Friday, April 23, 2010

immaculate obsession

you feel secure in this distance
where we waltz without touching though
you are always here always lingering
on the fringes of my imagination painted
like a fresco upon the shifting sand
like a mirage upon the desert floor
in this imaginary place where
our arms curl in a touchless embrace
and our hands caress transparent auras
you are here and you are not
and if one moment i see you
the moment after i am blind with sorrow
rigid and black wrapping around my
twisted paranoid manic green heart
paranoid and manic and riddled
with drunken cataracts green that
sprout while you are in her arms
and if one moment i see you smiling
the moment after you are enraged
your skin dyed acid and 
i am stricken with rigor mortis and
i grow cold 
though i once was warm
and the glimmer of my hips
oh how it glowed and drew them to me
drew them like only quicksand can draw
those others before you oh how they were drawn
but even then you lurked in the shadows
claiming ownership of my flesh though
your flesh belonged to another
is this why
even while you love my tender breasts
i grow cold
is this why
in my kaleidoscopic eyes
the desert is blue and the sky is gold
why is it we always make love with our eyes closed?
why is it we let the sandstorms stifle our orgasms?
why is it we pull back before the desert rains fall?
i have the memories of your arms your lips your legs
though touchless and transparent
and the imagined fragrance of your sex
i still sleep i still dream of the down on your nape
quivering in the breeze of the desert moon
i tear myself from the sand’s embrace
and sleep on the ceiling of the night
and i drip drop by drop by drop
i have only this touchless dance to devour
all day all night all day all night
only this immaculate dream on which to feed
and i grow smaller and thinner
while i await the closing of the distance
the opening of your fastened eyes

