Syriac Calligraphy

from a 2013 photo after a chemical weapons attack by the Assad government

 

                        “Love your children and have mercy on them.”

                                    from the Wasa’il

 

It must be warm in Syria in August.

The girls and boys

wear shorts & short sleeves. 

Two hours before the photo

gangly legs kicked soccer balls

   or wrestled

      or chased the neighbor’s dog.

Adhan temporarily bottled the laughter

until their exuberant shouts flew

into the dusty conflict of the morning.

 

Like letters on parchment

children’s bodies line the concrete floor

nuzzled close and neat, row after column.

            A calligraphy of bodies.

Spindly arms folded across skinny chests.

Lanky bodies lined up like pencils

            on the desk of truth.

The language of their calm faces erased,

replaced with a permanent repose

as if the palimpsest of death wished to write a beauty

more compelling than laughter.

Layers - Ramsey Mathews

 

by Ramsey Mathews


Bio:

While working in film and television in Los Angeles, Ramsey always found time to read and write on the set. He earned an MFA in Poetry at Cal State University, Long Beach. He is now half way through a PhD in English and Creative Writing at Florida State University in Tallahassee, where he teaches composition and literature. You can find his photography at ramseymathews.photography, Twitter (@dramapoet), or Tumblr (ramsey mathews). His poetry has appeared in Boaat Journal and San Pedro River Review among others. 

Two Poems

 Iraqi House - Fady AlSaegh

قصيدة لـ سيف الصائغ

 

تصحو من النوم

كبحر ضائغ.

مفزوع ، ككراسي قاعة العرس

بعد رحيل الحضور.

رأسك ثقيل،

كمجموعة من الفامبايرز

يرقصون التانغو

كيف هو حال الحلم؟_

يموت كبطل

فلم رومانسي قديم.

كنكتة تعاد

على طول عقدين من الزمن.

كموجة تضرب

صخرة عمياء.

نصحى بدون جدوى،

العينان صحراء

واسعة.

وفي القلب سباق – نحو اي ضوء؟

نحو اي ضوء؟

 


Translation by Saif AlSaegh

 

A Poem by Saif AlSaegh

 

You wake up 

a lost sea.

Terrified

like the chairs in

a wedding reception

after the guests left.

Your head, heavy

like vampires dancing the tango.

_ How’s the dream?

It dies like the protagonist

In an old romantic movie.

Like a wave striking

a blind rock.

We wake up empty.

The eyes are a wide desert.

The soul is a continuous sunset.

and in the heart … a race-

Towards what light?

Towards what light?

 

--- 


Saif AlSaegh - Baghdad, 2009 (Digital)

Leaps

by Saif AlSaegh

The dream is still, 
but the child is falling
and slowly dying
of sea cancer. 

The black man is
wearing a red suit, 
his orange hat
is laughing at an
opiate youth. 

The night has passed, 
and the brilliant brains
are sorrowful ... 
the morning is the grinning gallows of happiness. 

The middle-aged woman
is donating blood
to revive another shopping mall, 
so we can buy routine sexual stimulants. 

The old man
reads today's newspaper
only to discover it's
also yesterday's news
telling us it's another morning
where saints die alone. 


Check out Saif's blog (you can click here) for more! 

of tendencies

Photo Credit: Public Domain Archive

of tendencies, when light filters back through a peep hole

layers of brain peonies unfurl qua antlers for arrows

suspended in absence of skin, the way light drips off

the corner of your mouth — if art is preservation of self

 

i am woman with no bra in winter nipples frostbit hard

how hard does each species devour emptiness?

you say you love me and i look at you tongue heavy

 

with obligation to regurgitate — i can feel the shape

of your earlobes with my fingertips such somnambulist

incantations — neither shrill nor scolding your voice conjures

 

a claptrap minefield of excuses to avoid compulsion

when nothing matters most flesh exposes — indecision

is a decision — when did fragments become a way

 

of subversion? an overwhelming sense of dissatisfaction

owls and hours of minerva – split ginkgo biloba, mobius

circles, stripped — what is regret but desire for chance?

