After the Funeral of Assam Hamady

Sam Hamod

FOR MY MOTHER, DAVID AND LAURA

Cast:
Hajj Abbass Habhab: my grandfather
Sine Hussin: an old friend of my father
Hussein Hamod Subh: my father
me

6pm

middle of South Dakota
after a funeral in Sioux Falls
my father and grandfather
ministered the Muslim burial
of their old friend, Assam Hamady

me—driving the 1950 Lincoln
ninety miles an hour

“STOP! STOP!
stop this car!”

Why?
“STOP THIS CAR RIGHT NOW!”—Hajj Abbass
                                                     grabbing my arm from back seat
“Hysht Iyat? (What’re you yelling about?)”—my Father
“Shu bikkeee? (What’s happening?)”—Sine Hussin

I stop

“It’s time to pray”—the Hajj
                                yanks his Navajo blanket
                                opening the door

“It’s time to pray, sullee
the sun sets
time for sullee”

my Father and Sine Hussin follow
obedient
I’m sitting behind the wheel
watching, my motor still running

car lights scream by
more than I’ve ever seen in South Dakota

the Hajj spreads the blanket
blessing it as a prayer rug
they discuss which direction is East

after a few minutes it’s decided
it must be that way
they face what must surely be South

they face their East, then notice
I’m not with them

“Hamode! get over here, to pray!”

No, I’ll watch
and stand guard

“Guard from what—get over here!”

I get out of the car
but don’t go to the blanket

My father says to the others:
“He’s foolish, he doesn’t know how
to pray.”

they rub their hands
then their faces
rub their hands then
down their bodies
as if in ablution
their feet bare
together now
they begin singing

Three old men
chanting the Qur’an in the middle
of a South Dakota night

    “Allahu Ahkbar
    Allahu Ahkbar

    Ash haduu n lah illah illiliawhh
    Ash haduu n lah illah illilawhh

    Muhammed rasoul illawh”

in high strained voices they chant

    “Bismee lahee
    a rah’manee raheem”

more cars flash by

    “malik a youm a deen
    ehde nuseerota el mustakeem
    seyrota la theena”

I’m embarrassed to be with them

    “en umta ailiy him
    ghyrug mugthubee aliy him”

people stream by, an old woman strains a gawk at them

    “willathouu leen—
    Bismee lahee”

I’m standing guard now

    “a rah’maneel raheem
    khul hu wahu lahu uhud”

They’re chanting with more vigor now
against the cars—washing away
in a dry state
Hamady’s death
he floats from their mouths
wrapped in white

    “Allahu sumud
    lum yuulud wa’alum uulud”

striped across his chest, with green

    “Walum yankun a kuf one uhud
    will thouu leen”

his head in white, his gray mustache still

    “Ameen . . . “

I hear them still singing
as I travel half-way across
America
to another job
burying my dead
I always like trips, traveling at high speed
but they have surely passed me
as I am standing here now
trying so hard to join them
on that old prayer blanket—

as if the pain behind my eyes could be absolution

 

[Author’s note:] The Muslim prayer in this poem is analogous to The Lord’s Prayer

NPR READING, AFTER THE FUNERAL OF ASSAM HAMADY, SAM HAMOD

Sam Hamod– please see author’s complete biography on the home page, in additional works in this issue, and on the author’s page.

THE BEDOUIN DRESS

Sam Hamod

 

You run your
hand     just so
very slowly
over the dark sewn fabric of this
Bedouin dress – you feel
three thousand years rough up
against the color of your
skin      against the colors of your
memory          you tell me
“When I wear this dress
I always come out
red”      and I,
looking at the
rustle in you, say
“You must look good
all red”         and the
brightness of your
hair       is lit up by the shine of
your eyes        so predictable
a beauty    but your laughter
always surprising
and new
like this
dress     so many
years
in the making
with so many hidden     desert places
so many deep crevices
in the heart

 

 

 

SAM HAMOD/VISTA, CA. POETRY READING

 

Sam Hamod – please see author’s full bio on the home page, in additional works, and on the author’s page.

Leaves

Sam Hamod

 

Tonight, Sally and I are making stuffed
grape leaves, we get out a package, it’s
drying out, I’ve been saving it in the freezer, it’s
one of the last things my father ever picked in this
life – they’re over five years old
and up to now
we just kept finding packages of them in the
freezer, as if he were still picking them
somewhere       packing them
carefully to send to us
making sure they didn’t break into pieces.