Saturday, April 17, 2010


they said she was possessed by demons. they said she challenged the spirits. they sat in the parlor and clucked and gossiped about someone’s sister and someone’s daughter. they said she was a distant relative. they said we used to play together as children. that we measured the breadth of the sky with our hands. and played dress-up in our mothers’ wardrobes. but that didn’t matter anymore. that was before the demons. that was before she screamed in the bathroom. that was before she called them out of the dark. before the headaches and the muteness and the doctors and the psychologists and the sheikhs and the priests. and the evening calls to prayer rang in the night. it was time for the zar to begin. in auntie rosa’s courtyard. in the dark of cairo illuminated by kerosene lamps. in a perimeter decorated with burning candles whose tongues licked the smoky haze of the air. and there was an altar. right over there. stacked with dry fruit. and roasted nuts. and a jug of cool rosewater. they said the fruit and nuts were an offering. one has to keep the demons satisfied. and the aroma of frankincense and oud swirled around us. all ladies in white gallabeyyas and sheer headscarves. and there was a rooster. a red rooster. he squawked to heaven because he knew. and the one they called kodia. SHE. a mystical woman who communed with the spirits. she came in like the queen of sheba in her gallabeyya of royal blue silk. she blinded us with her light. and her gold-capped teeth that glistened in the night. droplets of liquid fire. and the young lady. that one possessed by the demons. she was brought in like a calf to the slaughter. robed in white from neck to ankle like the bride she was to be. before she became the devil’s bride. eyes lined with black kohl. wrists wrapped with gold and silver amulets. hands and feet painted with red henna. and the voices said oh my soul. how my heart aches for her. look at her skin. like fresh milk. ya habibti helwa wi zayy el amar. she’s as beautiful as the moon. and they said after the blood is shed you have to close your eyes. don’t look at her. don’t challenge the spirits. she challenged the spirits and look at her now. malbousa a’ouzou billah. she’s the devil’s bride. and the men came. with a tambourine and a tabla and a flute and a mangour. and they wore long emerald gallabeyyas with red sashes at their waists. and turban-like scarves around their heads. and their kohl-rimmed eyes were like pools of black oil. and SHE. she whispered something. a prayer or an invocation or a spell. poured a handful of powdered incense over the red-hot coals in that incense burner in the corner. and the coals burned orange and the incense sizzled and the smoke curled up into the air. and the music began. doom tikka tik doom tikka tik doom tikka tik and the kodia’s head was an erratic pendulum doom tikka tik doom tikka tik doom tikka tik and the women swayed in a circle around the altar doom tikka tik doom tikka tik doom tikka tik and the dervishes whirled and whirled doom tikka tik doom tikka tik doom tikka tik and their finger cymbals clanged and the flute wailed and the possessed glided. manic eyes. catatonic limbs. beautiful ghost with a face of skin and bones. and i remembered i remembered how we used to climb that mango tree in my grandmother’s garden and jump over the fence to the neighbor’s side and pick her red roses and run like devils were chasing us and i remembered her this girl this demon girl always quiet always quieter than the rest of us always shy and i remembered how one time we’d made her cry told her her brother was retarded and i remembered how one time we’d made her lie told her to run home and tell her mother salma had fallen off a tree and broken her leg but there was a woman. a woman in black. she held the sacrificial rooster by the wings. grabbed the poor creature so he couldn’t even flutter. and she whirled and whirled and whirled. and the rooster whirled like a weathervane. and the music whirled into the night doom tikka tik doom tikka tik doom tikka tik and there were heads that whirled to the rhythm and there were scarves that swirled around shoulders and there was hair that bounced in the air and there was a voice that howled at the moon and there were eyes that rolled back in their sockets and there was spume that spattered from mouths and there were words mumbled in strange tongues and there was a woman who twitched like a snake on the ground and the circle of dancers bubbled like lava and the possessed was lost in the crowd but a wave of dancers ebbed and there she was thin fragile pale. chest heaving. head rolling. black curls twisting. twisting in the air and the voices said somebody support her somebody catch her before she falls and they hovered and reached and pulled back. and the darawish reached up emerald-clad arms and removed their headdresses and their hair fell in gleaming tresses cascading sheets of midnight black and long locks whirled and whirled and whirled and an agonized scream cut the air and the possessed that one with the demons the one we’d played with as children she crumbled to the ground and the music stopped. and the night was silent. and there was an awkward air. in auntie rosa’s courtyard there was an awkward air. and the sacrifice was brought to the kodia. and there was squawking squawking godawful squawking. and SHE. she slipped a knife out of her brass belt. slid it across the rooster’s neck. swift and bold. and the bird jerked once. and the sacrificial blood flowed crimson red on the white marble floor. and they lifted the possessed. brought her to the brew. dipped her hands into it. guided them to her face her hair her body. and the stench of acrid sweat and oxidizing blood hung in the air like a tumid shroud. and they sprinkled her face with rosewater mayya mayya mayya mayya mayya bismillah bismillah bismillah and she opened her kohl-streaked eyes and let out a scream. a scream that made the blood simmer in our bones. and a lady screamed. screamed a scream from the depths of her womb. screamed a mother’s scream and said oh my child why won’t they let you be? and the women rushed to the mother’s side. the mother of the devil’s bride. god help you. allah ma’aki they said. and under their breath they muttered god protect us from all evil. a’ouzou billah min al shaytan al rajeem. and they held up their palms to ward off the spirits. and the mother said when will my child be freed from these demons? must she die so they can be satisfied? and SHE. she said only god in his infinite power can free her. the sacrifice will satisfy the lust of the demons. but the power belongs to god and him alone. and the mother choked. choked on her sobs and said where is he? nothing is working. not the doctors or the psychologists or the sheikhs or the priests. not the bible or the qur’an or the bedouin incantations. my beautiful daughter is dying and where is god. why does he disappear when i beg his help? why is he deaf to a mother’s prayers? and the women said don’t lose your faith. god will deliver her. this is his promise. just believe in his power and your daughter will be spared. but the mother rolled her head up to the heavens. raked her desperate fingernails over her face. looked out at the invincible darkness. and said. i don’t know what to believe anymore.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

paper tigers

"Étude pour Les Fleurs du Mal"
by Leonor Fini

it’s always the same story
they love me so long as i lie
spill aromatic words
from forked tongue
they love me so long as i say
            things that make them feel
            it’s all about me me me
            me it’s all about me
they love me so long as
they can hear it and smile
but when i start to speak the truth
            they stop smiling
            and start snarling
i offer my hand
            and they tear off a finger
i offer my heart
            and they suck out the blood
they say i talk too much
            and never make sense
and they shear off my lips
and toss them to the wind
sever my head
and send it rolling
down shadowed woods
and they feast on their favorite bits

i leap into O’s of fire
trying to save what’s left of me
dreaming of finding my missing crown
but they chase after me
            and i fumble and stumble
                        in the dark

is it the eyes on my back
they want next?

i’ve lost my shoes
and my stockings
o they’re torn
by nettles and thorns
and i fall
            but churches too have fallen
and so did hercules and damocles
and the one-eyed cyclops and achilles

i touch my eyes first
then smooth the tangles in my hair
then kiss my own lips
            with my lipless mouth

