Our story is of moments when even slow motion moved too fast

illustration of a heart at crossroads
Illustration by Kristina Closs

“For an Album” by Adrienne Rich (1929-2012)

Our story isn’t a file of photographs
faces laughing under green leaves
or snowlit doorways, on the verge of driving
away, our story is not about women
victoriously perched on the one
sunny day of the conference,
nor lovers displaying love:

Our story is of moments when even slow motion moved too fast
for the shutter of the camera:
words that blew our lives apart, like so,
eyes that cut and caught each other,
mime of the operating room
where gas and knives quote each other
moments before the telephone
starts ringing: our story is
how still we stood,
how fast.

I wash her hands with summer rain.

Illustration by Kristina Closs

“Taproot and Cradle” by Khaled Mattawa (1964-)

Evening coffee, and my mother salts
her evening broth—not equanimity,
but the nick of her wrist—

and my mother bakes bread,
and my mother hobbles knees locked,
and my mother carries the soft stones of her years.

Fists balled in my pocket,
riding the century’s drift,
I carry a wish and a wound.

It’s raining a noisy frost,
the inhabitants’ cruel happy laughs,
their sighs and curses,

small upheavals that slide
from their bellies,
down to their freezing toes..

And the city trudges, and night
loosens its reins, a stolen bulldozer,
a tank full of clowns.

Who’s calling
my name
from the window now?

She touches her hair—
She caresses her beauty
like the coffin of a child.

O pen of late arrivals.
O knife of darkened temples.
O my scurrying, my drunken snakes. 

I wash her hands with summer rain.
I remember the killed enemy.
I remember my good friends.

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.

img_7040-4
“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.