Bola Opaleke: Songs and Dances as a Cosmopolitan Village

Hamed Nada (1924-1990), Untitled, 1963. Source: bonhams.com

In the endlessness of life’s cyclical wheel, in the dangerous neutrality of man’s mortal effulgence, and or the cowardly barricade of the conflictual rhythms of his existence, he often misappropriates songs without adequately supplying the right dances to them.

“Don’t sing a song,” he said. “If you cannot find the perfect dance for it.”

Those were the exact words by my father (translated from Yoruba) in 1991 after I’d told him I wanted to join the Nigerian Army so one day I could be a military president. Years later, I would still, in my head, shuffle the judgmental finality of his words, probe at its proverbial complexity and perplexity, and ultimately resign from that variegated prodding of the wheel that will never cease to turn. A song is a song is a song, and a dance is a dance is a dance. Period!

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Akpa Arinzechukwu: Three Poems

Riley Montana by Chris Colls, W Magazine. Source: wmagazine.com

riley montana slaps the runway

behind the scene it is 30°C

the same temperature a body doesn’t need

to start decomposing—

the body sashays away in a blue blazer

catwalks to a stop in a dirndl

hundred irises of a palazzo

& when the body stops it stops only

to let the world have a view of itself through the bow-bridge of legs

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The Ruins by Josh Calvo

“The Ruins” is Josh Calvo’s monthly dirge for sundry Aleppos of memory—all real, all lost, all his. “The Ruins” is a term borrowed from pre-Islamic poetry, in which “weeping over the ruins” is a favorite gharad; the word gharad, which literally means “purpose” and roughly corresponds to genre, is used to indicate not so much a poem’s theme as the driving force behind its utterance. “The Ruins” is the title of both the series and the first piece in the series. Josh Calvo, who is first and foremost a true writer though he also translates from  Hebrew and Arabic, among other languages dead and alive, can be reached at this email.

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Entrance to Aleppo Castle, G. Eric and Edith Matson Photograph Collection, 1898. Source: loc.gov

Then the rains washed over the ruins, like a book whose text is written and rewritten….

— Labid (d. 661)[1]

For reasons he has kept to himself, Hakham Abraham Yeshaya Dayan–—born around the turn of the nineteenth century in Aleppo, and risen to become a rabbinic leader in its Jewish community, authoring several religious and scholarly books which have now become obscure, the world to which they are addressed having disappeared and the city in which they were to be read and applied having become in the hundred years since he lived unfathomably and irreversibly unrecognizable—decided suddenly, with the dawning of what would be the decade before his death, that the time had come for him to walk along the walls of his ancient city in search of signs from its long history. For want of some sense of his inner motivations, of what he beheld in his mind whenever he tried to see Aleppo in times he cannot have known, of what image of the city as he knew it over his own lifetime had been building itself in his memory, I can discover little more than he himself has admitted—or that has, by chance or by force, admitted itself—into his words. The nineteenth-century Hakham would not have needed to describe the impression left in mind by what he could still see outside: like the feeling of what remained of what once was: or the music of the undead voices of those who lived before: the cold stone of a synagogue surviving in the walls of a mosques: or the distant echoing of King David’s cavalry and Mongol horses heard faintly, aloft the wind from faraway mountains. And now that the Aleppo he knew has smoldered and will never again be seen, what remains are only these silent words by which it will never be described.

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Saudamini Deo: Over Hussain’s Mansion

Or How Reading Agha Shahid Ali Changed the Way I Write

Agha Shahid Ali by Stacey Chase, 1990. Source: thecafereview.com

“In the Name of the Merciful” let night begin.

I must light lamps without her – at every shrine?
God then is only the final assassin.

(from God)

On a hot summer afternoon, I find out that the eighth world of Super Mario Bros. is laid out like a labyrinth. The earlier seven Bowsers that have been killed were false bowsers. The real Bowser must be found and defeated in this last world. It is almost impossible to find a way out of the dark underground with dangerous Koopa Troopas keeping a careful watch, Goombas that must be trampled upon, and a sea of lava flowing beneath – at the end of which stands the ultimate enemy. The king of the kingdom possesses immense strength, is almost indestructible, and has mastered the occult arts. He almost always conspires against Mario but in the RPG series he occasionally collaborates with Mario to defeat evil greater than himself.

