My Father’s Garden

Marian Haddad

 

is full of weeds now –
I am okay with that – as a matter of fact –
I am stunned by their grace – their appearance since
May – I came to say Sabah il khayr –
 

to kiss the forehead of a father
one late Sunday morning – and they
took me
by surprise – and me gasping . . .
deep –  almost smiling . . . standing there,
by the bay
window bringing in
droves of light . . .
 

There they were –
what we call weeds –
but they were florid and high
in their stance . . . and the richest,
green – little yellow buds peeking
their heads . . . between what seemed
fields of gathering
fern . . . I was amazed
at the fecundity of forms . . .
of grass
of bright yellow
happenings. Our field
was near-covered
with them.
 

My father walked in to see
what all my great commotion
was about – he smiled, shyly,
almost ashamed . . . and said,
 

Badnah nik’lah-on –
“We need to pull them out.”
 

The man he was would never have
allowed such rampant things –
But I said, “No, Baba!”  “These
are beautiful.”  He looked and tried to see,
and I think he may have agreed
after the looking –
 

Two, maybe three feet of feathery
growth – and what seems a field
of small wild flowers
at the tips of stems . . . bright –
the color of sun –
and just enough space
between them
for wind to play
and breezes to sway
stems  . . . perhaps
 

his field has been
so dry for so long –
that they remind me
of his kept garden
that curled around our house
 

The grass was always there
and watered – as if we
expected it to be –
us running
through our busy days –
I assume we never thought
of how it stayed – Father
watering, placing the hose,
curled like a gardensnake
among grass – perhaps
that is why our lawn
was never as evenly colored
as the neighbors’ yards –
 

he would shift – after so long,
the placement of the coiled hose
to dryer spots, rotate,
every so often, the fielding
of water –
 

and so, naturally,
there were some yellow
spots and tufts of grass
that water
did not reach.  But there was always
 

grass . . . and the bricks and rocks
he’d use to build low circles around the trees
he’d plant – we saw them bud and grow –
yield his proud fruit – always asking the guests
if they’d like to see
the garden,
explaining proudly,
pointing each one out . . . and the naming began:
 

–          apricot, fig, plum

–          mish-mosh, teen, khokhh
 

and the grapevines that crawled
along the stone
fence – so high, grapeleaves covered
the wall – and the grapes, hanging heavy
in their descending bodies
along the periphery
of our place –
 

and then
the daly  – the place he built
with chicken-wire and wood –
holding the vines up –
 

training them
to grow
this way . . . or that . . .
 

it was what others might call
a coop . . . we’d enter this large
sub-garden through a fence that unlatched –
chicken-wire high above us
and all around
to keep
the birds out  – to protect
the grapes – not pecked at

Father would walk slowly
amid the daly, raise his arms high up
to pick the pickable ones –
 

And I’d follow him
and put them in
a deep, long tray
until it was full –

arms heavy with fruit
and overflowing . . .
 

Picking grapes
in my father’s proud yard.

 

* first published on Rawi Website, and appears in the latest collection of Marian Haddad’s, WILDFLOWER. STONE. (Pecan Grove Press 2011) . . . to order an autographed copy, contact Marian Haddad at haddadmarian@aol.com

 

for author’s complete bio please see additional works in the SPRING ISSUE.  Haddad’s full bio may also be viewed on her “Author’s Page.”

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.  

 

 

 

 

The Sheer Weight of History is Found in Anis Shivani’s, Anatolia and Other Stories, Book Review by Marian Haddad

  

Being the daughter of Syrian immigrants who made their way to Texas in the mid 1950’s, and being the only child of theirs born in these United States, reading Shivani’s stories calls up my immigrant parents’ ways and their desire to acclimate to this new land while staying rooted in their cultural traditions.  Shivani’s stories juxtapose the deep and spiritual connections to ancestral traditions—with the very American reality of the daily life immigrants experience here. 

Anatolia and Other Stories has allowed me to revisit the rich geography of existing in-between countries and cultural traditions, reminding me—it is possible to belong to more than one cultural tradition.  It then becomes either a gift or an obligation or both to be able to ask, “What is a country?” and “How many countries can I belong to?” and “What comes from speaking or knowing more than one language?”

In addition to being a part of varied countries and cultural traditions, Shivani reminds his readers, via an important line in his story, “Tehran”, about the responsibility and import of opening our eyes and not “turning a blind eye to whatever outrageous violence has occurred the night before.”

