead I’d be content
to ignore him when I passed him by
on the street—as I
that paying him no attention
in itself was a kind of revenge.
This is done 5 minutes ago, will need revisions. It may make it to the third book,
which I guess means I started it today…first day of my new year, one year older.
I read a headline, as I do everyday, and thought, “Shit, that’s awful”.
Then I thought, I have been thinking that for years. Is there no reprieve?
Here is what I thought after the first initial horror. Doesn’t matter what the first headline was, they
are all the same.
What is it this intake of breath
the word fuck hissed as if shock was
new to this body
as if this news was new to this body
what is it this slight widening of nostrils flare, tongue bloated inside
lips burnt in despair, too laden with history to
envision present, what is it, this gaping stare at jumbled remembrance-
-deported from west bank to gaza- IDF pass law- apartheid
state blossoms- this
-bodies shoveled by bulldozer to mass graves-
-girl, 12 yrs old,
found dead on way to market-
-sniper tshirt draws belly of arab womb is target
Where do all the tents go?
– land grab graphs- walls through a father’s face
sullen concrete of his seed-
what is this
white toxic hides shadows of the daily exterminated we-
from where does it rise up, like bile, like vomit, like
acid- this surprise?
This has always been the way it is,
this has always been.
a 5-year old refugee slams her body on a warm bed, revolts a tantrum when
adults kindly confirm…‘They have to call it Israel now, honey”… what does that child
know of stolen family?
What is this
this intake of breath at headlines- gaza ramallah jenin-
-netanyahu dines at white house- clinton says security first- abu mazen seeks presidency- old man dies of lack of electricity-
I have heartburn where I once had pulse, I have
spasms of stomach too full to chew this new
news I digest no more,
what is it, this surprise…”how could it possibly get worse”
-they slaughtered over 400 children just last year alone-
I have had a very love filled day and it looks like its about to continue. Nice to have birthday hugs thrown
at me all day. I dont know what this year will bring, but it seriously is a good start. I will post the second asha bandele poem, to remind us of all the glory and power that rests in our bodies. enjoy.
i didn’t mean for my towel to drop or to be standing nude in front of the
full length mirror the other morning…but there we were, trapped,
the three of us: me, the mirror, and my naked body.
i’ve avoided being nude in front of myself for years…i have hated my
body for nearly as long as i’ve had one
i’ve been a million different sizes in my life, but never quite the right size…
my skin was never quite the right shade….
always too light or too dark depending upon
who i was with.
it’s not as though i don’t know better…
i’m embarrassed to know as many theories as i do
and still be in struggle.
i know that the american aesthetic is perverse, anti-woman
and bounded by a solely western sense of beauty…i know
that even americans did not demand this image of prepubescent fragility
in women until well into this century…i know the
wideness of my hips makes biological sense…
and i know a million other feminist theories and truths….
i have books filled with highlighted paragraphs to prove that i have studied
understand these self-affirming things…but knowing that doesn’t change
the way i’ve felt for at least the last 15 years.
i am ashamed to say that i hate my body
but it has been my enemy for so long now
& i know somewhere that the real enemy has been the various reactions
that my body has created in other people who have their own
issues biases agendas and afflictions
but it’s easier to attack my 5’6″, lightskinned, 142 pound frame…
i have no power over the men who pay me/my body attention
i never wanted
or dispelled affections i desperately needed
depending upon my state of fatness or thinness…
but this body is mine, i can
diet, jog, powerwalk and starve into submission.
i don’t want to live this way.
i want to see the value of my body in the creative framework of what it
does despite its conformity or non-conformity to the western tradition
i want to value the body i have which has always been able to hold and
to dance, walk, write poems, clean houses, massage my sister, rise every
try try try
to contribute to another life.
which like mine,
is struggling for something we hesitantly call
Another of my favorite activist poets is Asha Bandele. The following poem is one of two I will post here. I love her work.
I don’t really feel like writing much today. Everything is mundane. Oats and raisins and juice. Trying not to smoke. Coffee, not enough, but need to be careful. The sea is the same gorgeous as ever. Mundane. My clothes need to be picked up off the couch. I have phone calls to make and procrastinate. I grow one year older tomorrow, but I’ll be pretty much the same as I am today. Mundane.