                   *          *         *

“To my Dar Garnchildn
Davd and Lura
from Thr Jido”
twisted on tablet paper
between the lines
in this English lettering
hard for him even to print,
I keep this small torn record,
this piece of paper stays in the upstairs storage,
one of the few pieces of American
my father ever wrote.  We find his Arabic letters
all over the place, even in these files we find
letters to him in English, one I found from Charles Atlas
telling him, in 1932,
“Of course, Mr. Hamod, you too can build
your muscles like mine. . .”
 

                   *        *        *

Last week my mother told me, when I was
asking why I became a poet, “But don’t you remember,
your father made up poems, don’t you remember him
singing in the car as we drove – those were poems.”
Even now, at night, I sometimes
get out the Arabic grammar book
though it seems so late

 

Sam Hamod-Please see author’s full bio on the home page, in additional works, and on the author’s page.

 

Bad Mutha’ Comin’ To Town

 
 

 

 

 

James Brown

 

 

 “Look at me,
I’m a bad mutha’,
yeah, I’m a bad mutha’, uhh! uhh! hey baby,
turnaround…”
James Brown

 
 

 

you be struttin’
james, up on broadway, ho’s
just shuck’n and jive’n, laugh’n out loud,
knew you were a big fisted daddy,
a tough mutha, that no muthafucka
would fuck with you—at Buddy’s Buzz Box
Buddy said, “Shit man, u tellin’ me
james brown is’n town—got to gitup to Broadway, got ta
see that man, an’his 20 footlongCadillac” he jes’ be
hangin’ back from that be-boppin, chest thumpin’, laughin’
mutha, just laughin’, just struttin’ blues, brownie, yah!
musta been, big time on Broadway, hell I don’no everboda’comin’out
cars stop’in people jes’ watchin’ even
little Willie, drunk asa skunk woke up sober, jes’
stragglin’ out to catch’m, willett smearin’ on
bright red lipstick, rosie ran upstairs, puttin’on
her tight- white sweater, and slick, he just sayin’
“tha’s my man, yah’ tha’s ma’man”

that was Gary, Indiana, September 14, 1960

 

Sam Hamod – see author’s full bio on home page, additional works, and author’s page.

 

Sam Hamod

 

I’d Rather Not Talk About It (For Palestine…)

Sam Hamod

 

I  really didn’t want

to talk about Ali losing his leg

to an Israeli shell last week, or

samira,scarred still in the hospital

her body napalmed

from a fast moving jet, but

as I said,

i’d rather not talk about it,

but it seems

there is nothing else

we can talk about except, maybe

the zaitoun* trees, the tanks

and bulldozers made short work of them,

but their stumps remain, gravemarkers

some say, but they say,

they’d rather not talk about it

between muffled sobs their women

knot their hands, shake their heads, their

scarves wet from tears, but even they say,

they’d rather not talk about it,

and as for me, I’d feel the same, but

as a poet, I have to give them voice, even though

they say,

they’d rather not talk about it,

I want to, and I want u to know

more about Mahmoud who lost an eye to shrapnel,

to Miriam who lost her 7 year old son

because an Israeli sniper decided he was a threat

as he picked olives in his own orchard, and

I want to talk about Father George, who was on his way

to church on Sunday, but walked too close

to the Israeli wall, and lost his brains

as they scattered along the wall, red and white

as another sniper made sure no one came near

this land they stole from Palestine, and,

Hussein who lost his foot from a cluster bomblet

that had been left behind in Gaza, he was simply

on his way to the mosque to pray on Friday, the

Imam said it was “Allah’s will,,” but I doubt it,

when asked why it was Allah’s will, he said,

I’d rather not talk about it, but we go on,

and, there is another story, behind another bed

in the emergency room, and another stretcher

bleached white with red stains all over,

and,  and,

and, and, and, but I could go on,

but as I said, I’d rather not talk about it,

as they all said, there is nothing to talk about,

nothing,  nothing,  no, 

nothing at all

 

*zaitoun:  olives in Arabic

 

 

PHOTO BY KRISTEN SCOTT

 

Sam Hamod – please see author’s full bio in additional works SPRING ISSUE, Home Page, and Author’s Page.

