I was arrested because of that internal memo,
and ended up in a cell, then I was told to sit
with the police and the local bigwigs.
In the hushed and fast darkening room they said
someone—someone—had reduced the safety margin
on the airport risk factor, and I got the blame.
The sky that day was a pale, clear blue, but
that was happening outside, and far away.
The cop on duty would not open the tomb
of the deported—sorry, departed—and as usual
he had a story. Every movie, he said, depends
on a script, and the narrative grows out of
market research: a set of standard deviations. Art?
What would they know? Open the tomb, and let me in.
translated by Fady Joudah
I touch you as a lonely violin touches the suburbs of the faraway place
patiently the river asks for its share of the drizzle
and, bit by bit, a tomorrow passing in poems approaches
so I carry faraway’s land and it carries me on travel’s road
On a mare made of your virtues, my soul weaves
a natural sky made of your shadows, one chrysalis at a time.
I am the son of what you do in the earth, son of my wounds
that have lit up the pomegranate blossoms in your closed-up gardens
Out of jasmine the night’s blood streams white. Your perfume,
my weakness and your secret, follows me like a snakebite. And your hair
is a tent of wind autumn in color. I walk along with speech
to the last of the words a bedouin told a pair of doves
I palpate you as a violin palpates the silk of the faraway time
and around me and you sprouts the grass of an ancient place—anew
because of the mystic nature of the theory
and our reliance on collective belief
I could not visualize the end
the tools that paved the way broke
the body the foundation the exact copy of the real
our surfaces were covered
our surfaces are all covered
actual hands appear but then there is writing
in the cave we were deeply impressed
as in addicted to results
oh and dedication training the idea of loss of life
in our work we call this emotion
how a poem enters into the world
there is nothing wrong with the instrument
as here I would raise my voice but
the human being and the world cannot be equated
aside from the question of whether or not we are alone
and other approaches to nothingness
(the term “subject”)(the term “only”)
also opinion and annihilation
(the body’s minutest sensation of time)
(the world, it is true, has not yet been destroyed)
we are amazed
uselessness is the last form love takes
so liquid till the forgone conclusion
here we are, the forgone conclusion
so many messages transmitted they will never acquire meaning
do you remember my love my archive
touch me (here)
give birth to a single idea
touch where it does not lead to war
show me exact spot
climb the stairs
lie on the bed
nerves wearing only moonlight lie down
lie still patrol yr cage
be a phenomenon
at the bottom below the word
intention, lick past it
find the burning matter
love allows it (I think)
push past the freedom (smoke)
push past intelligence (smoke)
(favorite city) (god’s tiny voices)
hand over mouth
let light arrive
let the past strike us and go
if it please the dawn
say hurt undo
in your mouth be pleased
where does it say
where does it say
this is the mother tongue
there is in my mouth a ladder
presence of world
I am beside myself
you are inside me as history
We exist Meet me
It’s hard being in love
with fireflies. I have to do
all the pots and pans.
When asked to parties
they always wear the same
color dress. I work days,
they punch in at dusk.
With the radio and a beer
I sit up doing bills,
jealous of men who’ve fallen
for the homebody stars.
When things are bad
they shake their asses
all over town, when good
my lips glow.
Brother is we is each of us we ghosts
Brother of white folks we
don’t never known us brother we
Because we never doesn’t fits
Nowhere we brother
doesn’t fits in bodies
Our bodies we is always walking leaking
like a ghost can’t be a body in one place
But every eyes / Catches and pulls at it
Like every eyes in any
white folks is another
Hole in our bodies
Brother / Is we is never known them close
Up close whose ghosts we brother leaking is
Whose story of us we is told is us is water in a fist
Brother we not the fist
we not the water
we the thirst
See the roofs from the deck,
see these hands on the railing.
Branches cut the wind like rudders,
though nothing is steered.
Oh, this steering is nothing—
each second like a leaf in water,
losing its color. Once a firefly
floating in a wine glass,
once a pool-lit cocktail party.
Once a moth’s ash wings
pinned between my fingers.
Once down the backyard hill—,
once sunspots faded on my skin
where she touched me once.
Once footprints in the snow
I stepped in each day to class,
once water sopping the sheet
beneath the porch door.
I went on vacation once—
there were open shells
on the kitchen table.
Once the garage was clean,
I parked the car in there.
