At least one of the panes in the warped and brittle frame was cracked enough to need a newspaper. You never bothered to replace it. From the desk, you looked across a small patch of gravel at another rowhouse, another upstairs window. Sometimes, a face would appear between the curtains, then vanish. You didn’t know it, but just a few years before a poet had died just a few doors up the street. The Greek Revival is brittle, and brick. The room is yellow and small and has a ceiling fan. On the wall, there’s a thriftstore reproduction of Goya’s little boy in red with all his birds and cats, next to him, a postcard of a coffin.
First song of autumn
Joy of my days, come
watch me run
I’ve bought white shoes
and see-through eagle’s wings
I am the clarinet’s mouth
and you the ransomed player
Kneel and guzzle me, set
the sea’s taste in my throat
and make my breast a wave
upon whose mane the sun
The men sent to attack the Ammonians, started from Thebes, having guides with them, and may be clearly traced as far as the city Oasis, which is inhabited by Samians, said to be of the tribe Aeschrionia. The place is distant from Thebes seven days’ journey across the sand, and is called in our tongue “the Island of the Blessed.” Thus far the army is known to have made its way; but thenceforth nothing is to be heard of them, except what the Ammonians, and those who get their knowledge from them, report. It is certain they neither reached the Ammonians, nor even came back to Egypt.
WADIH SAADEH’S LANDMARK POEM IN ROBIN MOGER’S TRANSLATION
Farewell God I walk looking at my feet off to the cafe to meet my friends
Farewell I grow old the cafe in the square I mount two steps and sit
Heard Carmena Burana and went now the player sings alone
by the closed window
Light rain against the pane light rain against the port across the way
Farewell Four o’clock I have a date with my friends
I can only relate poems to dreams,
that’s why the last three years
I had a few of them
though I’d already denounced myself as a poet;
because escaping from consciousness
is like escaping from the self,
it doesn’t go past skin’s borders.
I’ve counted masturbation sessions as though counting sheep,
without calculating mean or median
or any statistical tricks.
I wanted to say, Love you,
but it came out, Fuck you.
Maybe we can have dinner some time?
Tirana, Albania — April 11th 1985
The foremost leader has died.
National mourning. Black flags flutter from the windows along side our national flag. Tears, agony, grief, everywhere one looks.
The television shows nothing but tributes to our fallen comrade.
I sit in the café, sip my coffee, watch the grief stricken faces of my fellow comrades. I look out the window at everyone just standing around, consoling one another, seeking comfort in another’s embrace.
I turn my attention back to the interior, continue to sip my coffee, occasionally watch the old films of our foremost leader when he was young, healthy, strong.
The café is crowded but most people don’t speak, most sit with their own thoughts, grieving, as if a member of their own family has passed. In a lot of ways, one had.
A woman sits by herself at the far end of the café. She isn’t crying or gazing at the television. She simply stirs a spoon in her coffee cup, smokes a cigarette, gazes out the window with no expression. She looks sad but there are no tears. Thin and pale, deep lines crease the corners of her mouth. I can tell that she must have been very beautiful once but either time or hardship had nearly erased all traces of it. It isn’t until she glances my way that I realize who it is.
I can’t look at her.
If it weren’t for those eyes, I would have never believed it.