Rumi

Sam Hamod

 

It was never the spinning

Never the turning

Nor was it losing one’s self,

It was from inside

From that part of the heart

Attached to Allah’s heaven

From within

It was always from within

Tied to Allah from without,

That rope

We never let loose of,

That deeply felt, invisible

Binding that helps us ascend,

Frees us, spiraling upward     

Keeping the Cancer Letter to Myself

Sam Hamod

           (for my late mother, Zinab)

 

It’s as if
I can hold time back
 as if
I can keep that letter in my briefcase as if I can
keep my mother
still alive
upstairs in the white room, as if
I can still hear
her blood soaked
cough           want to tell her
it is something that will pass, lie to
her, tell her the letter is good,
the treatments will
work, tell her that we’ll make
that trip to Romania
get some of those “miracle drugs” we keep
reading about,
that we’ll sit on the front porch again
in the spring marvel        at the clarity of air,
talk about when she was a little girl in Iowa
when the circus would come to field across
the road, when she raised her brothers
and sisters after her mother died
when she was nine – baking bread each morning
and each year the exciting circus would return –
that we’ll get her passport ready
it will be a long flight we can – then
there’s that deep wrenching cough
again
And I’ll lie
again, tell her that she’s worried for nothing
that the pain in her stomach is only
gas, I’ll choke up again
unable to talk
turn away     my swelling throat
tight, unable to – then we’ll
strain out talk of dandelions and grapeleaves
we’d pick when I was a boy, by the river in Iowa,
by the roadsides in Indiana, then she
falls asleep, moves fitfully
Go back to my briefcase      not open it
wish the letter away –
now that she’s passed, that
briefcase sits, full of papers, unopened, but my eyes blur in this
poem
because in this life
there are some things we never fully close

 

   

photo by Kristen Scott

 

please see author’s complete bio on the home page, additional works, and on the author’s page.

 

 

 

 

Waves At Isla Negra

Sam Hamod

            (por Pablo Neruda)

 

always there are the waves
at Isla Negra,
unless you understand the
motion of rocks
as they stir
against the pounding surf,
you will never understand
the motion of
loving a place
or a woman,
each moves
in her own way, undulating
like willows
high up
on cliffs as they extend
their branches downward,
enticing you
as do the waves
at Isla Negra,
so many colours,
so many rhythms,
so many songs
heard
and unheard
known only in the heart

 

 

Sam Hamod has his PhD. from The Writers’ Workshop of the University of Iowa and has taught in the Workshop; he was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in poetry, has published 10 books of poems, and has appeared in dozens of anthologies in the U.S. and abroad.  He has also taught creative writing at the University of Iowa, Princeton, Michigan, Wisconsin, Howard and overseas as well. His most recent books were, JUST LOVE POEMS FOR YOU (2006), Ishmael Reed Pub. Co/Contemporary Poetry Press and THE ARAB POEMS, THE MUSLIM POEMS (2000), Contemporary Poetry Press/Cedar Creek; he has two more books of poems under contract and his memoirs as well. He has won many awards over the years, and in addition has read with such poets as Kinnell, Ginsberg, Merwin, Wright, Knight, Baraka and others, and has had praise from Neruda, Borges and such American poets as Ishmael Reed, James Wright, Dick Hugo, Jack Marshall, Amiri Baraka and E. Ethelbert Miller among others.

 

 

No Time Like the Present

Samuel Hazo

 

