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.

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.

 

 

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.

 

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.

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.