Poetry

I write a fair bit of poetry.  Thus far, I've tried to publish very little of it.  Here are a few pieces I've had published.

On Hearing Eman Ahmad Khammas Speak in Denver
(originally published in Messages from the Hidden Lake, Vol. II, 2010)

Greetings from the camps, my ancestors, yours
Greetings from smoke, the showers, the trains,
the planes, the ovens, the graves, children
shot in cold blood yesterday. I left my children

my husband there, waiting for day, which
rises without a star, to plead our case
against your hearts. Listen, my relatives
for this you are: the whistle of the train

grows louder, here, in your desert plain.
Did you think it was confined
to mine? I do not come here to plead,
surrender six thousand years of dignity,

all that's left to me, but to gift you
a prophecy.  Hear me before it's too
late for your grandchildren.
The sun has gone down on mine,

but they will remember, as the trains
across this plain are emptied, filled again,
crows descend, and night screams across
the Atlantic:

In our hour of need we turned to you,
and you did nothing.



Afternoon at Deheisheh
(originally published on the Poets Against War website in 2001)


The old women still carry the keys, he says, to houses
in villages destroyed. Names on walls, these keys,
children’s memories of places they’ve never seen: This remains.

Here is a boy. There, a tortuous gesture of road.
Here the rivulets of sewage carve an artless dirt canyon.
Here is a promise, a youth center, sparkling as the virgin 
century, inside decked in 1940s memory: Zakharia, Deir Yassin,
village names climb the stairwell like a vine, from the past, 
leading up, to a future that no one can see--
or nowhere--the future of the refugees.

A young man from the camp guides us 
gently uphill. His confidence is that 
of a goat. He points out Hebrew markings: 
“The soldiers needed to find their way, so they 
named the streets.” Across the alley, different markers: black 
graffiti of soldiers, three times the size of a man, shooting 
small boys.

In the store, a gray man, wrinkled as newspaper burning
--he is, perhaps, 40--gives us bananas by the kilo, and refuses 
our shekels. Behind him, the wall is papered with dead men. 
Twenty-four faces, all under thirty, have--had--brown hair, brown 
skin, brown eyes as dark and deeply drunk as coffee: 
intense and sweet at weddings, bitter and black in mourning.

We amble through on-going lives: Blocks 
of cement, once tents, now home 
to entire clans. Mad angles groan
beneath quickly-built homes, awkward, 
unfinished as teenagers, forgotten boulders 
from some long ago earthquake.

Walking downhill, we are stoned, 
by a group of giggling seven-year olds. 
I greet them in their language. Then
I’m thrust a puppy, still blind and trembling,
yanked from a box of newborns, too young
to be away from their mother.

Delicately we step across Martyrs’ Alley, dodging 
the spurting blood and sniper’s fire of ghosts.
We return to the youth center, cultivating of hope
as earth and clean, closest to the street.

Here too, a memory: turnstyle, the old 
and only way in or out, now metal 
skin left flapping, torn
from ancient barricades, redundant
and ridiculous, never used now, but 
by tourists who come to see 
how little peace has meant to the refugees.

Out of respect, for what we don’t know, those of us free
to come and go, walk through this bequest, one
at a time, as prescribed by a ghost, some ghost 
of our own, a voice in our heads, a promise 
unkept.



The Feast of San Cristobal
(published in Messages from the Hidden Lake, Vol II)

Numbed still from lunch margaritas, and late
to the markets where they kill birds on order
they pooled peso for eggs, cheese, bread
forgetting the chicken demanded by

she of the hunger that may have saved thousands,
moral magazine, there is no defense, "Zapatistas
would never let a comrade go hungry." Stars
spin round grow faint. Across town

a half-drunk apostate kneels on the old tiles
imploring the tree of execution and faith
she stopped creeding several wars 
and lovers ago:

"I give you my life, again.  Take it.
Just tell me how to stop this pain."

Behind her a Tzeltal girl, shoeless,
shining a rock star's canvas, dirt-worn,
jungle-stained, wholly unshineable
shoes.  

No comments:

Post a Comment