Dawning

In honor of Revolution Day, we present this work by one of today’s most evocative Egyptian poets.

07-23 Lababidi
Yahia Lababidi
Egyptian
b. 1973

 

There are hours when every thing creaks
when chairs stretch their arms, tables their legs
and closets crack their backs, incautiously

Fed up with the polite fantasy
of having to stay in one place
and stick to their stations

Humans too, at work, or in love
know such aches and growing pains
when inner furnishings defiantly shift

As decisively, and imperceptibly, as a continent
some thing will stretch, croak or come undone
so that everything else must be reconsidered

One restless dawn, unable to suppress the itch
of wanderlust, with a heavy door left ajar
semi-deliberately, and a new light teasing in
Some piece of immobility will finally quit
suddenly nimble on wooden limbs
as fast as a horse, fleeing the stable.

Minimal Miniseries of Marksmanship

In honor of Argentine Independence Day, we present this work by one of Argentina’s finest contemporary poets.

07-09 Neuman
Andrés Neuman
Argentine
b. 1977

 

This insect is the hero
of some resistance movement.
He wheels around
my enemy hand
and dodges every attempt
to interrupt his slight digressions.

As I’m not capable, I admire him instead.
Does admiration
combat this impotence
or confirm it?
Is my compassion the fruit
of missing the mark?

The insect leaves me
his autograph on the air
with the faint buzz of epigrams.

Living Life as a Poet

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

06-21 Kroetsch
Robert Kroetsch
Canadian
1927 – 2011

 

I hope I can resist. It’s a stupid idea.
What I was thinking was,
I could buy an estate in the Florida Keys,

mix with the Hemingway look-alikes.
I’d have to grow my beard longer.
Too bad I’m a little short of cash.

I suppose I could rent a house
somewhere on the Mexican coast.
They say the prices are right,

if you don’t mind the drug wars.
I can say please in Spanish, Por favor.
Too bad my stomach can’t take jalapenos.

I suppose I could borrow a tent
from one of my camping friends.
A summer on Lake Athabasca.

Not too close to the tar sands.
Commune with nature. Poach a moose.
Too bad I’m afraid of guns.

Well, finally, I suppose I could just stay put
where I am, drink coffee, rewrite this poem.
What a stupid idea. I hope I can resist.

The Man Whose Ola Cart Fell Over

06-05 Kaldas
Pauline Kaldas
Egyptian
b. 1958

 

A man pulls his cart piled with clay olas
maneuvers the knotted traffic
olas for sale to contain cool water
quench the sand starched mouth

Futile to unlock this tongue
I’m lost here
mazed into a pattern of textures and rhythms
snatched by the clutches of the tied bird of prey in the zoo
out of tune with the peacock caged in the pet store
stitched into the canvas of human sweat
to divulge the secret of this magnet that draws us near
a reckless gesture stumbles into the ola cart
scatters clay shards
and continue

Soft

Karen Press
South African
b. 1956

 

Soft on a summer bed in the Languedoc
a man in an Afghan prison sits with me
watching his brother walking through snowdrifts
to a village much like this one
(boucherie, tabac, boulangerie, broken shutters)
where a month’s supply of bullets lies secured
in a box beneath his mother’s wedding carpet.

Turning the pages of Bruce Chatwin’s life
I feel the ashy bodies shift and stutter downward
through steel sticks broken on New York’s southern streets.
Peruvian feathers hang in coloured blocks
across the whiteness of a wall in England,
the man in the snow takes another step forward,
under a sky-blue burqa a woman writes to the man in prison
without pen or paper.

Together we turn the pages, always together now.
Lavender. Ash. Snow on a black beard.

Ma, I’m Coming Home

Toni Stuart
South African
b. 1983

 

Ma,
I’m coming home
that mountain towering
over our city like a blue hue,
beckons
in the molasses folds of midnight
his voice
softens the folds of my ears
and the south-easter
sings in b-flat
as it winds through my empty heart

Ma,
I’m coming home
my heart overflows with yearning
and the tears roll down my cheeks
like rocks
and pull the breath from my lungs
i have walked through the skin
on the soles of my feet
winding through another country’s streets
another people’s pain
I miss
the sea
and the smell of salt
that finds its way to our front door
on summer morning’s
swollen with heat
I miss the voices and words
of my people
and the way their tongues
hold words in their mouths: flat and rough then sometimes flat
and smooth
the blood in my veins
beats to a rhythm
I cannot find in this green land

Ma,
I’m coming home
that mountain towering
over our city like a blue hue,
beckons
in the molasses folds of midnight
his voice
softens the folds of my ears
and the south-easter
sings in b-flat
as it winds through my empty heart
Ma,
I’m coming home
it’s time to leave the world behind
now it’s you who
I want to lay
beside

Teresa the Idiot

Cecilia Vicuña
Chilean
b. 1948

 

In reality my loves
are the strange box of a Polish doll
The blonde’s eyes appearing
fixed to her hips long after midnight
the garret always singular to loosen
a massive mane
across her back, its strands
thick and fine draping
her otter-like chin
Deliberately she’d peer out from the wall
and nothing could be seen but the shadow of  her breasts
hidden beneath marmots of  hair
And lovely was her skin’s radiance
at that unusual hour
Her waist’s digressions
easily discerned
as bees through grass
the window neither open nor closed
What I saw, yellow like crystal,
rose from sleepy thighs
amassed in unseemly tourniquets
Everything before me, a pale shimmer
of  hairs fanning delicately
to reveal the pink or green skin I no longer know
of  hips a million centimeters
from my gaze.

Sad Men Have No Dancing Partners

Piedad Bonnett
Colombian
b. 1951

 

Sad men frighten birds away.
Down to their pensive foreheads descend
the clouds
and dissolve into an opaque drizzle.
Flowers languish
in the gardens of the sad men.
Their precipices tempt death.
Whereas
the women that are within a woman
are all born at the same time
in front of the sad eyes of the sad men.
The woman vessel again opens her belly
and offers the sad man her redeeming milk.
The woman child kisses with fervor
his paternal, desolate widower’s hands.
And she who walks silently in the house
shines his black hours and patches up
all the holes in his breast.
There is another that lends to the sad man
her two hands as if they were wings.
But sad men are deaf to their music.
There is no lonelier woman then,
more sadly lonely,
than she who wants to love a sad man.

Ruby Was Never Seen Again 25/9/03

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 60th birthday.

Lisa Bellear
Australian
1961 – 2006

 

Weep for this wounded desperate soul that never
seems to heal, alone, vocalising to any passer by.
Uncomfortable for some, they turn away, but that won’t stop
her swaying, or mend her destructive pain

Pray for this tired old and embittered lady
who fought courageously against the colonisers
classified as ‘tribal’ whose love across the
racial lines meant government sanctioned
interference: the Bullyman, welfare, local
school teacher – informant, would not relent
till Ruby was removed

Three long years of hiding from the
tentacles of institutionalised racism,
till a moments lapse and then she’s gone
Ruby’s gone, like she never existed,
nor was ever loved. Rocking to and fro,
she still dreams of little Ruby
and of that fateful day and wonders
what their life could’ve been
like without this government
sanctioned cruelty