After dinner once
she opened her shirt to me,
and just as each image
opens inward on another image,
I hold inside me
her sleeping body
like a patch of dandelions,
waiting for the wind.
Hey, I am learning what it means to ride condemned.
I may be breaking up. I am doing 85 outside the kingdom
Of heaven, under the overpass and passed over,
The past is over and I’m over the past. My odometer
Is broken, can you help me? When you get this mess-
Age, I may be a half-ton crush, a half tone of mist
And mystery, maybe trooper bait with the ambulance
Ambling somewhere, or a dial of holy stations, a band-
Age of clamor and spooling, a dash and semaphore,
A pupil of motion on my way to be buried or planted or
Crammed or creamed, treading light and water or tread
and trepidation, maybe. Hey, I am backfiring along a road
Through the future, I am alive skidding on the tongue,
When you get this message, will you sigh, My lover is gone?
After I’m got, I never want to get.
They hit the buzzer, then they lock me in
and top me with a come-on like a threat.
I never want to get unless I’ve got
no money for the getting, and no spot
to put my body while the doing’s done.
I only want to get until I’m got.
They hit the buzzer, then they lock me in.
Stop belonging to me so much, face-head.
Leave me to my child and my flowers.
I can’t run with you hanging on to me like that.
It’s like having ten dogs on a single lead
and no talent for creatures.
No hands, no trees. Not my dogs, nobody’s.
Don’t you have a place to go, face-head?
Deep into the brick basement of another life?
To kill some time, I mean. That furnace
light could take a shine to you.
There are always places, none of them mine.
And always time—rainbow sugar show
of jimmies falling from ice cream’s sky—
but that stuff’s extra, it’s never in supply.
“Never,” however, acres of it. Violet beans
and sarcasm. Too many flavors of it.
All those prodigal particles,
flimsily whimsical miracles, an embarrassment
of glitches. The chorus just more us.
But nowhere bare and slippery have I
got a prayer. If I had two hands
to rub together I wouldn’t waste the air.
My first week in Cambridge a car full of white boys
tried to run me off the road, and spit through the window,
open to ask directions. I was always asking directions
and always driving: to an Armenian market
in Watertown to buy figs and string cheese, apricots,
dark spices and olives from barrels, tubes of paste
with unreadable Arabic labels. I ate
stuffed grape leaves and watched my lips swell in the mirror.
The floors of my apartment would never come clean.
Whenever I saw other colored people
in bookshops, or museums, or cafeterias, I’d gasp,
smile shyly, but they’d disappear before I spoke.
What would I have said to them? Come with me? Take
me home? Are you my mother? No. I sat alone
in countless Chinese restaurants eating almond
cookies, sipping tea with spoons and spoons of sugar.
Popcorn and coffee was dinner. When I fainted
from migraine in the grocery store, a Portuguese
man above me mouthed: “No breakfast.” He gave me
orange juice and chocolate bars. The color red
sprang into relief singing Wagner’s Walküre.
Entire tribes gyrated and drummed in my head.
I learned the samba from a Brazilian man
so tiny, so festooned with glitter I was certain
that he slept inside a filigreed, Fabergé egg.
No one at the door: no salesmen, Mormons, meter
readers, exterminators, no Harriet Tubman,
no one. Red notes sounding in a grey trolley town.
It was the sun that was flat — I am cradled in a boat as the day rises, falling into the fire. Navigate my body to the edge of this fever.
I’m telling you,
I used to live in the wind.
I ate its fruit.
I can still feel its juice on my face.
It makes me sick to believe
I am as mortal as you. Can you know
what it means to be held
prisoner by the Earth? We caught and murdered
al the gulls in the sky, we apprenticed ourselves
to the light of the sun. We stole hives
from their hot perches for wax. It’s true—
the Gods will give you
everything, but they make you work.
You have to think like a God.
You have to become a God.
How can I make you understand?
My father died with all his heart
hidden in the clouds.
Look—go put a hundred candles in a pot.
Bring me all your pillows and blankets.
I will make you such wings,
you can fly right through their marble halls.
You could drink immortality from the spigot,
bring some back for your son. No,
of course they couldn’t kill you, idiot.
You will be one of them.
Sparrows were feeding in a freezing drizzle
That while you watched turned into pieces of snow
Riding a gradient invisible
From silver aslant to random, white, and slow. There came a moment that you couldn’t tell.
And then they clearly flew instead of fell.