 

priorities allow for collateral learning — not now satan,

i’m fingering thru my rolodex of hate – my heart is licorice

black not quite lead — a backpack full of carcasses

 

the aperture of assassin-bugs — light explorations

a gypsy beachcomber jaunts not juts — polarization,

best left observed, not handled, no urgency

 

means no push for growth — a shrapnel desire for nothingness

rooted in moss — if art is self preservation, then, why do i keep

writing you in calla lilies throat drunk with light always running

 

out of syllables — loneliness is an invention of the idle

remember, i don't have to touch your point of pain to fix you

the metal taste is from iodine flowing, saline for dehydration

 

crab pinched thoughts ants and ants crawl on forearm

thalassophobia — is the fear of large bodies of water or

was it the fear of vast emptiness? poetry is the unbound

 

recapitulation of brief moments qua permanency

and the perusal of jettisoned non-essentials — tell me

the structures of semiconductors of surfslash neckwings

 

handwritten butterflies — write to locate equilibrium in neurotic

grooves and ridges, impulsive bowl-of-cream — svelte not thin,

flexible and graceful not slim — when a city haunts you and you

 

ignore it the way you ignore catahoula that catahoula louisiana

swamp mixbreed fatty re-signifies home for you, when all i want

are perpetual unlit ceiling candles too expensive to burn

 

were they from solvang or scandinavia? object permanence

an ability to understand an object’s existence — familiar tangibility

when it is no longer visible, obtrusive (to) desire, inert, mid-sand

 

weighs heavy on your clavicles calcified pining for touch

 

by Jax NTP.

Confrontations of an Approaching Oblivion

Memory (Palimpsest)

for Rifqa, my grandmother

 

it's hard
to watch the identity
of your loved ones
fade before their body
does.

it's hard
to witness the memories
beneath their wrinkles
vanish.
so a void is left
to ponder about.

it's hard
to stare at their anticipation
tired though tiring,
but yet the impossible rescue
is still an option

to you.

it's hard
to see them forget
your name
and what the sound of it
did to their hearts.

it's hard
to notice decay around
every moment
of every room
as you display
a celebration of reminders
audaciously and eagerly
but yet it's rejected
by those in oblivion.

it's hard
to know that the loss
of the welcomeness

that you once felt
is justified
just like the absoluteness
of the blue in the sky.

it's very hard
to realize that it is
about time.


by Mohammed El Kurd

April 15, 2016

Jerusalem

Two Poems

 Brian O'Callaghan (1999)

I.

Traffic

 Across the Moei river, 

 The blessed take the bridge. 

 She’ll risk the crossing for taciturn men who promise gold.

 

 Herded to a false Valhalla, crammed in a wait house 

 Reticent serfs loaded on a truck,

 Dawn is a god dimming veil that separates worlds. 

 Stateless, nameless, bond-servants. 


 O'Callaghan, (2010)

II.

A Futile Love

The silliness of a gaze

Our servitude of thought

Letters never sent, desire unloved 

A stillborn dove. 

 

The limpness contained and locked away, 

Daydream narrative, the pits. 

A bag, heavy and too obvious 

Pity for the awkward stage 

The elephant man in assembly 

 

Years and futures caught in nets 

All fathers now and titles fixed 

Fattened fish flapping on the deck 

No more diving, in search of wrecks. 

by Brian O'Callaghan

Photo Credit: O'Callaghan

Mimosa in the Morning

I would love to wake up to mimosas in the morning,

(Photograph by Marcelle McIntosh)

And take a gulp while I’m yawning.

Shake my hair out with more naps than a newborn,

Then read the paper about who took the world by storm.

And see where the missing black people are displayed at,

Next to the car rentals and Viagra-on-discount ads.

Recycled news of black men being killed by law,

Images of protestors singing the blues with throats so raw.

I can’t breathe, don’t choke me,

I just want to go home and eat my skittles and iced tea.

Seeing all this makes me want to get stoned,

and turn into a statue, stiff with every bone.

Do a little cleansing with a bottle of cheap vodka,

to replace, to remove my genetics, my plasma.

Hopefully put life into a better perspective,

Align thoughts, ambitions and beliefs in respective order .

To think about the boy that kept me afloat,

After drowning in the ocean, while avoiding every boat.

The nights before when our juices would mix,

And we couldn’t tell the Mr. from the miss.

When two broken hearts could not even make one whole,

But each exhale released bits of soul.

