for Mohamad Sabbagh
The time will come, soonerthan you think, sooner
than a hawk diving, when you'll have to make
your sorry way across the styx, the black river.
You’ll give the ferryman my parting gift, I hope,
and listen close, as to a dripping cut. Answer all his
questions.If you want to pass – for the last time, son –
realize: you’re surrounded, out-rigged, and
if you think you can dissemble, you’re lost.
Don’t be stubborn: accept. You’re now made
of distanceless stuff: all that garbage you’ve heard
about angels on pinheads was fat and euphemistic –
simply, you don’t exist; unless…yes, cry, that’s it.
for Mohamad Sabbagh
Neither I nor you have anything left to say.
Neither I nor you can mend or, with a final shove,
Stay the damage, automatic and forever
Like a graveyard epithet set in stone.
That spoils both our eulogies: a grudge
Will take human form and walk on
Heavy, clumsy, filthy feet, and with
Smiling rotting teeth, venomously pronounce
That both our lives were ruined
By a cowardice, a dithering, only found
In those guilty of some heinous, long-lived
Crime, or those who, to sick excess, love.
Father, though I’d lose the pleasure of the scan,
Could that final ‘or those’ in the stanza above
Disappear and then revivify, as it does
Each night in tears that realize it as an ‘and’?
What does the palm tree say, its stalk
of tall hard ashes and concave bends,
caught in the dry sunshine’s angles?
Rising and falling, rising and falling
in the late afternoon light, green
on grey on beige, it speaks like love or outrage.
Saying, much like anything else
vital or unheard, with an urgency
before death’s dark wrecking
and then the quiet that rescinds
words tall in the wind like these:
Treat me well, treat me well.
Or chip if you dare, scratch, tear, crunch,
but I will still, still with a pinpoint blare,
burst my leaves in awry hosanna-
my hair, high and light and loose, big and
sprung like a millionaire’s dowry,
will ridicule all of you.
Upwards, the sky...
War is a collective noun. As in:
Darling, I was so weary last night –
soundlessly battered and incidental
as one lost in thought; so secondary,
so shifted, so nudged from my self, a ghost,
a spirit rented, lax, fuzzy, and fact. untaught,
that the needed energy, or sap, or force
for any lovemaking worthy of love
or making was trapped, like – what? –
like the wars of energy also trapped
in the warmth of wool – so passive, dear.
I could tell what you were telling yourself:
‘This man is elsewhere from normal
tonight, his heart is ripped with an
unusual vanity, his mind is caught
on a fence of some sort, and riddled.’
And darling, as war collects me,
be patient, though I lack the pluck;
for war is my lady tonight, what’s
missing, as we lower the light, and fuck.
I’m not the average lover
Who’ll stretch his arms and legs
Into a star, a filigree star
Like an arrow made of beating flesh
To a space among the other stars,
Onwards to a deathless death.
It’s not that I’m unwilling
To pronounce with the roundest vowels,
My love, and then feel
From the declamation the applause
Building like a pyramid of empathy:
No, there’s an argument for that.
It’s just that I feel differently.
The feeling I have
Is more small than large –
If you must ruin and visualize.
It’s something I’d rather trust,
Something I’d rather whisper
To the worms and ants
And workaholic beetles –
Who’ll take it lightly, won’t shout about
And vulgarise, but go on living
A little happier, perhaps,
Bringing my message beneath the earth
To the kindness of those who’ve died.
I’d rather a silent audience, you see,
To echo the depth and judge.
For May Sanyoura
Untuned guitars on a windy night,
Their yapping mouths are like
From the pit of a greasy stomach
Not yet cold enough for mind.
When Beirut speaks
It becomes crystalline:
The brain of the city has a tumour in it,
The lips of it are dry.
And war is presaged like poverty here
By the 2p oracles on the TV:
They say all the mating is awry here
Because impotence is inevitable.
And here I am, speechless also,
The limpest dick. I carry on drinking,
Doing my hoping in a hopeless way.
The Maronite barkeep
Made the sign of the cross with a goofy grin
Behind my back the other day.
Evil is good perverted.
That it should be right – a little finger
snapped at the turning of the door –
was everything to me and all I asked for.
That I might call upon the gathered suffering
of all my forefathers and, bee sting upon bee sting,
suck and narrow the pain. I would have it clean…
Sage, Titan: dear boy, in goodness was your beginning!
I would not mix the glory with the ochre, and I would not
condone it either. Then one day father said, you haven’t been
long enough, or wide enough; you haven’t stopped yet,
abrupt-like, with a sudden thunder in your heart,
and found yourself beating in the middle of things;
you’ve never witnessed the fatness of the spider,
the thickness of the stuffing. He said this was true
and his finger was pointing. And within, I knew.
In time, my obelisk grew less and less;I saw it
split down the middle to let the sunshine in;
and at the base, up from muddy earth, a flower grew.
J’ai plus de souvenirs que si j’avais mil ans.
Charles Baudelaire, ‘Spleen’
I said: it must be something like love.
It must be! What other excuse could I give,
What other alibi was there
For the crime I felt I’d committed
Each time I saw her face?
Rapture burst upon me like a grenade
And I felt each time that someone,
Not unlike me, perhaps, must have died.
It was the noise of lightning on glass,
And worse, the silence of knives
Slipping through skin. What a crime it is
Then came disappointment –
My heart was a ball dropping,
It seemed, a thousand feet.
Stricken, I struck the earth
And then, more heavily, abysm.
And if since then
I’ve lived a thousand lives, plus this one,
They’ve all been the ghosts of witnesses
At that defeat – lives in the hurricane
Of smashed hope, at the world’s end…
I’m twenty-five now, and I find
The earth not vital and green,
As you’d promised, mother, not soft
Browns, higher blues, or whites
Like a woman’s shoulders and neck,
But the sadness of a purple
The sadness of a purple
Of a purple