Half the sky was your payment. I siphoned off clouds under the table. Somewhere there is a beach and a wave and not even god is walking beside me. Why’d you think he’d carry you? Your moods waver between a storm in a teacup, a chemical fire in a meth lab and a wild dog cleaning the bones of a missing person. Don’t get so hung up on the moon, no one’s leaving anyone for you.
“They wore homemade dresses and huaraches cobbled up out of leather scraps and rawhide. The woman had on a black shawl or rebozo about her shoulders but the girl was all but naked in the thin cotton dress. Their skin was dark like an indian’s and their eyes coal black and they smoked the way poor people eat which is a form of prayer.”—Cormac McCarthy, The Crossing (via sketchyjoe)
“My schooling gave me no training in seeing myself as an oppressor, as an unfairly advantaged person, or as a participant in a damaged culture. I was taught to see myself as an individual whose moral state depended on her individual moral will. My schooling followed the pattern my colleague, Elizabeth Minnich has pointed out: whites are taught to think of their lives as morally neutral, normative, and average, and also ideal, so that when we work to benefit others, this is seen as work that will allow them to be more like us.”—Peggy McIntosh, White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack (via cloveflowers)
If the rapture came knocking I’d let him in. The end signs were all there. I was a stigmata bleeding on the sheets, that’s how his girlfriend found out. I concealed a list inside a prayer wheel of all the ways I have loved him, while I continued to spin.
I have loved him from across the lines in a Tracy Chapman song, behind the wall. Love is rolling from a burning car. Love is fingers shred when he restrings, the way my neck sighs like the fret of his guitar. Love is the last sermon, the Flavor Aid, the time I didn’t have for regret.
He was the new shoe bite every time we met. My feet were the bound petals of water lilies, limping on water across paradise.
If the rapture came knocking I’d let him in and say, tell me it’s different when all this is over.
*”A cut-glass limb” is a lyric from Siouxsie & The Banshees song The Rapture.
This is Pakistan. I am a Pakistani. Of the female gender. It is all happening all the time. It is happening in Pakistan; it is happening to Pakistan. I’m only twisting my hands standing in the unbearable heat trying to hurl some comically simple truths at people who are passing by.
We have families and we have pets. We play around, eat ice cream, study. We don’t have lemonade stalls, but we have shikanjabeen kay thailay. Same difference. Nothing is lost in translation. You’ll be shocked to know that.
Trust me: most of us will have to pay for that before any Taliban or Al-Qaida operative ever even gets to your shores again.
Friends, comrades, citizens of the world: lend me not your money. Lend me your eyes and ears. Lend Pakistan your genuine sense of curiosity. Lend us a minute to explain ourselves. We make sense when you’re not looking at us through the hazy aftermath of a bomb blast.
The End of the Conflict, or the Miracle of the Analog Clocks, by Alex Epstein
She is from here, he is not: on the evening they fell in love, only the analog clocks stood still (some irregularity in the cycle of the moon; the not-so-tasty body of Christ; the rain that falls but doesn’t hurry in any language; maybe it’s better that I don’t try to explain how this is possible). They can go fuck themselves, she said, they can go fuck themselves, he answered. (They can go fuck themselves, the politicians, the soldiers, the terrorists, the Jews, the Muslims, the Christians, those who lower canaries into coal mines, the taxi drivers, the gamblers, the travelers in time, in ships, in helicopters, the ghosts, the settlers, those asking for the right of return, those against the right of return, the living, the dead, the demonstrators for, the demonstrators against, those who remember everything, those who forget almost nothing. To hell with them all.) This will be the end of the legend: when they got married, instead of rings, they exchanged reading glasses.
Don’t die, soldier, hold the radiophone, don your helmet, your flak jacket, surround the village with a trench of crocodiles, starve it out if need be, eat Mama’s treats, shoot sharp, keep your rifle clean, take care of the armored Jeep, the bulldozer, the land, one day it will be yours, little David, sweetling, don’t die, please.