 
            You who believe in the false
               assurances of schedules, the presumptions
               of plans, or the pr0mised future
               of appointments. this poem is
               for you.
                       Today I have nowhere
               to go and nothing to do
               but watch the Mediterranean Sea
               from a seaside table in Menton.
            Nobody knows me here.
            The couples dancing tangos
               in the public square regard me
               as the foreigner I am.
                                 I order
               lunch in unimpressive French
               and sign language.
                          The world
               that pressured me at home
               with phone calls, obligations, bills
               and headlines carries on,
               but I’m not playing.
                            Instead
               I focus on the green and red
               confusion of a Nicoise salad
               while I hurt for an America
               I barely recognize.   
                            In the name
               of Christ we’re Arabizing Arabs
               as we once Vietnamized the South
               Vietnamese before our vanity
               consumed us.
                          We’ve sponsored free
               elections but reversed results.
            To launch the neo-century
               we crushed a country and destroyed
               a culture.
                           Though someone warned
               that occupiers lose at last,
               the warning was ignored.
                                 When scholars
               wrote that Athens at its peak
               sailed fleets to ultimate catastrophe
               in Sicily and bled for decades
               afterward into inconsequence,
               they reaped the glory of derision.
             Why bother talking history
                            with those whose only purpose
                       is deceit?
                          Why reason with unreason?
            When shouters violate what’s sacred
               with impunity, the only answer
               is dissent.
                    Hiding behind
               lapel-pin flags, they’ve fouled
               what I thought would be a holiday
               abroad, not merely a reprieve
               before the next resistance.
            I’ve met them all a thousand
               times whenever fear and cowardice
               demanded loyalty to causes
               that were never mine.
                                 Since power
               is their word for peace, they swagger
               like competitors who can’t not win.
            And when they lose, as they
               will always lose, they’ll claim
               they could have won with more
               support, and then they’ll whine.

 

 

Samuel Hazo is the author of poetry, fiction, essays, various works of translation and four plays. Governor Robert Casey named him Pennsylvania’s first State Poet 1993. He served until 2003.

From his first book, through the National Book Award finalist Once for the Last Bandit, to his newest poems, he explores themes of mortality and love, passion and art, courage and grace in a style that is unmistakably his own. He writes with equal feeling and clarity about political and artistic figures and the complex synchronicity between life and art. He is extremely interested in the wonderment and discovery that emerge in the act of writing, in the movement toward wisdom that results from the expression of feeling.

As the founder and Director/President of the International Poetry Forum, Dr. Hazo has brought more than 800 poets and performers to Pittsburgh in the past forty years. These have included Nobel Awardees (Heaney, Walcott, Paz, Milosz), Pulitzer Prize winners (Merwin, Kumin, Wilbur, Kinnell, Kooser and others), Academy Award recipients (Gregory Peck, Princess Grace of Monaco, Eva Marie Saint, Anthony Hopkins, John Houseman, Jose Ferrer) as well as public figures who understand the relationship of poetry to public speech (Senator Eugene McCarthy and Queen Noor of Jordan), playwrights and composers (Tennessee Williams, Edward Albee, Gian Carlo Menotti) and new poets of significance and promise.

Dr. Hazo is McAnulty Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Duquesne University. He has received eleven honorary degrees, is an honorary Phi Beta Kappa member, and has been awarded the Hazlett Award for Excellence in Literature from the Governor of Pennsylvania, the Forbes Medal, the Elizabeth Kray Award for Outstanding Service to Poetry from New York University, and the Griffin Award from the University of Notre Dame. His recent book, Just Once, received the Maurice English Poetry Prize.

We are honored to have Dr. Samuel Hazo’s work in Contemporary World Poetry: Journal for International Voices.

 

 

End-Speech

Jack Marshall

 

In a darkness with nothing to see,
in a darkness with little to hear
but the dove softly cooing on the wires above
and running water somewhere near
lapping the soft summer air,
train-whistles trail their signature-sounds
in the distance, diffusing to the timbre of smoke
and the doves’ soft cooing on the wires above…

And I have lately been thinking of the aged
eagle, the darkling thrush, the fire-fangled bird, and hurt hawk, all
grown weary of the trash that passes, the trash
that exasperates and likely provoking the poems they wished
they’d never have to write. How, at the end, stripped
of promise, as the fruit falls asunder,
annihilation becomes plain-
spokenly bare
cadence, canceling all show and ornament, bare-
boned end-speech, devoid of any intentions on us,
only voiced conviction, baring what it knows.
Nothing complicated: just life and death.

 

 

Jack Marshall is one of America’s finest poets; we are honored to have him on our site. He has published 12 books of poetry (the most recent, The Steel Veil, 2008), and a memoir, From Baghdad to Brooklyn 2005; a book-length poem, TRACE (for which he was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship), will appear in 2012. 

Mystery

Naomi Shihab Nye

 

The men emerge from the mine
in a cartridge with wheels
and everyone cheers.

In the hills
of Afghanistan,
deserts of Gaza,
mountains of Pakistan,
villages of Libya,
men crouching behind boulders
and broken houses
wish they knew their secret.

