Confinement

Christina Goh
French
b. 1977

 

We have become eagles
who glaze over the information peaks
from sunrise to sunset
trumpeted in all languages, in colors,
in plumes of sweetness and vigor
masters of the dreamlike airs…

Today we are lions
who roar their fury of life
or spread out, troubled in the sunlight
of their screens, watching the family
of the world, waiting for the best
and theories in the wind

But who would have believed it?
by the glow of virtual campfires
for a reconstructed holiday,
the shadows of the past took pity
and before disappearing,
they turned us into griffins.

Necessity

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 50th birthday.

Sheema Kalbasa
Persian
b. 1972

 

I wear your perfume on my skin
Don’t be unkind
Like wild flowers shy under the sun
Don’t seek the truth,
I tell you none exists
Everything has an expiration date
Love, life, identity, even abnormality.
We are travelers,
Some of us just leave the suitcase at home
So that our hands won’t suffer the weight of our guilt.

The Street Before You Leave Tehran

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 45th birthday.

Rosa Jamali
Persian
b. 1977

 

Facing the airport, all that’s now left in my grasp
is a crumpled land
that fits in the palm of my hand.

Facing wavering sunbeams—
a sun that is angry and mute.
All the way from the salt sands of Dasht-e Lut,
it came, the dream
that forced my fingers’ shift,
that set my teeth on edge.
A muted breeze,
whirlwind spun from sand dunes
all the way, even through the back alley.

Are you pasting together the cut-up fragments of my face to make me laugh?

No longer than the palm of the hand, a short leap,
exactly the length you had predicted.

A huge grave in which to lay the longest night of the year to sleep.

Sleep has quit our eyelids for other pastures,
has dropped its anchor at the shores of garden ponds,
has lost the chapped flaking of its lips,
poor thing.
Are you pasting together the cut-up fragments of my face to make me laugh?

With scissors – snip, snip – they are severing something.
The alphabet shavings strewn on the ground,
are they the letters that spell our family name?

With every zig-zag,
you cage my mother’s breath,
her footprints fading
in the shifting sands.

Are you pasting together the cut-up fragments of my face to make me laugh?
No.
A strange land-shape forms.
I will not return.
I left behind a shoe, one of a pair,
for you to put on and follow after me.

Translation by Franklin Lewis

Wait and See

We present this work in honor of Moroccan Independence Day.

Tahar Ben Jelloun
Moroccan
b. 1944

 

A people undone.
Your bread shreds itself ceremonially on mounds of reminiscence under the rain
musical prattle.
Wait and see a little and-you’ll-see-golden-
eggs-in-your-cottage-and-you’ll-see-
the-milky-diamonds-of-figs-in-your-stream-
of-honey-in-your -well-virgins-in-your-
harem-you-will-speak-with-birds-with-
reptiles-with-raptors-wait-and-see-your-
hovel-become-a-villa-with-a-car-
and-daily-driver-and-TV-and-heated-
pool-and-telephone-and-telex-in-
permanent-touch-with-every-
dream-and-illusion.
Just wait and see.

Translation by Conor Bracken

Two Photographs

Theresa Lola
Nigerian
b. 1994

 

In the older photograph
my eyes are two frowning pockets,
and my chest only housed knots and clauses.
I used fast shutter speeds to capture photographs
before sadness spilled into the frame.
I was never one to track progress, but today I did.

Before taking that selfie, I bent the sun
toward my face and poured it into my void
like cement filling the cracks of a wall.
My troubled teenage years lingered in my throat
like a shoplifter in a supermarket aisle.

What a difference 5 years makes, today
my skin is no longer a carousel of masks.
Praises be to a thick syrup of therapy,
a puree of prayer, peelings of coping mechanisms,
a cup of my mother’s honeyed voice.

In the second photograph
the white space is filled with a safe noise.
My shoulders are firm and upward,
my eyes are two glowing pebbles.
Not even an edit can smudge this moment.

The Damned

Roddy Lumsden
Scots
1966 – 2020

 

Kitten curious, or roaring down drinks
in Soho sumps, small hours tour buses,
satellite station green rooms, or conked

out in the bathtubs of motorway hotels,
there you were, with muck-about kisses,
sharking for the snappers, before hell

opened up for you and weeping sores
of after fame appeared, the haphazardry
and dwindling after three limelit years,

recognized with catcalls, wads of spit,
a nightclub fist, the scant camaraderie
melts fast, like your flat on Air Street,

the Lhasa Apso pups, the wraps and lines
of chang, the poster pull-outs, fake tan
smiles. It’s paunch and palimony time

on Lucifer’s leash. But for a madcap few
who cling, thin soup, one pillow Britain
is simmering with hatred, just for you.

