PUBLISHED

Published: 1970-01-01 00:00:00

An Agreement

Fetching, like an incoming, livid sea,
She approached the infinity
Of puckered sand that was me.
And she had free white lips
With which I couldn’t help
But agree, and agree, and agree.


 

Published: 2014-05-12 17:56:42

Dark Wood

For Jeni Oppenheimer


The idea behind her skirt was metaphysical.
A sex caressed more by sun than by the maul,

The mundane maul. 
It was unanswerable.

Logic became a living, fretting bird in its wake.
It was arch, necessary, absent to itself
As any winning joke
Told and told again from health to health. 

There was a thimble-small element of fear as well.
But I won’t go into that, that ‘dark wood’, that middle.

 


 

Published: 1970-01-01 00:00:00

Muhajabeen

Yas, Olympia


I won’t tell what girds or taxes her.
I won’t opt for the obvious surd –

The obvious, telltale surd

Much like a moon-cussed straitjacket,
The lame and awry, the fat
Of a leper
Of a predicate.

Let the copula bellow its own shrill fame,
As sole shark to a globular sea.

And let the brine be what bite, what blood, what
Cold, what dark’s writ and opted for me –

Chess to checkers, baroque to matt
As it ever was…

Let the walking illusions pray
Their heavy musk,
Like a mother that feels her wrongs…

Like the mother beveled before
The first apple or the first mummer
In mammary,

And I more and more
And I descried and I discerned

Echoic from the blend
With high and mortal intents

And whatever else is meant
By sots in the café,
By hearts for sale, by hearts for rent.

No.
I won’t say what girds, what taxes her.


 

Published: 1970-01-01 00:00:00

The Salvaging

Yas, Kensington, London


Imagine a fisherman with an infinite net:
His little grey boat, posed, like an infinite bet
Against a sea’s wide slurs, her echolalia…

Out of all the fey rhapsodies and masks
The uncaught fish finds his focus, his home
And the spindly fern-pattern before his
Spindly heart, like ribs like fast
empty wishes,
His slim and slippery task:
to be a fish was always daft…

But the bone-thin fisherman, less the kisses
Of some mastered art, turns riled and vicious,
Stark,
a poverty facing the patent riches
Of the glittering, safe, mislaid, dispersed

Fish among fishes…


 

Published: 1970-01-01 00:00:00

The Reality Of It

Has been a flying dinosaur’s wing
Found in the muddy earth, a deep shilling
From the gold standard of yesterday.

Has been the privacy of a well-lit play,
The boards treaded by walking flames,
Ratty pigeons in the scale of things.

Has been the door through which a sire
Goes wedded to a duck, makes a liar
Out of love, makes a liar a liar.

Has been the whole of Africa in
The sweaty palm of an Indian,
Some such transient confusion.

Has been too many clocks to fit
The wall of a reading room, the sins
Of learning, deep, like a covert kit

In a battle raging over all but
That everything which ends and begins
Again and again – as friendship wins.

Has been the torture at the spine
Of a bacterium, or a viral portent in
A Eucharist of wreckage, half-spelt signs.

Has been the major tenor of a life
In which no vehicle is quite
Good enough

To make sense of this bloody mire
In which blood-cells go cheap and for hire –
A cock-up, overall, too much wrong for the lair

Of one beholden man, beholding
The same – and the thick, grisly maze of fear
Through which he scurries: golden / unfolding.
A Dear Friend Grieves
For Patricia McCarthy

Foursquare,
The muscles taut with her loving,
There was nothing
Trojan or double or troubling
About the foursquare mare…

And there was no horsing around
In that companionship: a bond,
A deep and edgeless bond…
Ripped now with sorrow,
Ripped now

By wailing tears, riven, she rows
Whitewaters without sound.


 

Published: 1970-01-01 00:00:00

Breaths Between The Notes

Where it is to finish is not my business.
Where the gull flies, a parabola above a sea’s miles
And miles, is taught me only by regrets,
How the scarecrows I know fall from my pockets
Like loose coins, a flower’s stray smells, a flower’s...