 

 

Naomi Shihab Nye  lives in San Antonio, has written or edited 30 books, and is a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

 

Goodbye

Lisa Suhair Majaj

 

Always knew it would come back
to haunt me. It was war, time was short,
 
the truck was leaving, and with it my hope
of safe passage from that besieged city.
 
She was in another place, phone lines
down, no time to search her out.
 
I had to flee. And so I did. I knew
the spool of time would never
 
rewind, that there would be no
going back; that with that leaving,
 
I would lose my chance to find her
before the bombs exploded–
 
her home destroyed, her brother burned,
her eyes torn to darkness.
 
Where is she now? Would she
remember me if I found her?
 
And if I kissed her cheeks three times,
Lebanese style, and called her habibti,
 
hayati, would she speak to me,
smile? Or would she turn away,
 
her life so changed, her griefs so far from mine
that there would be  no point in saying, even, goodbye?

 

 

Lisa Suhair Majaj is the author of Geographies of Light, winner of the Del Sol Press Poetry Prize. Her poems and essays have appeared in over fifty journals and anthologies worldwide. She is also co-editor of three collections of critical essays: Going Global: The Transnational Reception of Third World Women Writers; Intersections: Gender, Nation and Community in Arab Women’s Novels, and Etel Adnan: Critical Essays on the Arab-American Writer and Artist. She lives in Nicosia, Cyprus.

Knowing How to Die

Lisa Suhair Majaj

 

I’ve owned it forever, a dark seed,
one of those possessions you know
you’ll need one day, but till then
 
shove to the back of your mind,
ignore.  It permeated my being
from the moment I pushed down the birth canal
 
into life-light, and before, from that first eruption
of synchronicity, cells multiplying madly
deep in my mother’s womb-nest
 
where I swam, nine months, practicing for life.
Once born, there was so much to do.
I learned how to breathe, how to suckle—
 
my mothers’ chest a savannah, her nipple
an oasis – and from there the whole world
waited.  Oh, the busyness of life!
 
But that death-knowledge
slumbers, imprinted in my bones
like a birthright:

original, indelible,
the one thing in life
I won’t have to earn.

 

 

Lisa Suhair Majaj is the author of Geographies of Light, winner of the Del Sol Press Poetry Prize. Her poems and essays have appeared in over fifty journals and anthologies worldwide. She is also co-editor of three collections of critical essays: Going Global: The Transnational Reception of Third World Women Writers; Intersections: Gender, Nation and Community in Arab Women’s Novels, and Etel Adnan: Critical Essays on the Arab-American Writer and Artist. She lives in Nicosia, Cyprus.

Primal Touch

Lisa Suhair Majaj

 

My newborn’s skin was so satiny to the touch
I worried my hangnails would catch and rip her.
I bent my face to her downy head, touching my lips
to the soft curve of her skull, bones soft
and unmolded, hair wispy and damp,  the odor of birth
still emanating from her as if from a new-baked loaf,
musty and sweet. I could have spent forever
with my lips pressed to her infant flesh, but hunger
had other agendas. Her wail pierced my body,
sent electric cramps through my still-open womb,
milk sparking through my nipple, as her toothless gums
clamped down and pulled, tugging milk fiercely
from my deepest core, flooding us both with the essence
of life. It’s the primal touch we don’t remember
that shapes us.  The first time my daughter opens herself
to another’s caress, will her body recall that first flooding of love,
light touch of lips and hands,  life-force expanding in a milky rush
as I drew her body to my body and gave suck?

 

 

please see author’s full bio in additional works and in the Author’s Page.

Finding Your Group

Lisa Suhair Majaj

 

My daughter, proud spiny-pet owner
votes for a prickle of hedgehogs.
My husband, the spear-gun fisherman,
stands firm for a shiver of sharks.
My sister, cat lover, chimes in for
a chine of polecats, while my mother-in-law,
an inveterate chef, dithers between  a bouquet
of pheasants and a wrack of rabbits.
Me, I’ll settle for a storytelling of ravens –
like the ones over there, perched on the carob tree branch
that leans over the cliff (wrinkled sea
far below), tossing tales between them
like popcorn, weaving strands of story
into their nests–bright bits of ribbon and floss
to amuse the chicks. I watch them
 preen their raven-black feathers and strut:
tellers of tall tales, lovers of small
shiny objects, birds of a feather together.
I love how they embellish the plot, enjoy the side-bars,
and, when they reach the end,  caw raucously,
laughing at their own bad jokes.