13th Day or Now on Land!

We present this work in honor of the Ochi Day.

Katerina Anghelaki-Rooke
Greek
1939 – 2020

 

The heavenly battles descend on the soil
and death returns to earth:
its place of origin.
High flashes accompany it;
it is the only luxury left to the corpses.
Indeed, how did evil change direction!
From below, its immediate action would start:
from mud, hoofs of animals
boots, swamps and it would rise
up to the black clouds and the innocent souls.
Now the desert,
as I imagine it with countless pink shades
sand breasts
breathing in the desert wind
a secret body
with its dark oases hidden under
impartial spectator of disaster
conquered by parachutes.
From above downwards now
the evolution of bleeding flesh;
heaven a past in flames
will be forgotten
and the good will be thrust in the earth
buried deep, very deep in memory.

Translation by Hatto Fischer

Let’s Drink

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 70th birthday.

Ayten Mutlu
Turkish
b. 1952

 

autumn is here
the sun and wine are witnesses
and the vine leaves yellowing on branches
sharpened knives of light are witnesses
to the regrets we’ve gathered
from the vineyard of time

let’s go to her today, to time
to the red Goddess who covers up our memory
with her tulle skirt

we’ve somehow already lost
more than we have
like a jug of wine we poured out without drinking

there are too many things to forget
too few to remember
the love whose sky we are leaning on, is witness

come on let’s drink
the rest of our lives
when descending evening like a break-up song
let’s the wine spread
within our blood slowly by slowly
Like a moment of Vuslat

Translation by Baki Yiğit

The Melodies of Forest and Light

We present this work in honor of the Turkish holiday, Victory Day.

Lale Müldür
Turkish
b. 1956

 

to Ömer

For it is written of them, they will not believe
even a voice from out of the grave
“I, Lazarus, have come from the dead.”
Transfiguration!
The Holy Prophets Adam, Noah, Abraham, and Jesus
As a race that comes from one another!
Those who did not see Elijah in John the Baptist
How could they ever see Muhammed, Moses, Jesus, each Holy Prophet,
A wretch whose every journey begins from the desert
One who suffers, one who is always about to be killed!
Pitiful human being!
Who does not hear the melodies of forest and light
Whose eyes are veiled by arrogance
Who mutters delusions of infinity
Who builds castles and houses,
as though to dwell there to infinity
Even the disciples
Wanting to build a tabernacle of leaves
For Moses, Elijah, and Jesus
meeting on the mountaintop
They were nothing but uncomprehending servants
O those who take themselves seriously!
Integrals of arrogance!
For it is written, they will not
believe even a voice from out of the grave

“I, Lazarus, have come from the dead”
And the disciples saw
Jesus turn to light
His garments transfigure in a weird whiteness.
Jezebel’s hatred and Elijah
Herodias’ hatred and John
The Jews’ hatred and Jesus
Prophets!
Rough drafts of one another!
Melodies of forest and light!
Behold a swan,
For you,
Splitting into particles of light!

Scars Don’t Tan

We present this work in honor of the 10th anniversary of the poet’s death.

M.Z. Ribalow
American
1948 – 2012

 

It takes so little for the unraveling to
commence—a careless gesture, a reassuring
phrase never quite uttered, a heedless
moment that seemed rhapsodically hopeful
but which left resonant repercussions that
altered everything. A legacy of scars:
emotional ones fade but not away,
physical ones blend but don’t tan.

The rap music you give as a birthday gift
to your nephew because it’s what he likes,
the visit you force yourself to make because
your relatives need cheering up, your friend’s
neurotic phone call that consumes the night—
the recipients are grateful, but none of it
ever washes away your secret detritus.
Expiation seems a goal, but is a way of life.

It began happening so long ago, in details too
nuanced to notice. A slight misstep sprains an
ankle that never fully heals; a dropped stitch
subtly renders imperfect the entire tapestry.
Nothing to be done now but to recover; make
The most of what remains, the best of what
May be. Though you recall the white whale,
Do not pursue him through the oceanic past.