Thursday, April 8, 2010

beauty's antithesis

something happens in a moment
before you have a chance to think
before you have a chance to figure it out
a suspension of time
a presentiment of the inevitable
it beats you to the finish line…

you’re sitting in your car
you’ve just taken a sip of your espresso
and you tilt your head
cock your arm just a bit
to set down the cup in its holder
the light is still red
and you’re waiting for it to turn green
there’s a grocery list in your bag
a list of things you need
to cook. and wash. and clean.
and the guy in the car in front of you
the first in a row of cars waiting
he tilts his head too
just for the splittest second
so he can talk to the woman beside him
his wife. or his mother.
or his daughter. or his friend.
just a flicker of eye contact
while they’re chatting about
their kids. or her cholesterol.
or her homework. or her new curtains.
and you see the light turn green
and you see him see it too
and you watch his head jerk back slightly
as he releases the brake
and you hear it before you see it
the splash of crunching metal
and you watch as the truck speeds away
leaving a cloud of rubble in its trail
but the car in front of you is still there
though it’s not quite in front of you anymore
it’s kind of tilted at an angle
               if you could see angles
‘cause it’s not really a car anymore
and you see the droplets
deep crimson and shiny
dripping like a random shower
pooling like lonesome rain
a little here and a little there
and you know…

your hand clamps over your mouth
in disbelief
and the tears prick your eyes
in revulsion
and you close them
you close your eyes
without a second thought
because sometimes
you have to close your eyes

when you see people going off like sparkplugs
               you have to close your eyes
when you see minds going mad like carnival lights
              you have to close your eyes
when you see bodies expiring like street lights at dawn
              you have to close your eyes

you deny these realities access
to the sanctuary of your heart
you deny these windows eternity
upon the walls of your psyche
because twenty years from now
they will unfold like a massacre in slow motion
while you’re rinsing an apple at your kitchen sink
or waiting for your tea kettle to whistle

you pull yourself away
and at that very moment
you are alone in this world

but there is a thought that won’t leave you
it clings like a circular saw to raw muscle
who allowed this to happen
this thought
most wickedly
it could've been me
thank god it wasn’t me
and just for that moment
you’re a believer in god
you’re in cahoots with the lord
and you have that retrospective
unshakeable expectation that
you will always be delivered from evil
just until you pass that heap of debris
not without those tears in your eyes
the ones that never quite made it out
and your senses half-shut
‘cause you don’t want
how to say it?
any more stimuli

we are enraptured by beauty
it was the first sacrament
it was the original sin
and this sight…

someone is dead
but that list in your bag is calling
someone is dead
but you still have to cook. and wash. and clean.
someone is dead
and you’d better catch that light
you’d better catch it quick
              while it’s still green

Saturday, April 3, 2010

hovering in uncertain geometries

"Falling Star" by Witold Pruszkowski

square room
empty space
wooden air
harsh geometry
by fluid exhaustion

i cannot rest tonight
your absence glows in the dark
and there is no sky for me
but the stars fall inside me
and the key in my eyes
is a pandora that
unlocks the hallucinations
one full revolution
to release
one full cloud
of images and words that race
chasing coattails
tempting me to catch them
and assign them
to a particular coordinate point

your warmth was too easy
i needed an ice queen
to chill my soul
with her snowflake hair
and her frosty kisses
and her icy gaze
that pretend symmetry

you sit on the edge of my dreams
and your thoughts
bleed into my head like pigments
running one into the other
jagged lines
rippled by variance
starting everywhere
and going nowhere

i mistook kindness for love
but you unmasked me
            undressed me
and you joined that circle of scoffers
over there
with their scoffing mouths and their scoffing eyes
scoffing at my nakedness

i stumble in shame
there is no need for shame
oh but there is
you have unmasked me
            undressed me
and the circle of scoffers has abandoned me
and now i stand in nakedness
and now they scoff at me

i dream of crying
but the tears reject my eyes
i tremble
suspended in mid-air
like a bird caught
behind a glass window
not knowing where
the transparent rectangle ends
and the open sky begins
you have given me
the keys to a room with no doors
but there is a stale poem
beating like a drum
inside my head
and there are pale squares
where our pictures used to hang
on these unyielding walls

i will color the paleness blue
glide inside it
and fall into the racing sky

a cloud awaits
it is my ship
and in it i will sail
the unnavigated coordinates
of my heart

the atmosphere will bubble
and press upon you and smother you
sending your body in crying whispers
through space
and you will grope in the dark
seeking familiarity

and i will hear the ringing of bells
pounding against my skull
white-hot and ready to incinerate
like a violent flame

i must lay still and allow
i must allow
you must allow
this flame
this flame
to consume

the grieving ghosts will cry and dance
they will dance in the air for me
they will dance and cry
billowing their shrouds about them
in lamentation for the whispered one

i pray there is true water inside
this choppy sea of atmosphere and clouds
i pray a kind constellation will guide you
to a particular coordinate point
where i can pretend i am a star
and twinkle forever in the sky
and twinkle forever in the sky
in a certain coordinate point
a point that will memorize me
a point that will remember me
light years after i have been extinguished
amidst the peals of the ringing bells
and the wails of the grieving ghosts
and the compulsive echo of your voice