 

 

Lisa Suhair Majaj is the author of Geographies of Light, winner of the Del Sol Press Poetry Prize. Her poems and essays have appeared in over fifty journals and anthologies worldwide. She is also co-editor of three collections of critical essays: Going Global: The Transnational Reception of Third World Women Writers; Intersections: Gender, Nation and Community in Arab Women’s Novels, and Etel Adnan: Critical Essays on the Arab-American Writer and Artist. She lives in Nicosia, Cyprus.

And Now, Beirut

Marian Haddad
 
Summer 2006

 

 

City of beauty, or so I have heard.
I have only seen pictures of your cliffs

jetting out high above the ocean. 
Today, in the morning, they bombed

your port.  We knew this would happen.
Jounieh, Tyre, now you.  People kept

asking, “Have they bombed
Beirut?”  So afraid all your city

has rebuilt, all that has been done
to bring you back, to raise you up,

demolished, again.  Oh, Beirut,
how many sing of you?  Fairouz loved you,

and she knew, in her lyrics, wars
divide children of one country.

Ooh uza nihnah’t firakknah,
Bee jum’arna hubbek.  And if

we are parted, our love for you
will unite us.  Yesterday, I saw a woman,

in Lebanon, on TV, an American journalist asking,
“Are you going to evacuate?”  She said,

“I will not leave.  I will die here.” 
Habbee min tarrabekk bee iknoz i’dinee.  

Ibhibbek ya Libna’n
Ya, watanee.  One granule of your sand

will hold up the world.  I love you, oh
Lebanon, “place of my birth,”

so many Lebanese cry, “I’m afraid
for my children!” another woman screamed,

and her, perhaps my age, holding a toddler
in one arm, the hand of her small daughter

in the other,  “Yes, we have to leave,
for my children’s safety.  We do not know

where we are going, but we must go. 
We hope to come back, soon!”  Her wish,

her prayer.  Soon.  Last time you were hit,
ya Libna’n, 1982, it lasted fifteen years, or more.

“Soon,” she said.  I pray with her,
“Soon.” I wonder where she is now,

and if she got there, safely.

 

 

PHOTOGRAPH BY J SCOTT SCHRAEDER

Marian HaddadMFA is a Pushcart-nominated poet, writer, manuscript and publishing consultant, private writing mentor, visiting writer, lecturer and creative workshop instructor.  Her collection of poems, Wildflower. Stone., (Pecan Grove Press, 2011), is the press’s first hardback. Yusef Komunyakaa states that this collection, “…celebrates the observable mysteries of daily existence … these poems have dropped all disguises, and each rides the pure joy of music.  There are superb leaps and silences that deftly highlight the monumental in simple things.” 

Haddad’s chapbook, Saturn Falling Down, was published in (2003). Her full-length collection, Somewhere between Mexico and a River Called Home (Pecan Grove Press, 2004) approaches its fifth printing. Her poems, essays, reviews, and articles have been published in various literary journals and anthologies within the United States and Belgium and have been invited for publication in the Middle East. 

Haddad has taught creative writing at Our Lady of the Lake and Northwest Vista College, and International Literature and American Literature at St. Mary’s University.  Her works in progress include a collection of essays about growing up Arab American in a Mexican American border town.  She writes a blog for the San Antonio Express News.  

 

 

 

 

Correction Jounieh, Lebanon

Marian Haddad

 

Actually, nobody was screaming.
Not that I saw.        I saw the boy,
 
quiet bird, shaking, eyes wide
open. And next to him, the old.
 
One is three. The other, eighty-three,
or more. The older man sits, coiled
 
on a mattress, wheezing into
a mask. Wheezing into          
 
himself. The heavy breath,
weighty in its travel
 
to the lungs and from them. 
Thin, frail, white-haired man.
 
His wife stands, quiet, up against
a wall.  She does not speak
but stares straight         at him, and he
is bent over his thin and folded body,
this body, heavy with his breathing.            
She           is not crying,               she      
 
is not moving.  A stone could not lie         
this still. Fear closes the mouth.      
 
Nobody is speaking. The boy. The man.
His wife.                   But behind them
the chorus of chaos –
people bringing in bodies –
And outside the flames.

