At Fakhani, The Shoe: Lebanon, After the Bombing

Sam Hamod

 

It is a
Shoe     a
Single baby’s
Shoe
I pull it from the
Wreckage in Fakhani, a refugee
Shoe
Separated from its
Foot,   it is April
And it is darkening in the covering
Black Lebanese earth, the soft earth
Has cracked its white surface, marked with
Streaks of blood

And who wore this shoe, what
Little girl, or was it a
Boy, what did the
Father say when he
Smiled, did he laugh
Back, or was she a shy girl who had
Already learned to be a
Coquette – or was she
Chubby and withdrawn among
People, if he was a boy
Was he already strong, his
Dark hair flying as he
Wrestled his father’s
Arm – and what
Did her mother say to her
Father when they heard the jets
Screech across the sky, did they
Hear the whistle, or was it an
Offshore song, Israeli sirens at
Sea who sent in wave after wave of
Glistening silver sheets of
Sorrow.
And why was
This little shoe
Left by itself to wonder
In the dark, to find its way
To the surface by itself, and how
Did it feel

Leaving its foot behind­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­―
And what did the foot say
As the shoe slipped away
In the darkness
Toward the surface, did the
Child turn over as if in
A dream
did he dream
his
Mother and father were blowing
Away

And what am I
To say, a stranger now
To my parent’s land, in the
Bright Washington afternoon,
Here in Fakhani, holding onto this
Little shoe, feeling grief in
Arabic saying it in English, so
That it is flat against
The round care of this shoe, something
Is missing, how did this shoe come
To surface today to meet me, the
Child who can explain it
Is sleeping
Under the new coming
Grass, under the splintered boards and
Shining glass, and how
Long can we stand in the
Shadows hiding what our hearts know – like
A telegraph beacon repeating
Someone is missing
Someone is missing
Someone is missing.
 

Now
Sucking in the air
We drink Palestine, we taste
Lebanon, we hear Syria, we remember
Jordan, all the same
Land, the home of the same shoes,
Split now,   like this foot
From its shoe,     the blood smell
Coming from the piles of
Debris
In the hot Lebanese sun, and
So we are at home, tearing away
The language and names
Of countries, of village,
Tearing away the memory of these
Past two weeks, believing this shoe
Never had a foot, something lost
From a shoe store by mistake, something made
Alone and single in the tannery of
Rafik Dibbs in Machgara in southern
Lebanon, some sort of dream of what it was like
In Alay and Zah׳ le, when people
Would stay up until early morning
Doing the dab׳kee, eating olives and
Kib׳bee by the flowing creek

A place where there were
No airplanes, a place where
There were no rockets, no
Ships lobbing in shells from
The blue and glistening Mediterranean, but
This shoe, we know
Is missing its foot –
Shall we search in Tel Aviv, in Washington, in
Moscow – shall we search, or
Shall we make another
Speech, shall we make another
Poem, shall we empty the canister
Of language and simply
Cry.
 

The shoe
Yes,
I give you this
Shoe,
It is
Not mine,
It is
ours   

 

 

Dr. 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.

Sudanese Woman

Jack Marshall

 

Coarse, prematurely creased as animal hide,
skin blackened sun-baked flour, unrisen,
shrunken tight around her skeletal
bone base underneath; pooled eyes
filled with having seen dawn and sunset’s
blood-red on the dunes; with drinking
the water of the sand scavenged en route;
chalky palms lifting mush meal to her
fly-ridden mouth. Stripped of
children, husband, kin, and home’s
mud walls is party to slow dying, surely
as from the stones nearby, one day
a smiling statue will grow out of lies.
As if more arsenals needed emptying;
as if more generals needed to perfect
maneuvers, and not enough wedding parties
are thinned out. As if breath’s
witness must be kept vagabond, death-bound,
and, struck like flint, refused a spark.
For her, in wrapped in widowhood’s cloak,
in heat’s long tearing veil, all colors
are blended, bleached into corpse-clotted
waterholes. In whipping, flimsy fabric,
she stares out, one among countless
grains squatting on the bare gravel ground
of their lives. The freshness that time
had once laid in store, lays no more,
and a promise to satisfy, that could not then,
is farther away than the farthest
cry now.
  
 
 
 

 

 
 

please see authors bio in his additional works for CWPJ and on the Author’s page.