Wash with same coloured, similarly fragrant articles, at sea level. To prevent the colours running, use bottled water. Sparkling water provides the best result. Something Spanish or Italian is ideal. Use only organic fabric softeners with a viscosity between honey (leatherwood, not clover or eucalypt) and motor oil (synthetic motor oil is fine). Do not tumble dry. Do not air dry. Consider convincing the garment to dry itself using a persuasive argument. Give examples of previous garments drying themselves successfully. Praise the garment as it becomes drier as a form of positive reinforcement.
Iron the garment by placing an assortment of crockery in the summer sun, and then piling it on top of the garment for ten to twelve minutes. Do not iron the vowels in the wording across the chest.
Pure gaze, you are lightning beyond the last trees
and you are the last trees’
of terminal brain branches
numened densely with summer’s
hunter color, as night comes on,
the ocean they conceal
gone berserk, wind still rising.
Pure seeing, dual vortex doors
to the blue fire where
sex is burned away, and all
is as it was and I am being offered
in your eyes, as in cupped hands,
the water of to never thirst again.
Again I turn away,
and the future comes, all at once
towering around me
on every side, and I am lost.
Pure looking, past pain
(this is promised):
we must have wed on poverty’s most hair-raising day
delighting, flashing risk, risk
unfailingly lighting the way,
in that dissolving of seam
no more golden time—
each step I took
the right step, words
came to me finally and finding the place
you had set for them,
wrote themselves down.
Till true word’s anvil ring, and
solid tap of winged blind cane come,
I wish you
all the aloneness you hunger for.
That big kitchen table where you sit laughing
with friends, I see it happening.
And I wish that I could not be
so much with you
when I’m suddenly not; that
inwardly you might switch
time, to sleep
and winter while you went about
your life, until you woke up
our conversation resumed.
Ceaseless blue lightning, this
love passing through me:
I know somehow it will go on
reaching you, reaching you
when I’m not in the way;
when it is no longer deflected
by all the dark bents, all
I tried to overcome but I could not—
so much light pulled off course
as it passed within reach, so much
lost, lost in me,
but no more.
I have fifteen cloud stamps, it says on the back
cirrus means curl of hair, altocumulus
lenticularis look like UFOs, I have put hair,
an alien invasion, on the envelope bearing the letter
you’ll read under the sky of your living room,
crappy light fixture sky, falling plaster sky,
have snugged in the envelope fifteen pictures
of my hand holding fifteen stamps beneath the skies
from which they were born, the one inch by one inch
cumulus humilis beneath the ohmygod by ohmygod
cumulus humilis, say that again, it suggests
humility and accumulation, these are the wide
and flat clouds that disappear by sunset,
what if we called them soul clouds, what if we claimed
to be descended from the sky, I can’t stop
saying sky, how about every third word is sky,
how’s it sky there, my sky? and I’ll write
more often now that I can send you buoyancy,
these playgrounds for airplanes, I feel better
just looking at them, taller, capable of swirls
and Latin, altocumulus castellanus, altostratus
translucidus, here are the possible incarnations
of floating gathered on a little sheet
except nimbostratus, “a dark, featureless cloud
marked by falling rain or snow,” why exclude a portrait
of your dominant mood, it would have been nice
to send a picture of how you feel beside a picture
of how I wish you could feel, cirrostratus fibratus,
a transparent cloud which gives the sun a halo,
you might stick a dozen halos on your forehead,
seven hundred on the mirror, anyway I miss you
my little undulatus, sweety opacus, let’s pretend
Heaven exists in the guise of postage, and though
these are the kind of stamps you don’t have to lick,
Today I am going to pick you up at the beige airport.
My heart feels like a field of calves in the sun.
My heart is wired directly to the power source of mediocre songs.
I am trying to catch a ray of sunlight in my mouth.
I look forward to showing you my new furniture.
I look forward to the telephone ringing, it is not you,
you are in the kitchen trying to figure out the coffeemaker,
you are pouring out the contents of your backpack.
I wonder if you now have golden fur?
I wonder if your arsenal of kind remarks is empty?
I remember when I met you you were wearing a grey dress,
that was also blue, not unlike the water plus the sky.
They say it’s difficult to put a leash on a hummingbird.
So let us be no longer the actuary of each other!
Let us bow no longer our heads to the tyranny of numbers!
Hurry off the plane, with your rhinestone covered bag
full of magazines that check up on the downfall of the stars.