The island to the lone tree, the sky to the power
Of the happenstance made to dance to a styled
Essence, a thick thing-hood won by a swan’s caress...

I can’t offer more to the embossed choir –
A singe upon the chests of burly liars –
Than the architecture of my verse, muscular

Fire, and no wafting smoke to pillage and evict
What the air means, when by breeze it evokes
A sense of ending, and breaths between the notes.


 

Published: 1970-01-01 00:00:00

To The Middle Of Love

To The Middle Of Love


Though you never knew me, more than a knowing nod
From the TV; though you near-wept as you read
About your father, a blackbird, and more, much more;
And though you were the festival in your finite life,

Now stroll, beyond all wanderings, naming no error
In those halcyon gardens where all are careless with their
Care; now amble, don’t hesitate: there the poems are quiet
As fires without denizens or hasty feelings for the air
In which they billow, yellow, red, blue as an apple-core…

No. You are not dead, spent, gone. You are

What the birds sing at hallowed morning, knowing the more
In store, knowing what good speed, what loaded dares
Are meant by the passing of a bard to the middle
Of everything. To the middle of love. That’s all.


 

Published: 1970-01-01 00:00:00

A Moustachioed
Priesthood In The Bar

(Ferdinand, Hamra, Beirut, Lebanon)
for Shady Jaber


The wooden counter in the bar’s a prie-Dieu for
Lost causes, toppling, tumbling bellies, fumbles
At the sly door of Womanhood, the still / unstill
Windowsill.
And the blues’ drapery’s absurdity, their
quick, queer
Mores, speak volumes to the groans
And hard hopes of this
Stood, priestly Dali...
Ease says the face, won suaveness.
Any taut madness in his dreams is a fenced madness.
There is trust here:
As though there was no danger, nor a single risk
Within the strict cuss of this Lebanese sickness –
To undress and undress the dressed, to tear at the tears
Of the worse off – and only money there to care for.

Shady mans the scars, and the worn wounds entering the bar.


 

Published: 1970-01-01 00:00:00

Hearsay

After Chapter 1 of Augustine’s Confessions


I start with hearsay: how I entered a pact
With the past, heaving like an oath towards fact.
I knew my childhood through the dim regard
I had of others, later, when old-age wore this bard.
I’d no inkling for Homeric Greek. I loved my Latin.
Words – after cries and wails and screams, grins
And belches – I learnt by use, in time – a mime – as well…
A philosopher, I believe, would descry – pell-mell –
How one learns to speak and know and meet the meat
Of others – by ‘language-games,’ and fission-fleets
Of them. But that was well beyond a millennium
Later: by then, I was safe and snug in your dominium,
Lord… I was beatified, dubbed a Saint: prose to meter;
And this verse serves to limn my first and deepest winter.


 

Published: 1970-01-01 00:00:00

A Sex Espied

After Chapter 2 of Augustine's Confessions


At sixteen, you find me idle, school-bereft.
Father takes me to the baths, espies my sex,
And is delighted at the nearing prospect
Of grandkids. He goes out of his way
To collect the funds to send me, spritely, gay,
Onto Carthage. Meanwhile, Mother is
God’s reflector, shame in my shamelessness…
In this eon of life, I loved only to reign as rake;
Peer pressure abounds, a kind of vice in trust...
What is evil, but wrong done for its own sake –
Not, thus, from Need? I see myself still, nip, take
That gorgeous extant, God’s instance: a ripe pear…
None think they wrong wholly, or, in total, err!
I’m the exception. Inside rapine, I found Care.