 

 

Fertile Soul

Mahnaz Badihian

 

I labor a new woman in me every day
I am not in my twenties
not even in my forties
But the art of multiplication is still in me
I am a growing new garden
new buds.
I feel life crawling on my shoulders
with the gods of fertility,
that will never let me stop being a woman

 

 

Mahnaz Badihian is a poet and translator whose work has been published into several languages worldwide, including Persian, Turkish, and Malayalam. Her work has appeared in many literary magazines including Exiled ink! and in Marin Poetry Center Anthology amongst others. She attended the Iowa Writer’s workshop with a focus on international poetry while practicing as a dentist in Iowa City.  Her publications include two volumes of poetry in Persian and a best-selling translation of Pablo Neruda’s Book of Questions into Persian.  Her most recent publication is a critically acclaimed book of original English language poetry, From Zayandeh Rud to the Mississippi. She has an awarding winning selection of poetry (XIV Premio Letterario Internazionale Trofeo Penna d’Autore, Tornio) translated into Italian by Cristina Contili and Pirooz Ebrahimi. 

Every Morning

Mahnaz Badihian

 

Every morning I visit every tree in this garden
even before I wash my face or comb my hair.
All the trees know a few facts.
They know the same woman will water them day after day,
the woman who picks one apple from the red apple tree
She is the woman, who asks if the rain lets them sleep at night,
the woman who goes to every tree
even before the sun can shine on them.
Not all the trees are happy in this garden
Some are moody on certain days, some get
annoyed with the cold or the heat
Some are so difficult they hate being touched
Some so brave they can grow tall even in the absence of rain
By now I know all their names
I know what makes each one smile

The man who sleeps in my bed is morose every day
but I lack the art of knowing what makes him sad.
He is like those trees, never talks
Once I asked him if it was the rain, or the cold
or the yellow color of the sheets?
Is it the color of my eyes, the size of my thighs?
Or even the way I lay down?
It is Sunday morning and I go to the garden to watch the trees

 

 

Mahnaz Badihian is a poet and translator whose work has been published into several languages worldwide, including Persian, Turkish, and Malayalam. Her work has appeared in many literary magazines including Exiled ink! and in Marin Poetry Center Anthology amongst others. She attended the Iowa Writer’s workshop with a focus on international poetry while practicing as a dentist in Iowa City.  Her publications include two volumes of poetry in Persian and a best-selling translation of Pablo Neruda’s Book of Questions into Persian.  Her most recent publication is a critically acclaimed book of original English language poetry, From Zayandeh Rud to the Mississippi. She has an awarding winning selection of poetry (XIV Premio Letterario Internazionale Trofeo Penna d’Autore, Tornio) translated into Italian by Cristina Contili and Pirooz Ebrahimi. 

 

 

 

Frog

Ko Un
Translation by Don Mee Choi

 

Crying all night long
crying kaegol kaegol
That potent cry
makes a rice paddy

Make a rice paddy to give to the poor
Sang-soe, good to see you again
Here, a patch of paddy for Kum-sun too

Look at the morning fields
such a colorful bride
All the frogs are asleep
from crying all night

kaegol kaegol

Translated by Don Mee Choi

 

 

Don Mee Choi was born in S. Korea and came to the U.S. as a student in
1981. She studied art at the California Institute of the Arts. Her
poems have appeared in The Asian Pacific American Journal, Hawaii
Pacific Review, disorient journalzine, and Gargoyle. She lives in
Seattle and translates poetry of several contemporary Korean women
poets.

 

 

see Ko Un’s bio in additional works and in Author’s page.

Sanctuary

Mark A. Murphy

 

Every night you open in me a fountain

of forbidden words,

words like love and sadness and freedom

and though none or few

(too few to make a difference)

shall listen to those troubled words,

the words must be written

lest the present should ever be forgotten.

 

While the generals celebrate

and the rulings of state empower the rich,

we are never far from the troubled lives of the poor,

or the boys in uniform, the uneasy killers –

who write their final letters home.

It is not possible to say when the war will end,

or count the dead in such a way

as to bring any comfort to the living.

 

You say, ‘get up, do not be afraid,

write your poems, my love.’

And there it is again, the struggle

to be one’s self, the customary carnage,

the struggle to speak the truth.

What man will raise his arms in defiance –

raise his head above the hole

he has spent years digging for himself?

 

Every night you free me

from the disapproval of my fellow poets

whose ancient belief in the natural order of things

condones the ‘war of all against all.’

