Has the sea too been killed by a sniper's bullet? - Nizar Qabbani
Pharaoh sent out his army,
and look what happened:
the lemmings threw themselves
at the sea and she ate them.
Our road to revenge is stealth:
six years of training,
then six inching toward the bluff
on knees and elbows.
Finally we lift our eyes
to the rifle sights,
and there she is, defenseless,
full, still busy with digestion.
I depress the small red button
to radio “Target Acquired,”
and we wait for our green light
from rear command.
Though we have achieved
a clear tactical advantage,
the Major, for reasons
that will never be revealed to us,
lets us sweat and start to cramp
for what seems an eternity,
then sends the yellow signal:
Goddam Love Poetry
Were you my lover, I might invade the sun with horses and ships. -Nizar Qabbani
I want to sack the sun—not lead him in chains and give him to you as a slave,
but present you a locket containing one curly snippet of his golden flame.
I’ll wear a shadow of armor, split my assault in two, one go left, one right
to besiege him like a halo till the last uncoupled atom of hydrogen yields.
If I succeed, I’ll pardon him, let him keep shining as a further tribute
to how your aspect stirs me—if I fail, fill the locket with the salt of tears.
Yet it won’t matter whether I return triumphant or burn to a crisp and plunge
if you decline to love me and instead affirm you’re in the moon’s embrace.
If that were so, she would not be off limits either. I’d continue excavating her
until her keepsakes were as thin as illusion and suspect as ivory dust.
Passion—obsession—this malady wears many names, and I don’t want you
to give in out of concern that the whole sky might eventually mourn in subjugation.
I ask you only to accept this tiny capsule, whose dried grief or arc of blinding fire
is not borne on battleship or stallion, but on romance-laden sigh.
but no reason why.
then still again,
as if here floated
up or down
and then back
to where it was before,
The waters sigh
Just let it go.
How is it possible
to let it go
without a sense
of what it is?
Nothing is changed.
The hell it isn’t.
What was ever nothing
now is nothing
made it different.
The Writer And His Father As Knotwood
New giant knotweed rises up in March
amid the skeletons of last year’s 8-foot dead
with feather-tendrilled tops
like chandeliers of freeze-dried smoke.
It rises foot to foot, then leg to leg, then rib to rib
and arm to arm and cheek to cheek
with last year’s ghosts,
which in the third year lie as litter
from which new shoots once more rise
along the bird-encrusted riverbank
where mallards and red-breasted robins nest.
Our dead get rites, then grave, or crematory ash.
When you go, Father, I won’t cask you off.
I’ll let you air-dry in the corner by the front door,
tease whatever hair you have
into a sort of Einstein-wannabe French tuft,
and lean the golf umbrellas on your knees.
When my time comes, I’ll crawl and press my cheek
against the saddle of your cordovan macallister. .
On the first day the freshmen scrimmage
with the high school varsity,
Jo comes home dejected, hopeless:
they’re too much faster, larger,
better trained, more confident.
The next day, she has it figured out
and schools them all:
deking them right and left to score a hat-trick.
This is my daughter, a poet with a soccer ball,
and it fills me with joy.
She’s smarter than they are.
She’s smarter than anyone else on the pitch.
She thinks strategically.
She knows how much, how hard, how quick.
Adrenaline only slows time down,
and gives her space to move.
I’ve seen the truly great performers:
Messi, Ronaldo, and Marta.
I’ve been blown away.
So why such pride in watching my child succeed?
I hear it called “triumphal disagreement
with the truth.” What truth?
Why so much pleasure in defeating it?
It seems like such a sorry trait.
The ugly fact: I’m living through my girl:
berserk ego gorging
on her flesh and blood as hungrily
as if an ax-slain dire wolf’s heart.
Instinctive thrilling to the hot blood
sliding from a corner of my mouth.
A drubbing of the fait accompli:
I’m dominionless, and so is youth.
They refer to the “moment” of death,
yet to the person dying, it is not a moment,
but a yawning epoch
which seems as if it should never end,
and it never does, entirely.
After what they perceive as, then verify as
a discrete event, those at the bedside
will stand up and go to the bathroom,
place telephone calls, or fix something to eat,
but before any of that happens,
the person dying inhabits a temporal Doppler
shrinking decades into milliseconds—
so much to do and to undo,
to prepare for and to recover from
to think about and to forget about,
to accept and to decline.
That extreme relativity of time,
more than anything, characterizes death.
The dying person, who once roved time
within the same order of magnitude
as her live companions,
now experiences it many orders differently,
and that is what separates them,
making further interaction seem so odd,
scarcely recognizable to the living,
dismissed as some sort of notion or haunting,
the dead person perceived as faint,
when in reality her presence
is no longer sufficiently condensed
within the time frame of the living
to be perceived as solid,
though her absolute solidity is unchanged.
Listen. You know as well as I do
in your heart of hearts
a person who has lived with you so long
doesn’t simply disappear just like that.
You need only decelerate your own time frame
as the death watch lengthens,
loosen your clasp to keep in sync
with your beloved as far as possible.
If during your vigil
you begin to get drowsy and nod off to sleep,
the person dying might seem to die
to the others around the bed,
but not at all, not yet, for you.
And if you manage to stay there and not wake,
you will have lost nothing whatsoever
and shall remain beside her in her shift.
Most of Us
sleepwalk through life
begin foreplay with kissing
don't know McDonald's biggest secret
can't make money online
cannot throw an effective punch
don't even notice
would have traded Deuce for Reggie straight up
will have some other rifle by elk time
don't need their cholesterol-lowering drugs
in your condition would have died by now
don't know about insomnia
must be elated for Aaron Rodgers
won't be able to do it
will always grant permission to a tactful request
don't want to hear the truth
eat mushrooms safely
will tell you what you want to hear
will never see it
won't bother to read it
have no idea who Slim Gravy and Paris Pershun are
don’t have any type of garage security
have no idea where Cuba is
can make a decent living
will compete for the laptops and other nice stuff
hear “Christian Lit” and bristle
play online poker for purely social reasons
know Nancy for her role as Jo in “Facts of Life”
do want to leave a mark.
Tom Riordan: Horses and Ships
Part of the PoetryCircle Showcase series.