I will be waiting for you at the bottom of the moving stairs.
When they arrested him, he said “I was just holding this revolution for someone.” There is no rehabilitation for freedom, or the dealer on the corner.
Exposition: Say there’s a white house on an old clay road. Wooden barns and tin roofs. Say all the cousins are jumping from the open porch to the soft grass, but you are two. You are two, and you wear braces on your legs. One day you will have an enviable mane of hair; One day you will not even remember the braces, save in pictures. But in that moment you are two years old, with wispypeachfuzz for hair and metal braces for legs. You want to jump, but you’re scared. You are happy, but scared. Say your father appears:
Jump! I’ll catch you! Jump!
So you jump. Only, he doesn’t catch you. It’s an accident, but he’s 22, and he’s ashamed; so he turns it into an object lesson. Dusting you off, scooping you up, he says:
Don’t ever trust anyone.
(Don’t worry, he becomes a much better father. But he’s never so good at being a husband. The heart wants what it wants. You learn duplicitous and wary. Sideways eyes and thick silence. He suffers immensely, and you finally understand, which is the only reason you end up forgiving him. After all, no one is to blame.)
[Insert good stuff here - years of rising action, of conflict. The dynamic characters, the foils. Embed the subplots. Load in the characters. Tell the truth]
from Rising Action: … Only one way to know for sure. Why always this version of trust that has no precedent? Why must you always be lashed to the tree? Why must night always fall? What dark, this? What wolf, that?
To be completely at the mercy of another - and know him with certainty. Is this trust even possible? How does the old story go, that poem?
Her body from a bone, and her soul out of nothing.
Truth is, the story rarely gets it right. Sometimes it isn’t even a story yet. Sometimes it’s just a wave rolling back and forth across the same sea. Meanwhile you are still tied to the tree, and it’s getting late.
I would let you unmend me. You leave and the bed has unmade itself. There are rents in my clothes. I have never been in love unless in love is this lonely.
Reginald Shepherd from Some Dreams He Forgot in Red Clay Weather
It’s winter in my body all year long, I wake up
with music pouring from my skin, morning
burning behind closed blinds. Dead
light, dead warmth on dead skin
cells, the sky is wrong
again. Hope clings to me like damp
sheets, lies to my skin. As if I were a coat
wearing my bare body out on loan,
accumulated layers of mistake
and identity, never mine.
I’m dressed as so many people, well known
wrong me reviving my old heresies,
praying them into sunset
and the weather they’ll become:
folding them into snow. The forecasts
are always accurate, the only promises
kept. Foolish Narcissus frittered himself away
to a flower, Echo suffered down her life
to someone else’s syllables wind throws
away. Neither knew how to survive
the period style, long days
in their disastrous completeness.
I won’t let the myths outlive me, won’t drown
in my nostalgia for the here and now.
I lie down in the imperial purple
as if I were the sun, lay my body down
in distance. Correct all deviations
and make the moon change its tune.
For those of us who live at the shoreline
standing upon the constant edges of decision
crucial and alone
for those of us who cannot indulge
the passing dreams of choice
who love in doorways coming and going
in the hours between dawns
looking inward and outward
at once before and after
seeking a now that can breed
like bread in our children’s mouths
so their dreams will not reflect
the death of ours:
For those of us
who were imprinted with fear
like a faint line in the center of our foreheads
learning to be afraid with our mother’s milk
for by this weapon
this illusion of some safety to be found
the heavy-footed hoped to silence us
For all of us
this instant and this triumph
We were never meant to survive.
And when the sun rises we are afraid
it might not remain
when the sun sets we are afraid
it might not rise in the morning
when our stomachs are full we are afraid
when our stomachs are empty we are afraid
we may never eat again
when we are loved we are afraid
love will vanish
when we are alone we are afraid
love will never return
and when we speak
we are afraid our words will not be heard
but when we are silent
we are still afraid
So it is better to speak
we were never meant to survive
We are Troy Davis not because he is innocent but because he is human.” —
This beautifully written and thoughtful post is worth clicking through to read in full. The writer perfectly expresses why I don’t believe in the death penalty, regardless of innocence or guilt, no matter how horrific the crime.