And so we return once more to forbidden words,

words like peace and justice and brotherhood –

even these words must be written

albeit against the stream.

 

 

please see Author, Mark A. Murphy’s bio in his additional works for CWPJ and on the Author’s page.

 

TROLLEY

Marc Carver

 

I look outside the window
and see the shopping trolley
that is sat in the park.
It has been there now
for about two or three weeks
I have lost count
Of how long.
 
I have seen young children being pushed about in it.
But there is no one there today.
The park is empty
and so
is the trolley.
 
The clouds get blacker and the rain gets heavier.
A bird flies over the trolley
And out of view.
 
I change my view
But still
I
Feel the same way.

 

 

Marc Carver has published four books of poetry, worked on a poetry site in New York City and has had two hundred poems published individually. He has performed in America and all around the venues in London and southern England. He resides in the United Kingdom.
  

 

CASSANDRA IN WASHINGTON, D.C.

Oriana Ivy

 

Te idiotki, my hostess calls
the American women.
“These idiots go in public like that,”
she exclaims at the sight
of housewives helmeted in rollers.
Hawaiian muumuus splash
hibiscus in the produce aisles:
 “That’s how these idiots dress” –
When we see a young family:
“These idiots marry at eighteen
and have five children.”

           

With a wave of her bony but still
elegant hand, she points to
an overflowing shopping cart –
skyscrapers of canned soup,
soda pop, Puffa-Puffa Rice –
“Isn’t it vulgar?”

 

Then she turns toward me
as I stand there with my meek
girl-from-a-good-home smile.
Eyes me sharply
up and down.
For the first and only time,

 

she addresses me in English:
You will never make it.
You don’t know
how to sell yourself.
Her hard “r” in never
laughs like a knife.

 

 

Oriana Ivy please see Oriana’s full biography in her additional works in this issue and on the Author’s Page.

 

 

The Ronald Reagan Memorial Poem

Brandon Cesmat

 

Mr. President, given you medical history
the “Reagan Memorial” anything seemed in poor taste to me.
But after seeing your spirit float proudly along your freeways,
through so many schools and over your own aircraft carrier,
the jets taking off and disappearing like many facts,
I now bow to peer pressure and offer this memorial poem.
 
I saw your funeral inside the National Cathedral,
          the camera at a bird’s-eye angle
          the same as God must’ve had:
          ring of mourners around your casket,
          mise-en-scène as if by Busby Berkeley,
          the way you would’ve wanted it.
Your coffin sat to the bottom of the encircling crowd, so
your funeral looked like The Smiley Face gone serious and blind.
 
How appropriate, I thought, not the blindness,
but the respectful space around your coffin,
for it was there the ghosts began to drift:
the Iranians whom Iraq gassed with military aid
you initiated over Amnesty International’s cries. Listen,
we can still hear them weeping for Kurds, Kuwaitis and,
of course, our own.
How good of you to sit up in the casket and salute.
 
Then came the Nicaraguenses, some carrying
their diaphanous limbs lopped off by your contras.
In grace, they piled eyes, ears, breasts,
genitalia and tongues into your coffin.
 
The Salvadoreños wearing neutralized expressions
followed the Afghanis whom your freedom fighters liberated
from life and any happy pursuit not
allowed by a literal reading of the Koran.
 
Finally, the Guatamaltecos crowded
comfortably around your coffin;
they’d been practicing in mass graves at least
since you restored military aid in ‘81.
                                                         
Did you recognize the ghost of Bishop Juan Gerardi?
You were deep in the delusions of Alzheimer’s in ‘98 when
a graduate of Fort Benning’s School of the Americas
bludgeoned Bishop Gerardi for counting Guatemala’s dead.
Genocide plus one.
 
How big of you not to make a fuss when
Gerardi helped you from your coffin and absolved you,
you not repenting and all that.
 
Your coffin loaded with broken bodies, the ghosts
glided beside you riding behind the caisson,
the nation honoring you in death as in life:
remembering nothing but good things:
how you held the picket line at the Warsaw shipyards,
how you stared down the Kremlin guards who took you hostage,
how you freed Tibet and
personally piloted the Dali Lama home on Air Force One.
 
