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.
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.
“Night Lament in Hergla”
This is what the fearful do:
when a burning star torments them, they go to the sea.
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.