 

Published: 0000-00-00 00:00:00

Worldliness Far From Cynicism,
Or,
The Fallen-ness Of The Un-fallen:
On Marilyn Hacker’s Names And Essays On Departure

Published: Spring 2014, Agenda


‘To want substance in cognition is to want a utopia.
It is this consciousness of possibility that sticks to the concrete, the
undisfigured.’
Theodor W. Adorno, ‘Introduction,’ Negative Dialectics

‘Exiles, at least, have clarity of purpose:
can say my town, my mother and my fate, my country.’
from ‘Ghazal: dar al-harb’

As the epigraphs above intimate, there is a very strong case for saying that true ‘Otherness’ isn’t truly occluded as Other. The otherness or adequate transcendence Adorno invokes belongs in a sense only to God.  This (very poetic) philosopher wishes for an Adamic naming, an (impossible) Adamic concept, where thing and word are immanently one.  Similarly, the poet’s ‘clarity’ is the clarity of those ‘beyond’ the Pale.  

A woman, a feminist, a (non-Zionist) Jew, a lesbian, Marilyn Hacker partakes of this paradox. ‘[E]piphanous’ or ‘ephemeral’ (‘Lauds’), mise-en-abyme or thoroughgoing Adamic closure, age and innocence, hope and despair, agency and impotence, among many of the woven and processual dichotomies which inhabit this collection – there is a sense in which Hacker’s poetic persona is an Other to (her own) Otherness.  So when she writes in the final stanza of ‘For Kateb Yacine:’


 

Published: 0000-00-00 00:00:00

Omar Sabbagh

A Letter From A Poet To His Unconscious
(aka: Mum and Dad)


Dear Unconscious (or,Mum and Dad),
I am a battlefield. I am as much your battlefield as I am your progeny...
At different times in my life, to speak in terms of (personal) history, and
as different aspects of the same moment in time, to speak synchronically, I
have been the space where different and opposing tendencies have fought for
domination: for a poet, experienced as fecund tension; as a human being,
somewhat painful. The tension, deep in my unconscious, is I believe (on the
evidence of what has repeatedly surfaced) between what Coleridge called
‘fancy’ and, following Kant, what he termed ‘imagination’; between what
Lacan called the ‘imaginary’ and the ‘symbolic’ registers; between the mother
as loving container facilitating regressive delirium – a centrifugal force – and
the effort of the father in me to make sense, give a sense of ending, interpret,
anchor: a centripetal force. Both forces, the masculine and the feminine (not
necessarily embodied in you, Dad and Mum), the positive and what
resonates in the interstices of the ontic, are and have been integral to the
process of poetic creation, the mysterium tremendum of creativity.


 

Published: 1970-01-01 00:00:00

The Bad Minuet

Blue Note Café, Hamra, Beirut, Lebanon
For C


Critters spray dross across the dance-floor
As though it was a critical step, a door
From garbage to what came after, before.
Cretins ape with ambition, a mimesis for 
The poor in spirit – their innards: sea-less piers,
A drop onto waves of old-aged wood. Fear’s
Boutique. Unworn dresses in raining tears.
Unworn women. O the years, the years!

***

If I kiss her spine in memory, her bare
Neck, the white of her, the white of her,
Her quid pro quo, her: daring and near –
If so – in that long ago – I become livid fire,
Plum, mauve, deep and purple with scaling care.
Not a day goes by I don’t think of that far
Night, tripping on lightning, a speeding hare
In my head, my dizzy mind turned fair

for the future.


 

Published: 1970-01-01 00:00:00

A Dent In The Light

After Chapter 3 of Augustine’s Confessions


Little later in life the flesh flew fey and wild, a Gnosis;
I gorged myself, my very meat: a fluent waylaid course…
Just so, against Plato, I rued a playful muse, a mad bourse
Aimed, like trickery, to thread me through, spent, hoarse
At the viscera’s use – the tragic lay of some pagan wretch...
My mother, of course, knew better, bigger, more.
She knew that wrong was a whore without a stitch
Of true or gladsome garb – just flesh, flesh and absence…
Still, my peers harrowed me, the urge of naked sense
In parity with spirit – as if there were living fish
Whose sea was deep, but sky-denied: high culture into kitsch…
They would twist the negative, the bleak, the black: to a fetish.
Little did I know: I, a loon, facing the mighty fundament
Of Good; Evil: a mere gap in the light, light askew, a dent.