 

* * *

 

            Shivani’s story, “Manzanar”— which revisits the sad reality of the Japanese internment camp in California during World War II—is a testament to Shivani’s not turning that blind eye, and though it was more than half a century ago that this atrocity took place, Shivani’s story shook me at the core and to the very root.  When his characters in this piece shared their stories of having left all they had behind, some dying at Manzanar, never returning to the homes from which they were ousted, I was freshly stunned.  These Japanese immigrants or Japanese Americans were, for all said purposes, “owned”—bereft of the freedom to remain living their “normal” lives; some of those who were marched off to Manzanar were not Japanese immigrants, but merely ancestrally connected to Japan. One such character is Jim Hosokawa, a character in “Manzanar” whose story shook me. 

            In “Manzanar” we hear, “How was it we thought we could become fully American, unassailably patriotic American, and get away with the illusion for so long?”  Then Hosokawa gives us a specific numerical answer, “Forty-two years in my case.”

              Jim Hosokawa, renowned Issei intellectual and community

              leader, founder of at least five literary journals for exile-

              minded Japanese over his lifetime, restrainer of hotheaded

              Kibei too enamored of the emperor’s charms, one-time

              manager of the most dignified hotel on the Seattle water-

              front, importer of teas and herbs, exporter of machinery,

              shipper, wholesaler, middleman, broker, insurance maven,

              and icon of extreme moderation in all things worldly and

              Olympian; lover of . . . middle-of-the-road politicians,

              Mr. Roosevelt’s New Deal before it became old, improbable

              dances, and peace in the world; and the single most

              important moderating influence on the Japanese American

              Citizens League . . .”

Another Hosokawa line that resonates powerfully is, “Some profile.  Forty-two years of forgetting and not wanting to remember, then suddenly, I’m forced toremember.  Old Japan, mist-shrouded Kyoto temples, houses frail as matchboxes, narrow streets that one traversed with the head down . . . and always a profound silence, which prevented coming to terms with history.”

              I, myself, wondered—after having been freshly reminded of Manzanar, if the atrocities of  9/11 had occurred mere decades earlier, would my brothers and sisters, whoare now active participants in the American economy and long-time American citizens themselves have been called to their own Manzanar, their own internment camp?   Would I, having been born in Texas, been interred? 

And  though post 9/11 brought horrific inaccurate imprisonments, and though many professors’ and physicians’ doors were knocked on by “authorities” merely because they were of Arabic or Muslim descent, and though great strides must still be made to achieve equality until all peoples are devoid of harassment caused by racial profiling, I was, somehow, more-than-slightly relieved—after reading “Manzanar”—inasmuch as we, thankfully, had somehow avoided an internment camp of our own, innocent Americans with connection to Arab ancestry, held for years.

It became startling to me, that it wasn’t so far-fetched to imagine that the knock at our own doors could have easily translated into all of us being led to a “small camp” for “holding”, leaving everything behind—mostly, our freedom.

Shivani’s story is all I could talk about for days, it did what good fiction should; it triggered response, engagement, and, in this case, active conversations “again” about how American citizens and resident aliens could be, and still are, arrested with no wrongdoing to call their own.  “Manzanar” boggles the mind—that such camps could have existed under our U.S. Bill of Rights.

 

* * *

 

Though Shivani is writing in fiction format, his stories are more than real; I dare say each reader will likely forget these pieces are written as “fiction”; this body of work comes across, almost throughout, as a collection of personal essays or a memoir, and no matter how old the realities are that are housed at the center of these works, they resonate with incredible power and relevance. 

What these stories offer that textbook accounts do not—is the human component, the reality of personal suffering under the guise of a country’s “safety”—the reality of persecution.  The personal component is not overlooked in Shivani’s work, but showcased, highlighted, made hauntingly real.

 

* * *

 

In “Dubai”, the first story in Shivani’s collection and which has been awarded special mention for The Pushcart Prize, we find Ram, an undocumented Indian worker in Dubai who has been able to continue work despite his lack of documentation, but “Something tells him he must leave Dubai before he’s made to.”  We, through Ram’s eyes, are allowed to see Dubai through visceral descriptions as his story unfolds, “Not even Friday makes Dubai really slow down,” and “Already, well before noon, the most devout among the Emirati worshippers are making their way to the Grand Mosque, their flowing white dishdashas starched and sparkling, their headscarves tightly tied by the black aghal.” 