“Who is god?” my grandmother reads aloud from a newspaper at a distance while peeling baby potatoes.

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𝐹𝑜𝓊𝓃𝒹 Bipolar God

As polytheism gave way to monotheism, the One accrued the personalities of the gods he encompassed: from benevolent Mesopotamian deities, to the Canaanite warrior Baal, to Tiamat, the serpent of chaos. The same bipolar God would have to create and destroy—raising, for the first time, the problem of evil that the innocent, suffering Job so pitifully invokes. For [Jack] Miles, monotheism became “the story of a single God struggling with himself,” the divided image we are condemned to replicate in our daily lives…

Trapped within his own contradictions, God devised an astonishing way out, according to [Mile’s] second book, Christ… If the omnipotent God cannot liberate his chosen people, nor claim that oppression is his will, “then he must admit defeat”… if he cannot beat the enemy, “God may declare that he has no enemies,” that he loves all men equally, and urge men to do the same… In Christ, Miles portrayed Jesus not as a historical rebel but as the Tanakh’s God incarnate, and read the New Testament as his continuing biography… Arriving in the body of a Nazarene peasant, with a pacifist temperament so different from his usual self, God will, in the words of St. Paul, reconcile the world to himself.

— from “God, the Editor” by Anna Della Subin, on harpers.org

2018

Robin Moger Does An-Nifarri

Adonis/Dennis Bouchard. From “A”, an exhibition retracing twenty years of visual works by the poet Adonis, Galerie Azzedine Alaïa, Paris, 2015. Source: worldliteraturetoday.org

who are you and who am I

he stayed me 

and he said to me   Who are you and who am I   and I saw the sun and the moon and the stars and all the lights ashine     and he said to me   There is no light in my sea shines on without I have seen it   and each thing came to me until no thing was left  and kissed me between my eyes and saluted me  and stood in shadow     and he said to me   You know me and  I do not know you   and I saw all of him clung to my robe  and not to me  and my robe leant  and I did not   and my robe leant and he said to me   Who am I   and the sun went down and the moon  and the stars fell and the lights were put out  and the dark covered all things but him   and my eye did not see and my ear did not hear  my senses ceased  and each thing spoke  it said   Allahu Akbar   and each thing came to me  a spear in its hand  it said to me   Flee   and I said   Where to   and it said   Fall into darkness   and into darkness I fell and I saw myself     and he said to me   See none but yourself ever   Come out from darkness never   And should I bring you out from it I would  show you myself   You would see me  and should you see me you would be  most distant of all

night

he stayed me 

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Tam Hussein: The American

Christopher Anderson, Kunduz, Afghanistan, 2001. Source: magnumphotos.com

“What do you reckon that is?” Abu Imad said, tapping the scope. He looked at me, rubbing his bushy beard thoughtfully. He wanted me to make the two-meter journey to take a look.

“I’m all right here to be honest,” I said, looking at Abu Imad’s powerful frame. In my experience, God creates two types who stay on for the long haul. Either the rugby player variety or the wiry knife wielding sort, used to taking down bigger opponents. Abu Imad belonged to the former.

“Come,” he insisted, “come.”

I didn’t really feel like giving him my opinion. I didn’t want to entertain the mad shit bouncing around his head. What’s it going to be? Either some mountain goat or a hardy plant that has somehow emerged out of this cruel valley where we’d been stuck for years. What new excitement could this brother show me? We hadn’t progressed against the enemy, not because we were weak but because the commanders were arguing sometimes over strategy, sometimes over tactics, most of the time over honour and on rare occasions about God. In spite of them, we held this crag. We were mountain lions in courage and mountain goats in stubbornness.

“Come,” he pleaded, “check it.”

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