There is no world in which I am not haunted

My copy of the new chapbook TUNSIYA/AMRIKIYA by the Tunisian-American poet Leila Chatti (1990-) arrived just in time for the weekend, and it was so hard to choose just one from this stunning collection.

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“Night Lament in Hergla”

This is what the fearful do:
when a burning star torments them, they go to the sea.
–Mahmoud Darwish

There is no world in which I am not haunted,
no willing God to relinquish me.
My mother taught me death comes
wailing from the shadows, my father
all ghosts exist in smoke. I search
the sky for light long extinguished,
make wishes on their bright graves.
In the dark I try every language you might
recognize but nothing calls you back;
the words hang in the air, their own
brief phantoms. The ocean offers
no solace; I stand at its black edge
as it retreats, draws close, backs away again.
Like this, your memory wavers
in the threshold. How many nights
your name appeared on my lips
like an incantation, how many times
you’ve arrived in a dream pale
as prayer at dawn–your absence
burns its hole through my waking.
I stalk the shores of your sleep,
which allow no entry. The moon
reveals nothing of heaven, a brined window.
You are gone, in this country and all others.

Every day I have to relearn my body.

I’m completely taken by the intensity of John Rybicki’s poems of loss, life, and love in When All the World is Old, which he wrote in homage to his wife Julie Moulds, who died of cancer 16 years after she was diagnosed at the age of 29.
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“This Noise from My Fingers”

It astounds me the ways
I scale the sky. Every day I have to
relearn my body.

Who will tell us to the world?
Our children whose heads we breathe into
like seashells casting those spells

our mothers once wooed us with?
A playground where we became the mist
hanging over everything?

We knew it was our insides
tugged inside out at last.
Once when I was a boy on the dodge

hopping fences, I let my leg hang over the lip
to that other world. I stopped
on top of that wobbly fence,

and hit the pause button on the world.
I held it all: the shadows from the plum tree
whose fruit we used to peg cars with;

the dust from my father’s broom;
even the boys chasing after me.
I knew the time was passing

and took even the shadows of the branches
into those pockets God had sewn
into my body for the traveling.

I kissed the moment flush
on the mouth then let it go,
surrendered again to the earth

with silencers on my tennis shoes.
Maybe time itself came brushing
the trail behind me until it vanished

clean off the grass, and I took up residence
with all the other balloons
floating along the landscape.

There’s a name for the animal love makes of us

Nicole Sealey’s beautifully unflinching exploration of life, death, and the marrow between keeps moving to the top of my stack this April. You can find this poem in her chapbook, The Animal After Whom Other Animals Are Namedher collection Ordinary Beast will be out this fall.

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“Object Permanence”
(For John)

We wake as if surprised the other is still there,
each petting the sheet to be sure.

How have we managed our way
to this bed—beholden to heat like dawn

indebted to light. Though we’re not so self-
important as to think everything

has led to this, everything has led to this.
There’s a name for the animal

love makes of us—named, I think,
like rain, for the sound it makes.

You are the animal after whom other animals
are named. Until there’s none left to laugh,

days will start with the same startle
and end with caterpillars gorged on milkweed.

O, how we entertain the angels
with our brief animation. O,

how I’ll miss you when we’re dead.