 

Published: 0000-00-00 00:00:00

A Moustachioed
Priesthood In The Bar

(Ferdinand, Hamra, Beirut, Lebanon)
for Shady Jaber


The wooden counter in the bar’s a prie-Dieu for
Lost causes, toppling, tumbling bellies, fumbles
At the sly door of Womanhood, the still / unstill
Windowsill.
And the blues’ drapery’s absurdity, their
quick, queer
Mores, speak volumes to the groans
And hard hopes of this
Stood, priestly Dali... 
Ease says the face, won suaveness.
Any taut madness in his dreams is a fenced madness.
There is trust here: 

        As though there was no danger, nor a single risk

 

        Within the strict cuss of this Lebanese sickness –

 

        To undress and undress the dressed, to tear at the tears

 

      Of the worse off – and only money there to care for.

Shady mans the scars, and the worn wounds entering the bar.


 

Published: 0000-00-00 00:00:00

A Dear Friend Grieves

For Patricia McCarthy


Foursquare,
The muscles taut with her loving,
There was nothing
Trojan or double or troubling
About the foursquare mare… 

And there was no horsing around
In that companionship: a bond,
A deep and edgeless bond… 
Ripped now with sorrow,
Ripped now 

By wailing tears, riven, she rows
Whitewaters without sound.


 

Published: 2014-02-16 00:00:00

The Reality Of It

Has been a flying dinosaur’s wing
Found in the muddy earth, a deep shilling
From the gold standard of yesterday.

Has been the privacy of a well-lit play,
The boards treaded by walking flames,
Ratty pigeons in the scale of things.

Has been the door through which a sire
Goes wedded to a duck, makes a liar
Out of love, makes a liar a liar. 

Has been the whole of Africa in
The sweaty palm of an Indian,
Some such transient confusion.

Has been too many clocks to fit
The wall of a reading room, the sins
Of learning, deep, like a covert kit

In a battle raging over all but
That everything which ends and begins
Again and again – as friendship wins. 

Has been the torture at the spine
Of a bacterium, or a viral portent in
A Eucharist of wreckage, half-spelt signs.

Has been the major tenor of a life
In which no vehicle is quite
Good enough

To make sense of this bloody mire
In which blood-cells go cheap and for hire –
A cock-up, overall, too much wrong for the lair 

Of one beholden man, beholding
The same – and the thick, grisly maze of fear
Through which he scurries: golden / unfolding.


 

Published: 2014-03-03 00:00:00

The Salvaging

Yas, Kensington, London


Imagine a fisherman with an infinite net:
His little grey boat, posed, like an infinite bet
Against a sea’s wide slurs, her echolalia… 

Out of all the fey rhapsodies and masks
The uncaught fish finds his focus, his home
And the spindly fern-pattern before his
Spindly heart, like ribs like fast
empty wishes,

His slim and slippery task:
to be a fish was always daft… 

But the bone-thin fisherman, less the kisses
Of some mastered art, turns riled and vicious,
Stark,
a poverty facing the patent riches
Of the glittering, safe, mislaid, dispersed 

Fish among fishes…


 

Published: Agenda, June 2017.

The More and More...

For Faten


I imagine rock-climbing, slimming snowy caps –

The air is thin there. It’s dragged across rocky, unknown maps

Where the muscles tighten, decking and decking their flesh,

And the juices are red there, redder, beyond redress…

 

Then I think of a deep lagoon, where famous men

Fish the sap of their souls, the dear and juicy den

Where they are furtive blooms, becoming, as become,

Themselves at last, beneath the crystal-brine, a home,

 

Beneath the white and blue, beneath the blue…

And then I think of her, lipping her liquid truths

Onto mine; and I think of how a candle’s

Lit, the wick: beckoning the rounding air as fuel…

 

There are four of us there, between the sheets,

Two of whom are bitten, two of whom are sleep.

There are four of us there, seconding the night –

Its dram of dire gambit, with its X-ray sights

 

Needled upon the me in her, the she in me,

Echoing the tropics of a graphic topography,

An unknown map becoming read and known,

The more and more we close and hone, warmly

 

uttering,

uttering

 

home,

and home.