 

please see Marian Haddad’s full biographical information in her additional works in the SPRING ISSUE, and on her Author’s page.

* first published in Bat City Review

For Naomi Shihab Nye

Marian Haddad

Granddaughter
of Sitti Khadra,
I did not know you
until I picked
your book off a shelf
over fifteen years ago. 
 

It’s there I first read
about your yellow glove,
a red suitcase, your Uncle
Mohammad and the broom-
maker in Palestine,
the way you made it seem
he was a master
of this one lost art,

 

how he woke up
and began to weave
the seam around the straw,
stitched it into place,
taking such care,
as if it were something
his own wife would wear.
 

The way I saw your name
and it rang clear,
 something in it meant
you were quite like me. 
 

A name—how we relate
to people from our lands,
though I still
have mine, but you
do not
have yours. 
Syria is still
on the map,
and last month
it resonated loud
and clear, your Palestine
has been
erased
from the map
on my friend’s
wall.
 

For some reason, it was then,
I began to study
where every country lay,
and something in me sought
the places of my race,
 

and I began to see
the space between
Syria and Lebanon,
and how it was O.K.—
the separate countries
that they made,
allowed the other
to exist;

 

 I looked for Jordan,
Yemen, The United
Arab Emirates. 
Morocco and El Jazayer,
Berber countries first,
how they embraced
the same language
our grandfathers
spoke, but they, still
able to keep
their own identities.

 

I saw Israel
and thought,
Our neighbors, a part of us,
our space.  A cup of sugar please.
 

And for a moment I forgot
a strange happening.  I began to look
and look for one
country
I once had to name
on an old map.
 

My eye began to scan
the crevices in-between,
and a panic began
to stir somehow
inside the brain.

 

Unable to find
this one lost patch
of land, what color
was it then?
 

And the next second
it came to me.  The way
it’s been erased.

 

Oh, yes.  I cannot even place
my finger atop
it’s geographical brow,
the hump it might have made
under a braille hand
on the raised surface
of a sky blue globe.
 

It then made strange sense
to me, why I couldn’t find it
between it’s cluster
of neighboring spots.
 

I was appalled to think
someone had buried it
while I wasn’t looking
straight, and that I didn’t go
to this one funeral
they must have had
somewhere
to mourn their dead.

 

We hear so often
on the news, a story
somehow far away,
and we
forget to place
this one reality
in our own
dark book,

 

until something wakes us
into shock, and me pointing
my fleshy finger
on a land I once knew
existed there, cancelled
out.  What about Sandy,
and Paul, my brother’s friend,
his father’s father came
from there, her grandfather left it
for L.A., and now,
there is no finding it
again.  The place from which
they stemmed
has blown up, city
of smoke, and the houses
they once villaged in,
 

playing the nigh and the durbuk,
villages where weddings took,
and church bells rang,
or the call to prayer
in a mosque,
 

the children
playing with sticks
in thin alleys
between houses,
the women
baking the sej
and picking mint
out of
their own
small yards.

 

* first published in SCHERHERAZADE’S LEGACY, Ed. Susan Muaddi Darraj 
and RADIO TAHRIR via Barbara Nimri Aziz.

 

Marian Haddad, MFA is a Pushcart-nominated poet, writer, manuscript and publishing consultant, private writing mentor, visiting writer, lecturer and creative workshop instructor.  Her collection of poems, Wildflower. Stone., (Pecan Grove Press, 2011), is the press’s first hardback. Yusef Komunyakaa states that this collection, “…celebrates the observable mysteries of daily existence … these poems have dropped all disguises, and each rides the pure joy of music.  There are superb leaps and silences that deftly highlight the monumental in simple things.” 

Haddad’s chapbook, Saturn Falling Down, was published in (2003). Her full-length collection, Somewhere between Mexico and a River Called Home (Pecan Grove Press, 2004) approaches its fifth printing. Her poems, essays, reviews, and articles have been published in various literary journals and anthologies within the United States and Belgium and have been invited for publication in the Middle East. 

Haddad has taught creative writing at Our Lady of the Lake and Northwest Vista College, and International Literature and American Literature at St. Mary’s University.  Her works in progress include a collection of essays about growing up Arab American in a Mexican American border town.  She writes a blog for the San Antonio Express News