It must have been at that moment of the procession,
you riding backwards yet comfortable in your old boots,
all of us suffering Sympathy Alzheimer’s,
that your mind was healed and
you understood you were on your way to heaven,
to spend eternity with the ghosts flowing beside you,
and that was when you began to cue the horse back
along the trail, so the bullets would revert to dollars,
the ink on the executive order flowing into the pen in your hand.
God bless that horse,
even with you sitting backwards in the saddle like that,
it wanted to obey your cues and turn from the grave,
but, alas, the soldier leading it had other orders.

 

 

Brandon Cesmat has conducted readings throughout The Americas. His books include Driven into the Shade, Light in All Directions and When Pigs Fall in Love. His blog is http://brandoncesmat.blogspot.com/ 

Cesmat currently teaches creative writing at CSU San Marcos and for California Poets in the Schools. He blogs about writer residencies for CPITS at http://cpits.wordpress.com/ 
           

Cesmat’s interdisciplinary work includes performances with the arts ensemble Drought Buoy, collaborating with visual artists at the Escondido Municipal Gallery and California Center for the Arts Museum, a documentary on poetry from the San Diego-Tijuana region titled Cruzando Líneas. He is currently an artist in residence for the San Diego Arts Institute Page-to-Stage program.

 

The Scented Whiffs of Jasmine/ 확 퍼지는 자스민 향기

Ines Abassi

Translation by Olfa Drid

 

The texture of the cloak of night,
An azure dawn full of the breath of the sea.
And the scent of the white lilies of departure
Fills the heart, fills the soul,
Fills the city, heavily armed with daggers
Made of the silver of days.
Memories:
Memories stretch over time 
Upon each fall
From the edge of waiting.
Memories shimmer in the womb of night:
Agony,
A gasp like an ornament on your blue shirt.
Memories:
Twinkle on the eyelashes of dawn
Like a rhymed dream.
Memories, the strings of the spirit’s harp,
Right in the middle of a dream.
The night lifts the veil off its face,
Expectant and fertile,
Forming in the bowels of time
Ever since the step met its mate
In the wilds of chance;
Ever since the dance of wolves
Failed to stop in your blood
Scorched by mine;
Ever since the soul touched its soul
In the body of a poem,
And the rose of longing did not heal.
Searing:
It is the white extent
Embracing the flicker of two lights,
And the wafting breath of drifting jasmine
Under the windows of the night.
It is the heart courting the heart,
A stretch of memories,
And the same music of longing
Dancing with the letters of the alphabet,
Letters curiously leaping
From all corners of language.
The night is suffused
With the sound of violins,
Summing up the passion of yearnings
And the softness of light.
And…the heart,
Heaving with the blood of longing,
Has turned into a sea shell,
Concealing the buzz of language
And the conceit of words.
The heart, your heart,
A garden of longing shaded by orange blossoms
And the jasmine of joy.
The heart, your heart, is my pergola,
And your soul a post to which are tethered
The horses of the night;
The whispers of the timid dawn,
The sound of waves and the cries of gulls.
…..

From the pinnacle of the soul,
And passion,
I excised the fuzz of words from my speech
And swept the dust off these times.

퍼지는 자스민 향기

밤이 걸친 외투의 질감,

바다 숨결 가득한 푸른 새벽.

이별의 흰 백합 향기가

가슴을 채우고, 영혼을 채우고

낮의 은으로 만든 단검으로 중무장한

도시를 채운다.

추억들,

기다림의 모서리에서

하나씩 떨어질 때마다

추억은 시간 위에 펼쳐진다.

추억은 밤의 자궁에서 가물거린다.

고뇌,

너의 푸른 셔츠 위에 장식 같은 숨막힘.

추억들은

압운(押韻)된 꿈처럼

새벽의 눈썹에서 반짝거린다.

추억들, 꿈의 한 복판에서 울리는

영혼이라는 하프의 현들.

시간의 내장에서 형성되는

기대에 차 있고 비옥한

밤이 얼굴에서 베일을 들어 올린다,

우연의 황야에서

그 발걸음이 짝을 만난 이래 줄곧,

늑대들의 춤이

내 피로 태워져버린

당신의 피에 멈출 수 없었던 이래 줄곧,

시라는 몸에서

영혼이 그것의 영혼을 만지고

열망의 장미가 치료되지 않은 이래 줄곧.

불태움,

그것은 깜빡이는 두 빛을 품는

하얀 넓이이며

밤의 창문 아래

떠도는 자스민의 살랑거리는 숨결이다.

