Hello, dear readers, and apologies for the radio silence. Today a friend introduced me to the work of Lilah Hegnauer, and I wanted to share this particularly gorgeous poem that captivated me from the title onwards.
“I am the city and you are my work of great mischief.”
The way the summer lasted, the way we flung our bodies on the bed,
the way you said in the morning, I couldn’t sleep because my neck
was touching my neck, the way our grief flooded under the doors,
the way we whispered through the fans’ motors. Such mangoes
en flambé we’d meant to mark this summer, too, excruciating.
And then, tonight, so tipping in our chairs, at last, so chilled,
so shutting windows in a flurry, the way you heaved your
weight against the sills. I was alone. I did it myself. I called
you to say finally and you said yes and I grew sturdy in my chest.
We aren’t in our bodies these days. All those babies in your
womb were never real. I was there. Their tiny bodies dropped.
The way, even in summer, chill pooled in the iron tub & spouts.
Thank you for following me on this month’s journey in verse. It’s always a pleasure to share the words that have woven themselves into my past year and to seek out new poets to introduce to you all. I hope you’ve encountered at least a few pieces along the way that have moved or confounded, delighted or enlivened you.
April’s final poem comes from the great Syrian poet Ali Ahmad Said Esber, who began writing under the name Adonis (1930-) in his late teenage years. As I mentioned in this month’s introductory post, the current state of the world has increasingly inspired me to turn to poetry for solace and sense. This song from Adonis is one I hold close to me as I try to comprehend the enormous weight of it all while still remembering those birds at the edges of our shared sky.
from “Elegy for the First Century”
Bells on our eyelashes
and the death throes of words,
and I among fields of speech,
a knight on a horse made of dirt.
My lungs are my poetry, my eyes a book,
and I, under the skin of words,
on the beaming banks of foam,
a poet who sang and died
leaving this singed elegy
before the faces of poets,
for birds at the edge of sky.
translated by Khaled Mattawa
I always get goosebumps when I read this poem from the one of my favorites, the preeminent Iraqi writer and activist Saadi Youssef (1934-), who has spent much of his life in exile.
Abu al-Khaseeb passes
like morning fog,
a wooden bridge dripping dampness,
there are palm trees
The tenderness of happiness
is in the sky.
I will ask about you, son,
when things are cloudy;
I ask about you.
I ask about you.
But I already see you now:
day after day,
night after night.
So wait for me, O son,
we will meet
where the fog is blue
in the morning.
Translated by Sinan Antoon and Peter Money in Nostalgia my Enemy