This poem however, is not.
in response 2 a brother’s question about what he should do when his best friend beats up his woman
snatch him up by the back of his neck run him into his own fist
tell him who the real enemy is show him
make him swallow his own teeth do not help when they scratch the inside
of his throat tell him it was his fault u did this
make his eyes swell up and & pus so he looks like a freak make him go to
work lie that & have to come up with excuses to his co-workers & friends
tell him the witeman made u do it tell him you’re sorry tell him u
love him tell him u didn’t mean to then kick his ass again
Question him on why he’s such a coward
Interrogate his ass
Make him beg for forgiveness Watch him crawl
Put The Word Out In The Streets……
THERE’S AN ENEMY IN OUR PRESENCE THERE’S AN
ENEMY IN OUR PRESENCE IT DOES NOT THINK IT ONLY
ATTACKS IT MAKES WEAK-ASS EXCUSES IT TAKES NO
RESPONSIBILITY IT PICKS ON PEOPLE SMALLER THAN
ITSELF IT READS SHARAZAD ALI
IT WORSHIPS MILES DAVIS IT DESTROYS BLKLIFE
IT LIES IT LIES
and if he finally understands
then go to him
find out where it started
search for burns beneath his flesh
peel back his pain
be a brother a real good brother
whisper haki madhubuti sonia sanchez in his ear
sing sweet honey songs
let him cry
let him sleep in your arms
stand alone if u have to
this is the right thing to do
let the others babble hate while u break centuries of vicious cycles
face the contradictions the bellies sliced open & jaws wired shit
the assholes torn &
the bloodied vaginas
this is what it looks like do not turn away now
babies beat out of wombs spines curved uneven legs that no longer walk
dead eyes that cannot see tomorrow liver imprinted with callused feet–
face the contradiction that looks like u smell like u
that tastes like u
& push out the violence be unafraid to be a man
who confronts men about women
be unafraid to be a man who confronts big small mean common nasty
be unafraid to be a man
I saw this this morning, before really even having my first cup of coffee, or before the world had set in. I was looking at the sea, its edges had blurred with the sky, sending a blue wave of freedom crashing into my mind. I experience always an awareness that I am blessed. This body moves how it wants, these fingers say what they will. This is privilege.
no, this is a right, that we have come to see as a privilege. Sisters of mine do not look out at blue edges of the universe and fly. Some of them do not have eyes. Some of them do not have voices.
Fortunately, we have words, we have images.
This is very graphic, but I thought to share:
As for today’s poem, I am choosing one of June Jordan’s poems that I love. If you dont know who June Jordan is, you MUST google her name and read her work. She changed so much of my life last year.
Poem about my rights
Even tonight and I need to take a walk and clear
my head about this poem about why I can’t
go out without changing my clothes my shoes
my body posture my gender identity my age
my status as a woman alone in the evening/
alone on the streets/alone not being the point/
the point being that I can’t do what I want
to do with my own body because I am the wrong
sex the wrong age the wrong skin and
suppose it was not here in the city but down on the beach/
or far into the woods and I wanted to go
there by myself thinking about God/or thinking
about children or thinking about the world/all of it
disclosed by the stars and the silence:
I could not go and I could not think and I could not
as I need to be
alone because I can’t do what I want to do with my own
who in the hell set things up
and in France they say if the guy penetrates
but does not ejaculate then he did not rape me
and if after stabbing him if after screams if
after begging the bastard and if even after smashing
a hammer to his head if even after that if he
and his buddies fuck me after that
then I consented and there was
no rape because finally you understand finally
they fucked me over because I was wrong I was
wrong again to be me being me where I was/wrong
to be who I am
which is exactly like South Africa
penetrating into Namibia penetrating into
Angola and does that mean I mean how do you know if
Pretoria ejaculates what will the evidence look like the
proof of the monster jackboot ejaculation on Blackland
after Namibia and if after Angola and if after Zimbabwe
and if after all of my kinsmen and women resist even to
self-immolation of the villages and if after that
we lose nevertheless what will the big boys say will they
claim my consent:
Do You Follow Me: We are the wrong people of
the wrong skin on the wrong continent and what
in the hell is everybody being reasonable about
and according to the Times this week
back in 1966 the C.I.A. decided that they had this problem
and the problem was a man named Nkrumah so they
killed him and before that it was Patrice Lumumba
and before that it was my father on the campus
of my Ivy League school and my father afraid
to walk into the cafeteria because he said he
was wrong the wrong age the wrong skin the wrong
gender identity and he was paying my tuition and
it was my father saying I was wrong saying that
I should have been a boy because he wanted one/a
boy and that I should have been lighter skinned and
that I should have had straighter hair and that
I should not be so boy crazy but instead I should
just be one/a boy and before that
it was my mother pleading plastic surgery for
my nose and braces for my teeth and telling me
to let the books loose to let them loose in other
I am very familiar with the problems of the C.I.A.
