I first encountered Palestinian-American poet Fady Joudah (1971-) through his translations of the beloved Mahmoud Darwish. But it turns out Joudah is a stunning poet in his own right. It’s difficult to choose just one piece from his first collection The Earth in the Attic, so expect to read more of his work in the future.
In the kitchen in the afternoon, peeling oranges and splitting cantaloupe gut,
All that is left is storytelling.
The one-radio, one-coffee-shop village now an almond field
And vacation-brochure ruins besieged by grass.
Everyday around noon a boy on a mule, the men out in the fields,
Bread fresh out of brick-oven, wrist deep in olive oil, elbows dripping.
The one-radio, one-coffee-shop village without an ink-line on paper,
Now spilled like beads out of a rosary.
Not what they would have grown.
We the people in god we trust.
We the people in god we trust everyday around noon a mule.
We the people dream the city: Oooh you give me fever.
Oooh you give me fever so bad I shake like beads out of a rosary.
Fever so bad it must’ve been malaria.
Hey doctor! You mule-ride away, you cost the rest of harvest.
Hey doctor, the city’s a medicine cabinet.
We plant tomatoes, okra, squash instead.
And a fig tree that won’t grow in Tennessee frost.
Trees die standing.
One-cantaloupe, one-rosary kitchen.