Early the staccatos swelled, the jalopies trundled through the eigengrau, martins and peckers perched on wires portending the resurrecting sun. Windows jittered in the cold, and outside the red, blinking mast laddered up the azure-turning sky. Watchmen tinkered with their rusty panels and disappeared into silent folds. I woke up on the sofa in the parlor facing the green glow of the incandescent crucifix above mother’s bed. It waned like the moon in the morning. Occasionally, whirring airplanes flew low with their wheels down headed for the airport’s runways, shaking the houses in their cold silence. She’d face the ceiling on her bed, muttering a prayer, then descend into her loose sleeping robes. Feet sweeping the carpet, she’d examine the children splayed on the floor, my sisters and I, sometimes our cousins, carried a lantern and trudged through the creaking door, then through the hollow hallway.
A metaphor for darkness
A people seized the sun, somewhere
in Africa. They sprinkle it into the sea
& there, let it simmer into ordinary sizzles,
coiled with bones of broken men;
burnt men who, at first, refused to be boiled.
The sweat & the green tears of cuffed women,
at dawn, rise & roar into different images
not known to the purple sky above. It becomes
Niger & Nile. So it seems: the sun that left never left.
We do not see the hut when the lights first come up, and then we see it. Its inhabitants are not interested in us, perhaps because their problems do not concern us. These women spend their days waiting for a man, and they know that one day he will come. Lights shine upstage from the front of the stage, illuminating a door in the back wall. Neither fully open nor quite shut, it swings gently on its hinges, creaking intermittently, as though the fitful wind outside the hut is knocking to make its presence known within. Then the light sweeps downstage and to the right: we see a flight of stairs rising to the princess’s room, mirrored by a flight on the left leading down to their larder. Centre stage is an old-fashioned, rectangular dining table—or rather, it is simply old: it has no identifiable fashion. Around this table there are four chairs, the back of one slightly higher than the rest. The chairs are not neatly arranged but are scattered about as though hastily vacated. Between them wend the backs of two women dressed in black, cleaning the shabby furnishings and complaining.
“Rizwan, it’s you, it’s you. Is that you, Rizwan?”
“Yes, it is me. But who are you? I know your voice but I can’t put a face to it.”
“Ah, never mind. Your father… your father has been looking for you. Where were you? What took you so long?”
He had friends,
and they pledged him in the evening of his sorrow
not to turn him over to the soldiers
or to deny him when
he was summoned by the king.
And one turned him over
for a handful of silver
then committed suicide
and by another he was denied
three times before dawn broke
and once he had died his lips
could smile again, and then
he went on his way evangelizing,
boasting that he had known him,
and fished blessings by baptizing
in his name.
Meeting with an Arab poet in exile
At that outcast and lonely hour,
that hour of night when choices narrow
until each absence takes on meaning as a cloud of smoke,
between the voices of the drunken patrons in that small restaurant
and the wash of the still sea that beats, below, against its rocky shore,
at that outcast hour of night, that lonely hour,
he talked to me of the legendary poets of exile
and how he’d known them in his youth, he
who still followed the same path,
and from an ancient notebook
which bore on its cover the cedar of Lebanon
began to read aloud his long two-columned poems.
You said: I’m still here. I just don’t know what to say. But two weeks later, you were gone. And now I sit, words turned stale upon the page. Seems I’ve been here for months, rending sentences into syllables. Senseless. Torn and patched in vain.
I’m still here and you’re still gone.
You said: I don’t want to die. I just don’t want to live. But we didn’t want to hear, for fear your fear would unmask our own. We left you to your silent pain—let it erode the edges of your reserves, like waves, ceaseless, beating the shore—bruising, breaking your brash, butch swagger. Leaving fragments and splinters of you.
Bewildered, bipolar & blue.