Ghazal of Two Lovers

Sam Hamod

 

She said,

if I could

I would embroider you

into my heart

 

He replied, yes,

and the thread

the thread would come from mine

 

She said,

if I could

I would weave you

into my breath

 

He said, yes

you are already

within my breath,

without you, I could not breathe

 

She said,

if I could

I would take you

into my blood

 

He replied, yes,

I am already

in your blood

and, as well, yours is mine

 

She said,

if that is the case

then your are mine

I am yours

 

Yes, he said,

it is true,

we are one

the same blood, breath and heart

ځ

 

See Author’s complete bio on the Home Page and in the Author’s page.

 

 

The Muslim Scholar Searching for the Thousand and One Nights (Alf Laila, Wa Laila)

Sam Hamod

(for my old friend and teacher, Professor Muh’sin Mahdi of the Univ. of Chicago and Harvard, all the way from Iraq and the Alf Laila, Wa Laila)

 

 
Muh’sin found a thousand versions
of a thousand and one nights,
alf laila, wa laila,
in so many dialects that after a while
he decided
no one
not one
person
could have
even thought of
writing those thousands
of pages, of those thousands of
versions of the
thousand and one nights, so that
it had to be the hand
of a wizard, someone from outside
this life, someone who knew the
genii, someone who knew
the secrets of Ali Baba, of
Sinbad, and all the seas, pirates
and thieves of Arabia and
the Mediterranean, that was
a bearded genius, who smoked
the nargela by night, wandering
in and out of
dreams, who knew of carpets
flying, of horses that magically lifted into
air, with lights and jewels
all around, with beautiful virgins
who could not be
violated, who understood the wiles
of women, who understood they always
play the upper
trinket, that jangles in the
minds of men, who let slip the
sounds that
tempt men, circes
whose various
cries are music
to panting men’s ears,
he had to have found
the scars of generations of
men who have yearned to
capture this single
woman, the one
who has all the
secrets, but who
only lets them
secretly, almost
silently slip out of a
dream, like each day
is a dream, in the mind
of the wizard, the maker
of the sport and
pastime, whose hand guided
even her bangles as she
danced her nine hundred and
ninety-ninth night, fully knowing
the caliph had already been
eclipsed
by the moon
whose eyes
almond white against
her tanned skin
were a symphony
he could no longer
control, but even as he
breathed to ask
she moved slightly
away, out of his
reach, and even at his
command, did not
come–
in that moment
he was aware
of her hips of water, her
skin light olive
her eyes
flames
that burned
brighter into him
setting him afire

 
see author’s complete bio on the “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     

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.

 

إذا كان كوكبنا مغطى بالأزهار ال (If the Planet Were Covered With Wildflowers)

Lahab Assef Al-Jundi  (لهب عاصف الجندي)

 

إذا كان كوكبنا مغطى بالأزهار البريه،وماتَ أحدُّ بقسوة في الصين،تختفي كل الزهور.وَيملأ فضاءٌ من الظلمة مكانهم.وقتٌ للحزن.

هل سبق لك أن شربت من كأس الخلود؟طعم الخلود أطيب من أي وقت مضى.لماذا أستيقظ والأزهار البرية

تغطي العالم، وموتٌ في الصين، والخلود؟

فقط…  ذاتي الحالمه تعرف.

كلُ الشعر مكونٌ من أحرف أبجدية.كلُ الوجوه المتنوعة…عينان وشفتان وأنف.كلُ شيء عرفناه أو سنعرفهيمكن أن يُروى بالآحاد والأصفار.مازلتَ تعتقد أن الخلق عملية معقده؟

قلبي مغطى بالأزهار البرية.أظن أني سأعود للنوم وأزرع أكثر.سيجعلني هذا العالم قاحلاً مع هبوب الريحإذا لم أشرب وأشرب،

وأُسكب عواصف رعدية من الحزن الأزرق… 

 

If the Planet Were Covered with Wildflowers

If the planet were covered with wildflowers,
and someone dies a cruel death in China,
all the blooms would disappear.
A space of darkness would fill their place.
A time of sorrow.

Have you ever drank from eternity’s cup?
Eternity has never tasted so good.

Why would I wake up with a  wildflower-
covered world, death in China, and eternity?
Only my dreaming-self knows!

All poetry is assembled from letters of an alphabet.
All these diverse faces are two eyes, two lips and a nose.
Everything we ever knew or will know
can be told with ones and zeros.
You still think creation is that complicated?

My heart is covered with wildflowers.
I think I will go back to sleep and grow some more.
This world could render me arid with blowing winds
if I did not drink and drink,

Pour thunderstorms of blue grief…

 

 

photo by Melanie Rush Davis

Assef (Lahab) Al-Jundi  (لهب عاصف الجندي) was born, and grew up, in Damascus, Syria.  He published his first collection A Long Way in 1985. Assef’s poetry has appeared in numerous literary publications, and many Anthologies including: In These Latitudes, Ten Contemporary Poets, edited by Robert Bonazzi, Inclined to Speak, An Anthology of Contemporary Arab American Poetry, edited by Hayan Charara, and Between Heaven and Texas, edited by Naomi Shihab Nye. He currently resides in San Antonio, Texas, with wife Sara and two cockatiels Yoda and Princes.