I could just come at the slightest gesture of his fingertips.

And trap my pleasure, by clasping our lips.

We could’ve done anything or nothing and just do it,

Until God blesses us with the rising sun.

Then we would continue, until we raise our own.

And hope he will not be just be one more.

But for now I rather sip mimosas in the morning,

And have a day free of mourning.

Being young, black and free,

Finding my way above the waves,

and still growing,

— growing to be me.

 

by Marcelle McIntosh

On Writing Poetry (or Poetry as Protest)

                        Oscar Makes Cry — Ponca (Edward Sheriff Curtis 1927)

The question of poetry is one that torments us all. What is poetry? What are its boundaries, or is it a horizon in itself (an imperceptible one, like a little knife or a scalpel with which we auto-make surgery)? Is it auto-erotic asphyxiation or faith? What’s its purpose and meaning (That no one shares)? It seems sometimes like a transportation band directly to anxiety, to loneliness, to chronic masturbation. Who is the poet other than one who answers calls, his own calls, sitting on the telephone every day, showing up eternally even where there are no messages, no rings? (This bitter earth/What fruit it bears) Who is the poet other than a transfigured phantom chaser who cries ink with a pen too old to count the years, a memory too far to catch with a little net we used to trap butterflies but they are here no more and it broke, the net, like the mirror when we looked at it. The poet kept looking. Protesting and acknowledging Iraq, Vietnam, Mexico, (this bitter earth), Charleston, Beirut, Ramallah, his drinking father, and the bastard son of violence, the corrupt State. A voice within him cries, trying to answer the phone with a transgendered amber bottle in his other hand, (yes he has hands), trying to find meaning among tears, among age, among gone looks. He prays the poem, the cathedral of humanity, then buries it and waters it with milk and honey before taking his morning coffee and covering himself with blankets lest he should get shot with cold, with loneliness.(?) He owes his life, his eyes and hands to a blank sheet of paper, that he rapes with makeup (paperphilia)?

He takes a tumour out with his own scalpel and lays the bone marrow in his tomb, were it likes to sleep like his children. He is sublimed and lies beside a rotten notebook not even he understands.

He wakes up in the middle of the night to the moans of masturbating trees and flies, and does accordingly to sobbing stars, but with black lube, and crying hands. He stares in the mirror and is a burning faggot in a transvestite silver plate. (Aren’t we all?) The next day he goes to every protest on the streets, then returns home to plant a flower in the hope that she grows in an earth who (Write it!) ‘s not so bitter after all.

Poetry is the poet’s chaos, his own necessary taste of sky’s disaster.

by Angel Aragón

My Worthy American Life

      Photo credit: Key Soto

America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood…

 

Maybe I’ll die tomorrow because I won’t

wake up

Maybe it will be because I do

(wake up)

and get on the wrong train to go to work

 

It might be the rage filled anti-

American terrorist group

They will make a statement by taking my freedom:

my worthy American life

and the lives of those that desperately cling to their versions of

America, the beautiful

 

It will be on tv and we’ll be mourned:

Young, straight, white,

Worthy,

college educated, American,

(worthy,)

teacher

 

Or maybe it will be some white man in his 20s who’s

angry at the terrorists;

he will also make a statement

in the name of freedom, I think

 

He will have gone mentally ill:

because he’s white

because

America, the beautiful

 

Or maybe it will be because I take a cab home

’cause I’m exhausted from

my terrorist headache

 

And the cab will flip over on the 59th street bridge

Young, straight, white, worthy, college educated, (worthy), teacher

might make the news

 

Maybe I’ll die

thinking of all of the ways

I might die

 

And I’ll be my own terrorist, so that they —

terrorist group and random white man and my

big brother

won’t terrorize

my worthy soul

 

Maybe

I’ll die

because I choose to

 

I choose when and how

I’ll terrorize

myself

Put a bullet in my mouth

 

Or maybe

I’ll choose to submit

to the state

 

Take our lives now — put a chip in me and

take my thoughts away

 

Then I won’t have

racing thoughts

 

And I won’t turn into a terrorist

 

I’ll give that to my

Uncle Sam,

 

For we are

all soldiers now

 

from sea to shining sea

by Vicky Munyoz