I was wearing an orange dress, I had no clue why or how. I didn’t own a single item of clothing that was orange—nor did I ever plan to. I was in a ballroom. A stadium? No, a ballroom, a hotel ballroom. The same one I’d been to years ago when I had to go to some relative’s wedding. That was a strange day; I’d seen so many family members that I hadn’t seen in ages at that wedding. The music was so loud. I could feel judgmental eyes on me for staying at the table where the aunties sat instead of getting up and dancing with people my age. But the food was great that night, and it made up for the headache, the awkwardness, and the fact that I felt like a hostage to traditions the whole night. Meanwhile, this time there was no wedding. Instead, there were hundreds of people I knew and had met throughout my life. Most of the faces were blurry. I couldn’t tell if I was a blur to them too or not.
The butterfly that flies as if
tied by an invisible thread to paradise
almost brushed my chin while I sat in the garden
drinking my first coffee
shaking last night’s nightmares out of my head
lolling in the sun
I saw it drift over the wooden fence
like a dream or a prayer, what was
only yesterday a caterpillar
locked up in its tight cocoon.
To build something together one last time
there are so many questions,
like who would live there,
and if no one, why build it?
In our panic we make a house
that looks like a boat,
which reminds me of dreaming
both of us were angels, sleeping at sea.
When we lay the boat down
in the cemetery of love,
we squat over one of its three windows,
and wave to ourselves through the glass.
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.
— The first time Carol Sansour saw Jaffa
who are you and who am I
he stayed me
and he said to me Who are you and who am I and I saw the sun and the moon and the stars and all the lights ashine and he said to me There is no light in my sea shines on without I have seen it and each thing came to me until no thing was left and kissed me between my eyes and saluted me and stood in shadow and he said to me You know me and I do not know you and I saw all of him clung to my robe and not to me and my robe leant and I did not and my robe leant and he said to me Who am I and the sun went down and the moon and the stars fell and the lights were put out and the dark covered all things but him and my eye did not see and my ear did not hear my senses ceased and each thing spoke it said Allahu Akbar and each thing came to me a spear in its hand it said to me Flee and I said Where to and it said Fall into darkness and into darkness I fell and I saw myself and he said to me See none but yourself ever Come out from darkness never And should I bring you out from it I would show you myself You would see me and should you see me you would be most distant of all
he stayed me
The only window, in disrepair
Don’t come tonight, sad bat
Packing your head between my brows.
We have denied one another at times
In despair and in defeat. In vain
Face bumping at face,
The heart at the heart.
My sister screamed in the night
Take me to my brother’s house
And there she screamed that same night
No no! Take me back to the house of my father
They took her back
And when she made to scream again
The night had passed
And the men had gone to work.
I believe in the power of the imagination to remake the world, to release the truth within us, to hold back the night, to transcend death, to charm motorways, to ingratiate ourselves with birds, to enlist the confidences of madmen.
I believe in my own obsessions, in the beauty of the car crash, in the peace of the submerged forest, in the excitements of the deserted holiday beach, in the elegance of automobile graveyards, in the mystery of multi-storey car parks, in the poetry of abandoned hotels.
I believe in the forgotten runways of Wake Island, pointing towards the Pacifics of our imaginations.
Meeting with an Arab poet in exile
At that outcast and lonely hour,
that hour of night when choices narrow
until each absence takes on meaning as a cloud of smoke,
between the voices of the drunken patrons in that small restaurant
and the wash of the still sea that beats, below, against its rocky shore,
at that outcast hour of night, that lonely hour,
he talked to me of the legendary poets of exile
and how he’d known them in his youth, he
who still followed the same path,
and from an ancient notebook
which bore on its cover the cedar of Lebanon
began to read aloud his long two-columned poems.
You said: I’m still here. I just don’t know what to say. But two weeks later, you were gone. And now I sit, words turned stale upon the page. Seems I’ve been here for months, rending sentences into syllables. Senseless. Torn and patched in vain.
I’m still here and you’re still gone.
You said: I don’t want to die. I just don’t want to live. But we didn’t want to hear, for fear your fear would unmask our own. We left you to your silent pain—let it erode the edges of your reserves, like waves, ceaseless, beating the shore—bruising, breaking your brash, butch swagger. Leaving fragments and splinters of you.
Bewildered, bipolar & blue.
A little girl walking through the woods on her way to her best friend’s house finds a small piece of paper. It is shiny and colorful, ripped from a magazine no doubt, with ragged edges and folded into halves – twice. I still don’t know what makes the little girl take that loose piece of paper into her hands. It is litter, really. But it will never be far from her for the next decade. From that day, she keeps it. Folded as she found it. She gently places it between the pages of The Little Prince or A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, perhaps Watership Down. Now and again she takes it out and unfolds it. Over the years, the piece of paper becomes worn and soft, as satin silk or lambskin chamois. Whitened, thin and frayed at the folds until it is too delicate to even open. But the girl keeps it. It has become her confidante.
Tower of Babel
And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do; and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined…
Night bites my shoulder. I turn to you, through a nylon window
To a state of limbo, there on a map
Under rivers of paper
We never drown, gazing on bridges
Night hugged my waist, like my mother, wailing
Where are our parents?