On the same day as Troy Davis, white supremacist Lawrence Brewer was executed. This week, China executed Pakistani man Zahid Husain Shah for drug offences. Saudi Arabia executed a Sudanese man, Abdul Hamid bin Hussain bin Moustafa al-Fakki, who was convicted of sorcery. Iran publicly hung 17-year-old Alireza Molla-Soltani for murder and also hung in prison a man convicted of drug trafficking.
for matthew z and matthew r
I remember telling the joke
about child molestation and seeing
the face of the young man
I didn’t know well enough
turn from something with light
inside of it into something like
an animal that’s had its brain
bashed in, something like that, some
sky inside him breaking
all over the table and the beers.
It’s amazing, finding out
my thoughtlessness has no bounds,
is no match for any barbarian,
that it runs wild and hard
like the Mississippi. No, the Rio Grande.
No, the Columbia. A great river
of thorns and when this stranger
stood up and muttered
something about a cigarette,
the Hazmat team
in my chest begins to cordon
off my heart, glowing
a toxic yellow,
and all I could think about
was the punch line “sexy kids,”
that was it, “sexy kids,” and all the children
I’ve cared for, wiping
their noses, rocking them to sleep,
all the nieces and nephews I love,
and how no one ever
opened me up like a can of soup
in the second grade, the man
now standing on the sidewalk, smoke smothering
his body, a ghost unable
to hold his wrists down
or make a sound like a large knee in between
two small knees, but terrifying and horrible all the same.
“Defenders of the realm
Peace be on you
Our proud spirits will
Not be subdued”
- Syrian National Anthem
soft white syrian jasmine blooms
and showers the land
where my mother lived diagonally
across the street from my father
its scent flutters delicately in the air
over sidewalks covered
in lopsided stone
we used to whisper
to one another
insults about Assad
man who insists
he rule above
a country of graves
after the setting sun
our frightened young words
while thousands of claps
echo in swollen alleyways
and the people will march
for all the days stolen from the dead
city that takes its time
the world is asking for your news
carrier of old memories
place where we used to
kick soccer balls
between passing cars
and race to buy snacks
from shop owner who insisted
we pay him back later
is it true that your army is full of heartless killers?
are alive today with running voices
lying lifeless on the ground
fighting Assad’s legitimacy
while others have
five more minutes
are still switching sides
gun shots pop, pound
and heartbeats shudder
the old man’s camera
as he watches criminals
into the sky
and posts it online
after the explosion
the earth rattled
so they shouted:
“god is greater”
showing bravery so dazzling
that casts its light over light from the sun
defenders of the realm
peace be on you
your proud spirits will
not be subdued
you will bring the lion to its knees
with freedom soaking in your eyes
and smiles that tell of triumphs
The radio is a brown jug
puffing world news over my shoulder.
I will hear it before I feel it; sooner
or later, a tornado will come
for everyone who knows
my love language is non sequiturs.
Everyone to the tub, where I shower
with my houseplants,
clog the drain & drown the burro’s tail.
Everyone in the ditch,
cover your heads. I would be a dolphin
before even a benign shark.
You in the crawlspace, I am listening.
I am in bed developing safety
rituals with rose & cedar candles.
I hand crank my radio beyond
its lethargic batteries. Oh, Most National
Weather Service, be with them—
the lover who knows I hate cooking
for myself, who knows I get marooned
at the counter by a bag of lentils,
who knows, unattended, I only eat
Cheerios in pink yogurt.
The cousin with a therapy cat.
The friend with snowflake tattoos
on her neck. The parents.
Everyone in the basement with flash-
lights & important papers, everyone
lodged beneath the overpass
I am all ears & yours through the sirens
but I am certain it will end, sooner
or later, with me saying nothing to no one.
(via rabbit-light) (via sharingpoetry)
something is always burning, passion,
pride, envy, desire, the internal organs
going chokingly up in smoke, as some-
thing outside the body exerts a pull
that drags us like a match across sand-
paper. something is always burning,
london, paris, detroit, l.a., the neighbor-
hoods no one outside seems to see until
they’re backlit by flames, when the out-
siders, peering through dense, acrid,
black-&-orange-rimmed fumes, mis-
take their dark reflections for savages
altogether alien. how hot are the london
riots for west end pearls? how hot in tot-
tenham? if one bead of cream rolls down
one precious neck, heads will roll in brix-
ton: the science of sociology. the mark
duggan principle of cause and effect:
under conditions of sufficient pressure—
measured roughly in years + lead ÷ £s—
black blood is highly combustible.