Tell Life

For Ghassan Zaqtan


I now release from my blood the bird of   thirty she wasted
that’ s how wars crumble us

I now tell those who are exhausted from the expense
of children the secret of   happiness and happiness itself

from what is arrived at but doesn’ t come
from the language of   balance

defeat has the taste
of    being shrouded with another’ s banner
while your enemies chant your names

Some music some shelling
will strike our dead who flew off in the early raids
have you seen them return from their flying?

They stayed behind hanging by the thread
of their surprise and by their women’ s hair

We will dance in the wreckage drink the coffee
our dead left brewing we will open our tombs
to windows for the sea in order
for the sea to remain besieged

Right here right here
a corpse shook its trunk in the earth a corpse snapped
God’ s ropes houses gathered then hid
what’ s easy to interpret of   people’ s speech

Which mourners ebbed and turned the sea to tombstones
for our dead which poem was said and revived us?

And that huge rose of ours our only bewilderment
our offense on earth our balcony
on the kingdom of   heaven the grandfather’ s house

a hand that gestures farewell
in the roar of   the massacre a white hand like old time
a free hand like death after death

Tell my love space has been plucked
tell her to sleep on disaffection’ s stone


Two raids three raids a whole morning
a year of   long bombardment over your going

Did you forget a newspaper of   palm fronds
a time of   white dawn some hay from last season’ s siege
a brief greeting like a mumbling
on mornings of   slow advance

a suitcase a rug a palm with which you touched the evening
of shelling into a meaning
for a people kind and assured and silent?

Whenever glass shook you would shriek
kid I pluck
your death’ s anemone and eat it

Each land has its people
each time has its folks and time
for a while now has been standing on our throats

As if   we don’ t love or hate as if we’ ve seen the land
only as a bracelet a house a dress a poem left filled
with those who were killed without war


Memory shrinks until it fits in a fist
memory shrinks without forgetting

a boy in a farm a chicken on a roof
a dot on the planet mysterious and intuitive like parents

or a tree for a hat with prairies
for a dictionary and days like sleeves

short in summer cotton in winter
they resist when squeezed between our knees

A not so First World rains on a calm boy
torn apart like a tattered tent

The lily of words enters his heart takes a wedding
by the horns a well-trained bulbul
by the scandalous fruit rush of the river

His return will be washed shrouded
a field’ s first flower guarded by dirt

Coffee coffee for the beautiful one
whose heart’ s a tambourine this morning
while war shouts cold on slopes


In the saddles grass grows
warmth matures in oleander
the river pours in your absence
everything will happen

I exchanged half of my books to sit near you
flung my hand so that it may see you
then retrieved it to touch what it saw

We slept like sponges near the river butterflies descended
from the ribs of shadow then left behind
a mirror pitched like a house of   jinn


It’ ll be difficult that you go
before you choose a grave fit for sleep

It’ ll be difficult that you die
before you choose a grave fit for running
for flood swimming for dense reeds by irrigation channels
for bird snares for the lettuce garden in the backyard

for old dry thatch on mud roofs
for jujube shrubs for climbing on trucks and holding on
to vegetable boxes for the diffusion of secrets
loading and unloading in the big market

A grave fit for you to see Jericho light up
through the windows as a neon garden
the refugee camps by the marshes touch

A grave fit for you to see Jericho’ s convent toss
grass liquor our way fir for some arches
where oleander wilts near Bedouin tents

And their watchdogs will dig and dig
and dig and dig and you won’ t come


And the mules in the junkyards
does anyone feed their loneliness when they cry?

Or has anyone quenched their oneness or washed
their dead necks or visited them to remember how
they blackened in their sleep?

The mules the movie extras who fold their torsos
in the packed air as lineage
floats on light an icon
of wondrous dust and riddles


And our neighbor the one whose voice
fenced us with reeds all day and all night

She would forget her rings in our hands
two boys who used to dance for her