 

 

A Date With the Moon

Lahab Assef Al-Jundi (لهب عاصف الجندي)

 

Last night I had a date with the moon.
I arrived early.
A small knoll by a high perimeter fence
topped with barbed wire.
“Prohibited.  Do Not Enter” sign
in red letters, hung on chain links.
In front of me, Texas Highway 281.
Beyond, airport runways graying
in faded evening light.

I sat waiting on hard thirsty earth.
Patches of spring grasses.
A few drooping wildflowers.
I squinted in the strong breeze
to keep dust out of my eyes.
Images of rebels on the road to Tripoli
seeped into my head.
They were battling a sandstorm
and killer mercenaries.
Fumes from passing traffic
drifted warm into my nostrils.
Tires hissing and growling along.
Oddly sweet.
Calming.
Cries of the wounded in Dara’a and Hama
reverberated.
Teargas-choked gasps.
People screaming:
“Freedom”.

Little by little sky darkened.
Lights shimmered brighter in the haze
of landing jet engines.
My anxious gaze scanned eastward
over runways and fields.
Neighborhoods settling down
for evening’s meal.

Out there
where horizon fades
between heaven and land,
moon warily emerged
bathed in crimson shades.

Boldly climbed.

Set night on fire.

 

 

Lahab Assef Al-Jundi please see author’s biographical information in his additional works, and on the Author’s Page.

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.

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.

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.”

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

 

 

A Bit of A Pout

Imen Bennani

 

I am here with the Viscaria,
left the Hyacinth behind,

brought Petunia instead
 

Do you hear the leaves growling?
the stigma gritting its teeth?

 

 Let me undo my hair…
remove this diamante slide,
release those tresses…
throw those golden rose pins and flower grips on the floor!

like a little spoiled girl
when contended with

 

Let me linger for a while with this pout
I need it to shape my serene smile afterwards

 

 

Imen Bennani

Imen Bennani

is a Tunisian teacher and scholar. She graduated from the faculty of Arts of Sousse (Tunisia) where she worked as assistant and taught English Literature. Imen Bennani made her MA on the poetry of Emily Dickinson and is currently preparing her PhD on contemporary Arab American Poetry. She now works as researcher at CEREDICREC (The Center for Research and Studies in the Dialogue of Cultures and Comparative Religions), Sousse, Tunisia. Her fields of interest include American Literature, Arab Literature, and Literary translation.

 

 

THREADS

Imen Bennani

 

Threads, threads
the bobbins in the heads
Am doubting the beginnings
dreading the ends
shall I drink up love’s cup to the dregs?
Here I am standing
with the white thread
waiting
for dawn to break, to
tell me: “you are right”

would I break the fast
at sunset in that sea
with love dates and glasses of ecstasy?
Or pledge eternal abstinence and see?
Threads, threads,
the black ones and the reds
Emily Dickinson’s ‘yarn of pearl’
or Hafiz’ smiling faces at the deathbeds?
Should Ariadne have supplied Thesus with the thread?
left deserted on the island
found dead
threads, threads
and mine with God cut–
I miss Him so
need to quickly make a knot
and climb to Him
follow the thread
threads, threads,
would my mouth smell of smoke
and my lips taste wine?
Would there be traces
of squeezed grapes?
Methinks I’d want God to check my mouth
then smile and say,   

 “I am satisfied”

 

 

Imen Bennani is a Tunisian teacher and scholar. She graduated from the faculty of Arts of Sousse (Tunisia) where she worked as assistant and taught English Literature. Imen Bennani made her MA on the poetry of Emily Dickinson and is currently preparing her PhD on contemporary Arab American Poetry. She now works as researcher at CEREDICREC (The Center for Research and Studies in the Dialogue of Cultures and Comparative Religions), Sousse, Tunisia. Her fields of interest include American Literature, Arab Literature, and Literary translation.

 

 

 

 

 

today i do such simple things

jim saliba

 