and the problems of South Africa and the problems
of Exxon Corporation and the problems of white
America in general and the problems of the teachers
and the preachers and the F.B.I. and the social
workers and my particular Mom and Dad/I am very
familiar with the problems because the problems
turn out to be
I am the history of rape
I am the history of the rejection of who I am
I am the history of the terrorized incarceration of
I am the history of battery assault and limitless
armies against whatever I want to do with my mind
and my body and my soul and
whether it’s about walking out at night
or whether it’s about the love that I feel or
whether it’s about the sanctity of my vagina or
the sanctity of my national boundaries
or the sanctity of my leaders or the sanctity
of each and every desire
that I know from my personal and idiosyncratic
and indisputably single and singular heart
I have been raped
cause I have been wrong the wrong sex the wrong age
the wrong skin the wrong nose the wrong hair the
wrong need the wrong dream the wrong geographic
the wrong sartorial I
I have been the meaning of rape
I have been the problem everyone seeks to
eliminate by forced
penetration with or without the evidence of slime and/
but let this be unmistakable this poem
is not consent I do not consent
to my mother to my father to the teachers to
the F.B.I. to South Africa to Bedford-Stuy
to Park Avenue to American Airlines to the hardon
idlers on the corners to the sneaky creeps in
I am not wrong: Wrong is not my name
My name is my own my own my own
and I can’t tell you who the hell set things up like this
but I can tell you that from now on my resistance
my simple and daily and nightly self-determination
may very well cost you your life.
For smiles in the dark, white phantom moments of light, the heat of breath expectant, new hands that were sprung from every memory shaped by desire. Enjoy the following sexy poem.
by Ted Hughes
He loved her and she loved him
His kisses sucked out her whole past and future or tried to
He had no other appetite
She bit him she gnawed him she sucked
She wanted him complete inside her
Safe and Sure forever and ever
Their little cries fluttered into the curtains
Her eyes wanted nothing to get away
Her looks nailed down his hands his wrists his elbows
He gripped her hard so that life
Should not drag her from that moment
He wanted all future to cease
He wanted to topple with his arms round her
Or everlasting or whatever there was
Her embrace was an immense press
To print him into her bones
His smiles were the garrets of a fairy place
Where the real world would never come
Her smiles were spider bites
So he would lie still till she felt hungry
His word were occupying armies
Her laughs were an assasin’s attempts
His looks were bullets daggers of revenge
Her glances were ghosts in the corner with horrible secrets
His whispers were whips and jackboots
Her kisses were lawyers steadily writing
His caresses were the last hooks of a castaway
Her love-tricks were the grinding of locks
And their deep cries crawled over the floors
Like an animal dragging a great trap
His promises were the surgeon’s gag
Her promises took the top off his skull
She would get a brooch made of it
His vows pulled out all her sinews
He showed her how to make a love-knot
At the back of her secret drawer
Their screams stuck in the wall
Their heads fell apart into sleep like the two halves
Of a lopped melon, but love is hard to stop
In their entwined sleep they exchanged arms and legs
In their dreams their brains took each other hostage
In the morning they wore each other’s face.
I dont know what poem to post for you today. I will think about it while I randomly type things in here that do not necessarily need to be posted for the general lovely public to waste precious…ahh, I found it.
I think one by Anne Sexton. Great poet, one of my favorite poems. Enjoy.
For my lover, returning to his wife.
She is all there.
She was melted carefully down for you
and cast up from your childhood,
cast up from your one hundred favorite aggies.
She has always been there, my darling.
She is, in fact, exquisite.
Fireworks in the dull middle of February
and as real as a cast-iron pot.
Let’s face it, I have been momentary.
A luxury. A bright red sloop in the harbor.
My hair rising like smoke from the car window.
Littleneck clams out of season.
She is more than that. She is your have to have,
has grown you your practical your tropical growth.
This is not an experiment. She is all harmony.
She sees to oars and oarlocks for the dinghy,
has placed wild flowers at the window at breakfast,
sat by the potter’s wheel at midday,
set forth three children under the moon,
three cherubs drawn by Michelangelo,
done this with her legs spread out
in the terrible months in the chapel.
If you glance up, the children are there
like delicate balloons resting on the ceiling.
She has also carried each one down the hall
after supper, their heads privately bent,
two legs protesting, person to person,
her face flushed with a song and their little sleep.
I give you back your heart.
I give you permission —
for the fuse inside her, throbbing
angrily in the dirt, for the bitch in her
and the burying of her wound —
for the burying of her small red wound alive —
for the pale flickering flare under her ribs,
for the drunken sailor who waits in her left pulse,
for the mother’s knee, for the stocking,
for the garter belt, for the call —
the curious call
when you will burrow in arms and breasts
and tug at the orange ribbon in her hair
and answer the call, the curious call.
She is so naked and singular
She is the sum of yourself and your dream.
Climb her like a monument, step after step.
She is solid.
As for me, I am a watercolor.
I wash off.
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