Keep watch for Goliath the peasant, he’s trying to sell his pumpkin at a local market, he’s plotting to buy a gift for his grandkid, erase the evil Haman whose bronchitis you denied treatment, eradicate the blood of Eva Braun by checking on the veracity of her labor pains, silence her shriek, that’s how every maternity ward sounds, it’s not easy having such humane values, be strong, take care, forget your deeds, forget the forgetting.
That thy days may be long, that the days of thy children may be long, that one day they shall hear of thy deeds and shall stick fingers in their ears and scream with fear and thy sons’ and thy daughters’ scream shall never fade. Be strong, sweet David, live long unto seeing thy children’s eyes, though their backs hasten to flee from thee, stay in touch with thy comrades-at-arms, after thy sons deny thee, a covenant of the shunned. Take care, soldier-boy.
Translator’s Note: 5 Iyar, by the Hebrew calendar, is Israel’s Day of Independence, which Palestinians commemorate by the Gregorian calendar, on May 15, as the Nakba, the Catastrophe. As thousands of Palestinians streamed across Israel’s borders last week, meeting with armed resistance, meeting with injury and death, I remembered a poem by Yitzhak Laor. “Take Care, Soldier” was first published in 2004 in a collection called Ir Ha’Leviyatan (“Leviathan City”). —Joshua Cohen
God: I own you like I own the caves. The Ocean: Not a chance. No comparison. God: I made you. I could tame you. The Ocean: At one time, maybe. But not now. God: I will come to you, freeze you, break you. The Ocean: I will spread myself like wings. I am a billion tiny feathers. You have no idea what’s happened to me.
He said, “It is terrible what happens.” And “So, Mr. Tom, do not forget me”—an old-fashioned ring, pop tunes, salsa! salsa! the techno-version of Beethoven’s Fifth, Fairouz singing how love has arrived, that’s what he heard after they dropped the bombs, his ambulance crawling through smoke while cellphones going off here here here kept ringing— how the rubble-buried bodies’still living relatives kept calling to see who survived.
And when he dug through concrete scree scorched black still smoking from the explosion, squadrons of jets droning overhead, houses blown to rebar, he saw cellphones’ display lights flashing from incoming calls and when he flipped the covers, saw phone camera pics, pics of kids, wives, dads, single, grouped, some wearing silly party hats, scenes of hilarity compacted on the screen: it was “not good” he said, to have to take the phone out of the body
part pocket: Hello—no, no, he’s here, right here, but not— and then he’d have to explain…and so he stopped answering. A soft-spoken young man studying engineering, only moonlighting as an ambulance driver, he stood at the crossroads where Jesus turned water into wine and where, rising out of rubble, floating down the cratered street, bride and bridegroom came walking in the heat and as they came the wedding guests held up cell cameras clicking when the couple climbed, waving, into TRUST TAXI blazoned on the car’s rear windscreen. The muezzin’s nasal wail began to blare all over town, and the pair drove off to ululating shouts and cries, firecrackers kicking up dust in the square. The show over, we got back into our car, our tires crunching over rubble. As I sat there rubbernecking at a burned-out tank, he shrugged: “All this—how embarrassing.” And “I hope this is the story you are after.”
How To Speak Poetry, Leonard Cohen from Death of a Lady’s Man
Take the word butterfly. To use this word it is not necessary to make the voice weigh less than an ounce or equip it with small dusty wings. It is not necessary to invent a sunny day or a field of daffodils. It is not necessary to be in love, or to be in love with butterflies. The word butterfly is not a real butterfly. There is the word and there is the butterfly. If you confuse these two items people have the right to laugh at you. Do not make so much of the word. Are you trying to suggest that you love butterflies more perfectly than anyone else, or really understand their nature? The word butterfly is merely data. It is not an opportunity for you to hover, soar, befriend flowers, symbolize beauty and frailty, or in any way impersonate a butterfly. Do not act out words. Never act out words. Never try to leave the floor when you talk about flying. Never close your eyes and jerk your head to one side when you talk about death. Do not fix your burning eyes on me when you speak about love. If you want to impress me when you speak about love put your hand in your pocket or under your dress and play with yourself. If ambition and the hunger for applause have driven you to speak about love you should learn how to do it without disgracing yourself or the material.
