“Where can I free myself of the homeland in my body?”
– Mahmoud Darwish
i am carrying your Palestine, fecund with
its rattletrap relics; its searchlight sanctuaries
the riverbed has desiccated to a bomb shelter
& children sleep like pebbles flicked into water
i watch the man return to the threadbare coffin
of the city & smoke shisha on the bulldozed rooftop
nothing but a trophy of soot; nothing but a nomad
fading in the hashish dark of an eastern twilight
the people lie still in dusk-blue tarpaulin of plastic
skies where death demands a visible practice
my dreams haunt the penumbra – barefoot
commanders from the eclipse’s somnambule
i trap the kaput grenades and fill them up
with your silvered ink; your attar of saffron
no more the houses leaking chemical seethe
no more the afternoon’s caravan of hearses
they say rain is rare here so they use blood
to wash the crud off the streets’ dirty muslin
i hide the sun clutched in the claw of a peregrine
falcon. i know the boy gunny-bagged like dog bones
i have sung among the shepherd grail & the land looks
like a broken hourglass that misses the djinn of time
i stopped at your well & caught the tiny ships
of bullet shells swimming above my reflection
i am walking inward into my life dragging
the mask of my myth. my dhikr is tongue-tied
there you go again – making bellropes from the
wind. here i am, a road of shivers, the gaunt pages
of a coppered almanac. only an immigrant may
know how to translate a death into another asylum
the first night i undress my face in a bowl of placebo, the air is thick
like the vulpine pulse of firstborn mongrels. vines slither in a calligraphy
of primitive dialects, old highways twine in a new, husky umber –
a fado scintillates its blue lily lilt within the acoustics of my bones.
amalia, with her eyelids of black salt.
amalia with her voice of rose-hip oil & azul mosques.
in another life we are here, together.
that life is not a vivisection of pleasure
like this one where my body glints like a new box guitar
and your mouth is a cave-chorus of a nomad’s rubato.
the ontology of longing is a dark flag lowered in prayer.
when i am naked, the rain splits its plump tongue on the window’s toothed derision,
then rises from the coxcomb of my thighs – a vulgar petrichor, a mauve hebetude.
no music can thread my rime. no song can fill the low vessel i have become.
my hands reach inside me & corral the shards of a hundred other songs i could have been.
when he staggers against my shadow – a damaged pigeon, feathers damp with a gray hysteria,
i grave my hands beneath the dirt of unasked questions. when he leaves, i move
through the house as if a snake made of light who sold herself to this rudiment
of usefulness to a man. am i this impossible levitation, this quicksilver epiphany?
the dishrag of touch barely lowers itself over the dusty silverware of my bones.
i am always placed as the third piece of ceramic on a table for two.
meanwhile, the rooms of this house remain knotted in their dull linen and
an heirloom of foreign films. on the green granite, i teeth the clementine bare
to its flesh, remember that she once sold fruit in lisbon’s quays.
did that citrus flower into a common grief? how did she wax each sour seed
into a forest so swollen with an animal bliss? in another life, i know that death is
just a gray labyrinth of mirrors i choose to tuck beneath my wedding band
like a tattoo of another lover’s name. in this life, i am consummate gold;
idol and metal.
i come to the music lacquered in liquor – each note a swig of new acid,
a violent liquid burning the tissue of tongue under a confetti of crushed pills.
let there be hyenas in the prairie / let the ark capsize by the weight of its own ambition / let his prison cell be biblical & carnivorous / let my ear welcome back its empty page / let me always be the black widow / never the bride / let there be the brief iridescence of a song / I can sleep inside / let our backbones be bent like book spines / let there be smiles as sudden as finding a box / full of startled kittens under a yellowing stairwell / let there be the lazy bass of mountain trains / belching carbon curlicues into the dull coal of dreams / let there be closeness as conjoined and still / distant as constellations to a telescope / let there be a nest of names spelled in wrist-weight / between the scapula & the shotgun surprise / let there be emptiness – marsupial; mouthful / let there be anxious rooms of remembering / amnesia filling up galleries, garrets, granaries / each room teetering / with the angry grace of nettled fugues / let there be pupils redder than the burning of opium fields / let the iron in my blood refuse his fire and rust / let there be heartbeats buzzing as if the conch-cry /of a warzone inside a wasp’s nest / let there be a coup d’état folded inside my chest / let there be a heart made smaller than a baby’s headstone / let there be you. let there be me. / let there be a homicide growing inside a girl /when I nightmare the man who held me by my neck / against the vertigo of four anemic walls / the man who shattered me above ironfisted floorboards / let there be the woman / my mother wished & then waned to be / let there be the man imprisoned beneath my father’s schizophrenia / his shame’s heavy shipwreck / and I, as lost as a whale-gulped key / let there be a clean memory of the hour / where I was playing roulette with razors / because pain was nearly parallel to breathing / because anything, everything that left a mark / was better/ than being erased by my mind’s angry waters / because some of us disappear quicker than an octave / inside the black crayon blackout of a bombed courtyard / let there be the terror of every blotted song / this split-shined psychosis that begs with its tin jar /with its tone-deaf mantras / with vehement, vicious echoes / let there be my apologies to my body, such as – / I am sorry that sometimes I make / my staying into sandpaper / that to lie next to it means being peeled page for page / I am sorry we can’t always be as forgiving as trees in a flood