그것은 마음을 구애하는 마음,

추억의 확장이며

언어의 구석구석에서

기이하게 도약하는 글자들,

그 알파벳의 글자로 춤추는

열망의 음악이다.

빛의 부드러움과

연모의 열정을 요약하는

바이올린 소리로

밤은 가득하다.

그리고 … 그리움의 피로 울렁거리는

마음은

언어의 소란스러움과

말의 기상(奇想)을 숨기고

바다 조개껍질로 변했다.

그 마음, 당신의 마음이 나의 정자

그리고 당신의 영혼은 밤의 말(馬)들이

매여 있는 기둥.

소심한 새벽의 속삭임,

파도와 갈매기의 울음소리.

……

열정과

영혼의 정점에서

나는 내 말에서 말의 흐릿함을 잘라내고

이 시대의 먼지를 닦아냈다.

 

 

Ines Abassi

Tunisian poet and writer Ines Abassi was born in 1982. She is also working as a journalist in UAE. In 2004, her poetry collection Secrets of the Wind was published in Tunisia., which won the best selection of poetry same year. In 2007, Archive of Blind was published in Egypt, which won the CREDIF prize for the year 2007-2008. This prize was awarded by the Tunisian Ministry of Woman’s Centre for Search, Study, Documentation and Information on Woman. She has participated in numerous literary activities: first Arab Youth Literature Festival in Oman, Literature Festival in Jordan, Asian African Literature Festival in Jeonjou, Korea. Abassi has spent 6 months in Seoul joining in the Korea Literature Translation Institute’s residence program.  And she participated in SIWF 2010 (Seoul Internationnal Writing Festival).

Based on her residency experiences, she wrote a narrative book, Tales of Korean Shahrazad. This book, which was published in Lebanon, talks about Korean society, culture, history and habitudes. Currently, she publishes her poetry, writings and translations through a number of newspapers, magazines and websites including al etihad (UAE), al arab (London), al sahafa, alhayat athatkafia (Tunisia), al watan (Jordan), kitabat mouasira (Lebanon) and dubai al thaqafia (UAE).

 

 

 

 

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.

The Life of Poetry

David Kherdian

 

Any biography must be divided into two parts; the years prior to 16, which are unconscious, or consciousness opening, and the years after 16, which are invented. We believe what we say, especially when we write what we claim is the truth. Aside from writing, what I have done since that age of 16 is irrelevant, no matter how damaging it may have been, and supposedly real on that account. It is my early  life that concerns me, but it is very nearly impossible to talk about this life except perhaps as art, because that is the dimension it most nearly approximates. What we know as growing children is instinctive and inseparable from our ecology, because we are controlled then by sun and tides, and our moods are more animal than human. The delicate thread then was not the dichotomy between fantasy and reality, family and solitary wandering, but my own unknowable relation to the sun and plants, and the mysterious upstream movement of fish (that I followed with such rapture and attention as to become fish myself), that determined the flow and current of my own life. This is the world we forfeit when we acquire adulthood, and this is the world of the unconscious that only children and artists know about. And it is as an artist that I am returning to what was once mine by birthright.Therefore, I have no biography worth telling as exterior event, and I will not tell that biography until it becomes the equivalent of and moves parallel to my own created life, which is poetry. I find in my writing that I gain the future by reclaiming and making whole the past. Only poetry can do this for me, because only through poetry can I achieve a working relationship with my unconscious, which gives shapes and forms to periods lived in chaos and ignorance. It takes years to understand an experience and a lifetime to know who we are. Therefore, in this true sense, all of  my writing is autobiographical because my own story, when truly told, becomes everyone’s.

 

 

David Kherdian is the author of 69 books: poetry, novels, biographies, memoirs, anthologies, bibliographies, retellings, translations, and children’s books (many illustrated by his Caldecott award winning wife, Nonny Hogrogian), which include a narrative biography of the Buddha, a retelling of the Asian classic Monkey,10 poetry anthologies, including his major groundbreaking anthology: Settling America: Fourteen Ethnic American Poets; Forgotten Bread: Armenian American Writers of the First Generation. His biography of his mother’s childhood and survival of the Armenian genocide, The Road From Home, was a Newbery Honor book, among other awards and prizes, and was nominated for the American Book Award. Kherdian’s forthcoming book is titled, Gatherings: From the Selected Writings of David Kherdian.