Though the romantic notions are beautifully wrought, there is a line in “Dubai” that most haunted me after my own recent visit there—where it seemed apparent that there were a toppling number of Europeans, Latin Americans, and Asians making Dubai their residence, and nationals seemed somehow the minority.  This haunting moment  to which I am referring in this story begins with reference to the ancient Deira district, “Notices to tear down the ramshackle twenties building which Krishan’s shop fronts have been issued since the time the tallest building in Dubai was a few stories high, not even easily visible from the wharves.”  This points to the old being done away with, at whatever cost—as new and shining streets, lined with skyscrapers, such as the famous Birj Dubai and Birj Al Arab, take their place. 

On my plane ride back from Dubai, I was immersed in The Khaleej Times, reading through some numbers that seemed to underscore this socio-economic divide, substantiated right there on the front page of the business section, July 17, 2008, reporting in big bold letters the hopes that “Dubai residential prices could ease in 2010 on demand-supply balance” and went on to delineate that Dubai’s average house rent per sq. ft. in June 2007 was Dh1,291 and that the price per square foot rose to Dh1,818 in June 2008, a considerable leap over the span of one year.

This visitor, Marian, left Dubai with a sense there was, somehow, at the core, a quiet exit of many nationals.  And this undocumented character in ‘Dubai’ made it clear that workers were needed to build ‘the new’—the desire to continually elevate the status quo, making room for the incoming wealthy, mostly Westerners, to take up residence in this fantastical land. 

I recalled, vividly, this sense of desperation I had while observing Dubai itself, as Shivani’s character speaks, “But so much has passed away, so rapidly.  In another generation—poof!—no one will have any memory of the ways of our forefathers.” The character goes on to say, “But this is all to the good.  Sheikh Mo says we must be number one—in everything.  There’s nothing difficult about progress.  Only cowards are afraid.”

 

* * *

 

So many stories in this compelling collection are worth recounting.  This book almost makes it impossible to cover the plethora of compelling subjects it houses.  One story, again, that called up the reality of my own childhood, though to a slightly lesser degree, was Gypsy and its very real reminders of the familiar immigrant cultures where fathers seek to marry off their daughters to men within their circle. In this story, the Rom (gypsy) father advises the young daughter, “They’ll visit to formally seek your hand.”

“I was thirteen,” the daughter reminds. 

In my own story, I was fifteen or sixteen, perhaps, when “callers” came to pursue the daughter of a reputable Syrian-American man.  By the time I was eighteen, I would say that a marriage to one of the “callers” would have been as welcome, if not more welcome, than an education, and my father was a lover of intellect and learnedness; but if a doctor from a good family called, this might be something I should “consider”.

Unlike me, the daughter in “Gypsy” does end up marrying; later in life, she finds herself alone, almost relishing that independence she initially craved, but had not been allowed.

In another shaft of light, Gypsy calls up the immigrant Rom men, from Hungary, in compelling dialogue. Uncle Vlad “talked about scoping out business opportunities in the big cities of the Midwest” . . . while the father of the thirteen-year-old narrator replies to a comment Uncle Vlad makes about Truman, “But his people helped us get over here.  God knows what they are doing to our brothers in Hungary . . . if they’re alive or dead.” 

What follows is a line that spotlights the immigrant spirit of resilience and tenacity in their quest to make a life in any land of opportunity, any ‘safer’ land. Uncle Vlad (who not unlike my father and my uncles who immigrated to the U.S. from Syria) reminds, “The Rom will go on until the end of time.  We’ll figure out new ways to survive.”

*book review appeared in another form in The Texas Observer

 

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.  

Black Lawrence Press

ANIS SHIVANI is a fiction writer, poet, and critic in Houston, Texas. His stories appear in Other Voices, Crazyhorse, Stand, Confrontation, River City, South Dakota Review, and elsewhere.  A poetry manuscript, My Tranquil War and Other Poems, was selected by David Shapiro as the runner-up for the 2007 Marsh Hawk Press Prize; poems appear in The Threepenny Review, Denver Quarterly, Iowa Review, TLS, Subtropics, Meanjin, Verse, and other journals. A book of criticism, American Fiction in Decline: Publishing in an Age of Plenty, is in progress; essays assessing the current state of American fiction and poetry appear in American Book Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Colorado Review, Cambridge Quarterly, Northwest Review, Pleiades, The Antioch Review, Boulevard, and elsewhere.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

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

 

 

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