What is the expression which the age demands? The age demands no expression whatever. We have seen photographs of bereaved Asian mothers. We are not interested in the agony of your fumbled organs. There is nothing you can show on your face that can match the horror of this time. Do not even try. You will only hold yourself up to the scorn of those who have felt things deeply. We have seen newsreels of humans in the extremities of pain and dislocation. Everyone knows you are eating well and are even being paid to stand up there. You are playing to people who have experienced a catastrophe. This should make you very quiet. Speak the words, convey the data, step aside. Everyone knows you are in pain. You cannot tell the audience everything you know about love in every line of love you speak. Step aside and they will know what you know because you know it already. You have nothing to teach them. You are not more beautiful than they are. You are not wiser. Do not shout at them. Do not force a dry entry. That is bad sex. If you show the lines of your genitals, then deliver what you promise. And remember that people do not really want an acrobat in bed. What is our need? To be close to the natural man, to be close to the natural woman. Do not pretend that you are a beloved singer with a vast loyal audience which has followed the ups and downs of your life to this very moment. The bombs, flame-throwers, and all the shit have destroyed more than just the trees and villages. They have also destroyed the stage. Did you think that your profession would escape the general destruction? There is no more stage. There are no more footlights. You are among the people. Then be modest. Speak the words, convey the data, step aside. Be by yourself. Be in your own room. Do not put yourself on.
This is an interior landscape. It is inside. It is private. Respect the privacy of the material. These pieces were written in silence. The courage of the play is to speak them. The discipline of the play is not to violate them. Let the audience feel your love of privacy even though there is no privacy. Be good whores. The poem is not a slogan. It cannot advertise you. It cannot promote your reputation for sensitivity. You are not a stud. You are not a killer lady. All this junk about the gangsters of love. You are students of discipline. Do not act out the words. The words die when you act them out, they wither, and we are left with nothing but your ambition.
Speak the words with the exact precision with which you would check out a laundry list. Do not become emotional about the lace blouse. Do not get a hard-on when you say panties. Do not get all shivery just because of the towel. The sheets should not provoke a dreamy expression about the eyes. There is no need to weep into the handkerchief. The socks are not there to remind you of strange and distant voyages. It is just your laundry. It is just your clothes. Don’t peep through them. Just wear them.
The poem is nothing but information. It is the Constitution of the inner country. If you declaim it and blow it up with noble intentions then you are no better than the politicians whom you despise. You are just someone waving a flag and making the cheapest kind of appeal to a kind of emotional patriotism. Think of the words as science, not as art. They are a report. You are speaking before a meeting of the Explorers’ Club of the National Geographic Society. These people know all the risks of mountain climbing. They honour you by taking this for granted. If you rub their faces in it that is an insult to their hospitality. Tell them about the height of the mountain, the equipment you used, be specific about the surfaces and the time it took to scale it. Do not work the audience for gasps ans sighs. If you are worthy of gasps and sighs it will not be from your appreciation of the event but from theirs. It will be in the statistics and not the trembling of the voice or the cutting of the air with your hands. It will be in the data and the quiet organization of your presence.
Avoid the flourish. Do not be afraid to be weak. Do not be ashamed to be tired. You look good when you’re tired. You look like you could go on forever. Now come into my arms. You are the image of my beauty.
Freedom spreads like fire. Burn the names of martyrs into the lawns of your governments. Each day is a revolution of the planets.
Taking up arms that hold you in the night. Clicking bullets against your heels. Piercing a statue of a dictator in the heart with an arrow.
Sleepless dictators in their palaces watching Home Shopping Network marathons and buying water features that will run blood.
Ailing dictators running out of veins. Veins collapsing like borders.
Their war crimes on YouTube.
Waking up without fear. Black to black uniformed riot police. Back to back revolutionaries. Bodies bending under water cannons, like cards in the hands of a dealer. The valentine saints offering roses, that soldiers forgot.
Kneel and pray. Kneel and pray.
Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, Côte d’Ivoire, Palestine, Syria. I wish I could give you my blood for your wounded. I wish I could give you anything.
Hope is dying here. The lucky country, blood flecked words spit on to newspaper headlines. There are black ink fingerprints all over my body, the white curve of my hip is now a dark road. I’m a page turner, my fingers rip desperately forward. Still we turn back. and back. The underwriters of shameful history rush to print.
[listen mother, he punched the air: I am not your son dying], D.A. Powell
a stabat mater
listen mother, he punched the air: I am not your son dying the day fades and the starlings roost: a body’s a husk a nest of goodbye
his wrist colorless and soft was not a stick of chewing gum how tell? well a plastic bracelet with his name for one. & no mint his eyes distinguishable from oysters how? only when pried open
she at times felt the needle going in. felt her own sides cave. she rasped she twitched with a palsy: tectonic plates grumbled under her feet
soiled his sheets clogged the yellow BIOHAZARD bin: later to be burned soot clouds billowed out over the city: a stole. a pillbox hat [smart city] and wouldn’t the taxis stop now. and wouldn’t a hush smother us all
the vascular walls graffitied and scarred. a clotted rend in the muscle wend through the avenues throttled t-cells. processional staph & thrush
the scourge the spike a stab a shending bile the grace the quenching mother who brought me here, muddler: open the window. let birds in
Other barbarians will come. The emperor’s wife will be abducted. Drums will beat loudly. Drums will beat so that horses will leap over human bodies from the Aegean Sea to the Dardanelles. So why should we be concerned? What do our wives have to do with horse racing?
The emperor’s wife will be abducted. Drums will beat loudly and other barbarians will come. Barbarians will fill the cities’ emptiness, slightly higher than the sea, mightier than the sword in a time of madness. So why should we be concerned? What do our children have to do with the children of this impudence?
Drums will beat loudly and other barbarians will come. The emperor’s wife will be taken from his bedroom. From his bedroom he will launch a military assault to return his bedmate to his bed. Why should we be concerned? What do fifty thousand victims have to do with this brief marriage?
Can Homer be born after us… and myths open their doors to the throng?
I am haunted by this song, some days I play it over and over. There is an otherworldliness to it, enhanced by the fact that not even Tricky knows what the lyrics are.
"This is one of those situations where I didn’t have a name for the song so I just named it after the singer. Hakim is (Algerian rai superstar) Rachid Taha’s guitarist. Apparently, Rachid’s been looking for me for years. So he tracked me down in Paris and we just started hanging out. He came down to the studio with Hakim and we did some songs. And Hakim just did this one while he was hanging around waiting for something to happen. I was only recording it to check the levels on his guitar! I listened to it after our day in the studio and I was like, “Fuck!” I haven’t got a clue what he’s on about. But he told me that it was about how that mad homeless guy on the street we all meet actually knows more than we do." (via NEWS: TRICKY returns with new album Mixed Race… « Doubtful Sounds)
This song is off Tricky’s latest album Mixed Race. Mixed Race and his previous album Knowle West Boy have been works of magic, and his most cohesive. They somehow bring together all of Tricky’s intangible genius. There is no one like this fey creature.
"A true Arab knows how to catch a fly in his hands," my father would say. And he’d prove it, cupping the buzzer instantly while the host with the swatter stared.
In the spring our palms peeled like snakes. True Arabs believed watermelon could heal fifty ways. I changed these to fit the occasion.
Years before, a girl knocked, wanted to see the Arab. I said we didn’t have one. After that, my father told me who he was, "Shihab"—"shooting star"— a good name, borrowed from the sky. Once I said, “When we die, we give it back?” He said that’s what a true Arab would say.
Today the headlines clot in my blood. A little Palestinian dangles a toy truck on the front page. Homeless fig, this tragedy with a terrible root is too big for us. What flag can we wave? I wave the flag of stone and seed, table mat stitched in blue.
I call my father, we talk around the news. It is too much for him, neither of his two languages can reach it. I drive into the country to find sheep, cows, to plead with the air: Who calls anyone civilized? Where can the crying heart graze? What does a true Arab do now?