i get up

i take a hot steamy shower

wash away the night

i do not run out of water

the water does not bypass my home

on the way

up the hill

to my neighbors

the water runs into my house

washes over my skin

and drips into my open mouth

today i walk downtown to mail an express letter

no one stops me

no one asks me for a pass

i walk to work

no barricades block me

and if i wanted to go and buy a used car

and if i had a son

and i wanted to take my son

to look at

and maybe buy

a used car

i would not worry

we would go and look

at the car

i would not have to search for a concrete barrel

for us to hide behind

i would not have to stop the bullets

with no weapons nothing only my hand

reaching up and waving and shouting

the child the child

to stop them

before they shoot my son

and kill him

i would not worry

because today no one questions

my right to live on this land

we would go and see the car

and if we wanted

we would buy the car

and drive home

today i do such simple things

although today is yom kippur

no one locks me in my house

or barricades my street

i get up and go to work

i earn money to pay rent and buy food

and soap

and postage for the letter

i work on computers

no one questions my religion

or my ethnicity for my job

i do not have to work as a waiter or a builder

but if i chose to work as a waiter or a builder

or on computers

i could work today

no matter whose religious holiday it is

today they would not close my street

or lock me in my neighborhood

because today no one claims

a 3000 year old text makes it right

to throw me out of my home

to take away my land

to say there go to Canada

let the Canadians take you in

nobody questions my right to work

and to shower

and to eat

and to look at

and even to buy

a used cab

today i do such simple things

i hear the birds sing in the tree outside my window

i take a hot steamy shower

my neighbors up the hill do not take all the water for themselves

so i have water to wash and to drink today

i walk downtown and go to work

and if i want

i will go

to look at

and maybe buy

a used car

and if i had a son

i would take him

and i would not worry

my son would not press into my side

to hide from the bullets

and they would not shoot him in his belly

and he would not

die

 

* “this poem is about the death of mohammed al-dura, the 12 year old
palestinian boy who was photographed crouching beside his father,
moments before the boy was shot dead by israeli soldiers, at the
netzarim junction in gaza”  – jim saliba

first appeared in the Texas Observer

 

jim saliba – A descendant of turn-of-the-century Lebanese immigrants and rural Southern farmers, jim saliba grew up in Tennessee and Georgia. He studied drama at Stanford University and studied and taught poetry with June Jordan and her Poetry for the People program at the University of California at Berkeley. jim has constructed and directed performances in austria and california and is the artistic director of h e l p : human elemental laboratory of performance.

Call To Prayer

Shadab Zeest Hashmi

 

In a city hillocked and covered
with cherry blossoms
this time of the year
the runner
carrying the message of war
has reached

before
bales of cotton

Caravans bringing sugar and rice

 

The elders in their white gowns
have been moved
from their perch in the mosque

A cloud of quiet departs

The women are busying themselves
with salves
with feeding the horses that will carry
their men

The next call for prayer
will be made in full armor
 

Arrows threading the men’s bodies
will be removed during prayer

 

 

SHADAB ZEEST HASHMI

Shadab Zeest Hashmi’s poetry has appeared in various publications including Poetry International, Hubbub, New millenium Writings, Nimrod and  The Bitter Oleander. Her work has also been published online in The Courtland Review as well as other places. She is the author of the newly released book of poems The Baker of Tarifa.

 

 

If the Planet Were Covered with Wildflowers

Lahab Assef Al-Jundi(لهب عاصف الجندي)

 

If the planet were covered with wildflowers,
and someone dies a cruel death in China,
all the blooms would disappear.
A space of darkness would fill their place.
A time of sorrow.

Have you ever drank from eternity’s cup?
Eternity has never tasted so good.
 

Why would I wake up with a  wildflower-
covered world, death in China, and eternity?
Only my dreaming-self knows!
 

All poetry is assembled from letters of an alphabet.
All these diverse faces are two eyes, two lips and a nose.
Everything we ever knew or will know
can be told with ones and zeros.
You still think creation is that complicated?
 

My heart is covered with wildflowers.
I think I will go back to sleep and grow some more.
This world could render me arid with blowing winds
if I did not drink and drink,
 

Pour thunderstorms of blue grief…

 

 

 

إذا كان كوكبنا مغطى بالأزهار البريه

 

 

إذا كان كوكبنا مغطى بالأزهار البريه،
وماتَ أحدُّ بقسوة في الصين،
تختفي كل الزهور.
وَيملأ فضاءٌ من الظلمة مكانهم.
وقتٌ للحزن.

هل سبق لك أن شربت من كأس الخلود؟
طعم الخلود أطيب من أي وقت مضى.
لماذا أستيقظ والأزهار البرية

تغطي العالم، وموتٌ في الصين، والخلود؟

فقط…  ذاتي الحالمه تعرف.

 
كلُ الشعر مكونٌ من أحرف أبجدية.
كلُ الوجوه المتنوعة…عينان وشفتان وأنف.
كلُ شيء عرفناه أو سنعرفه
يمكن أن يُروى بالآحاد والأصفار.
مازلتَ تعتقد أن الخلق عملية معقده؟

قلبي مغطى بالأزهار البرية.
أظن أني سأعود للنوم وأزرع أكثر.
سيجعلني هذا العالم قاحلاً مع هبوب الريح
إذا لم أشرب وأشرب،

وأُسكب عواصف رعدية من الحزن الأزرق…
 

 

 

 

 

Photo by Melanie Rush Davis

 

Lahab Assef Al Jundi (لهب عاصف الجندي) was born, and grew up, in Damascus, Syria.  He published his first collection A Long Way in 1985. Assef’s poetry has appeared in numerous literary publications, and many Anthologies including: In These Latitudes, Ten Contemporary Poets, edited by Robert Bonazzi, Inclined to Speak, An Anthology of Contemporary Arab American Poetry, edited by Hayan Charara, and Between Heaven and Texas, edited by Naomi Shihab Nye. He currently resides in San Antonio, Texas, with wife Sara and two cockatiels Yoda and Princes.