Ghazal, muallaqat, etc.
“On this plain I stopped, after an absence of twenty summers, and with difficulty could recollect the mansion of my fair one after long meditation.”
- “The Poem of Zuhayr”
Papyri scrolls painted in bold hues line my walls, I recline on vermilion pillows.
In summer the wadis in the desert sprout microscopic succulents from rock.
Each winter rain pours floodpaths through dry stone – words leap from my pen in incessant flow.
Do you recall a creek where we paused on our walk to admire its green rush?
You said as a girl you loved Anne of Green Gables and asked for my childhood folklore.
The Beatles sang my lullabies, the slant rhymes of Madeline curling on my tongue.
I refused to read or write until I found my own language in crafting poems.
You addressed me in verse, you asked if I thought the French lyric romantic or outdated.
Polemics on Camus followed – a change of opinion or had Mersault sold out.
A sea change in my hometown – memory retains the way we were then, I. You.
The scene shifts: even though I stayed there, we drift apart – the city moves on.
I moved East, then further East, the center of the fluid borders, shifting nations.
Every city wears its masks, alters its facets – sometimes its ancient face shows through.
I catch glimpses of my childhood here – it peers at me from timeless alleys, dissolving.
India: you were taken by force to the land of my grand-
Father’s birth and found the food in-edible, a world of foreign
Ciphers signifying nothing but the inevitable sign
Of your exile from all ties to home. And then when you returned
Finally, some stupid boy said your gauntness was becoming.
No sacred cow to him your shape before, the curves of feminine
Bodies warranted no mention. Across the room you began
Revealing all your griefs to me – as though I had some healing
Power, a rare ability to shelter you from past harms done
In callous company, the fear that your parents marked your leaving
With the mundane world of winter coats. You were trusting your younger
Sister to them, to grow up in your absence. But I didn’t
Have any power to ease your worries. I listened. My concerns:
My parents were so loathe to let me leave, they sequestered me in
Their city of the University, ivory tower and
Resounding carillon. I ran every possible occasion
To Israel on scholarship and savings. I carved out my own
Identity in Jerusalem stone. The city took me in
When she had that leisure to give. I’ve never been in India,
To Calcutta where my grandfather was born, only New Zealand
Where he became a sheep farmer, where I am a citizen.
What does it
The sound of the word
Pulls up images
Of Arabian Nights –
Nights and One
Night,” in allorrah
The endless tales
Of Sheherazadeh –
But try speaking
The classical tongue
In Ramallah or Gaza
And you sound
Archaic as a bad
So Arab – is it
Arabic, the language,
Before the Quran?
Or colloquial Palestinian?
Does it defy