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A Kurdish YPJ fighter with smoke behind her rising from an ISIS held area near the town of Al Hol, Hasakah. (Photo credit: Delil Souleiman)

Make way for the young!

I’d hate to be the one to break it to you

(or no, not really, I don’t care),

but you’re dying soon.

Stop being so selfish, will you?

Are 70 years of living, dominion and destroying not enough?

Make some space

or at least allow us to claim some.

Lift the censorship off our voice, our ideas, our creativity and our eroticism.

Don’t persecute our idealism and turn it into radicalism or cynicism.

Ideas cannot be sent into exile like oppressed bodies

they only get spatially and temporally displaced.

You’re only hindering the inevitable.

The youth will wake up from this death-like sleep

and they will rise,

their voices will be heard and their ideas will materialize,

doing away with your old convictions, structures and oppressive systems.

They say cats are liquid, they fit wherever they sit.

We weren’t liquid.

We weren’t that malleable,

but did we have a choice other than to change our body’s materiality

or disappear into the lurking shadows of a dusty apartment in Tahrir square?

The youth’s hair is greying.

And, no, not just the trendy silver.

The faces are dry

and a wrinkle appears where the frown never ceases.

Many give up, even more burn out.

But some, some have this radical hope

that others call naïve.

And the pharaoh will succumb to the young.

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A mural painted by the artist eL Seed in a part of Cairo inhabited by garbage collectors (Manshiyat Naser) quotes a third-century Coptic bishop: “If one wants to see the light of the sun, he must wipe his eyes.” (Credit: David Degner for The New York Times)

You read the words of Mahmoud Darwish,

his nostalgia, revolution and melancholia swirl the desert dust over times and places

to reach your eye.

Yes, I swear. This is how the tear settled on my dry cheek.

And Nizar Qabbani whose eroticism, love and poetic (but also political) fight for social justice make you tingle and long for something.

You don’t know what it is you seek or long for

something that the poem will never make tangible.

You let the words and language sink in

You notice how smoothly your eyes glide across the Arabic calligraphy on the yellowed pages

How much easier internalizing their words and worlds is getting

You sense the physical and metaphysical barriers dissolving

Barriers of your many selves.

The displaced and the disowned,

or like Edward Said, those “out of place.”

The one that claims she’s home,

but will always have a soft spot for a man who speaks in her tongue.

Tongues intertwine as the barrier gradually shifts

What put it there? How and when did it come into being? Who let it? Who is to blame?

The blame game makes it easier.

You think, dream, make love and write in another’s tongue

Some would say a colonizer’s tongue.

Yours is shackled by a barbed wire,

the same one endlessly running through Palestine, Syria and Iraq.

Is it a barbed wire, or streaks of crimson blood interlaced with dirt left behind from the last missile?

Or perhaps it’s the red wine you spilt trying to reach for the glass

after a touching poem, or a great orgasm.

But you let it.

You were happy about it at some point of time. To be fluent in many other languages

as yours rots and decays like the slums and streets of Cairo.

Cairo.

A permanent layer of dust, grey ashen dust, seems to have settled on everything

from decayed buildings to jagged streets,

to a man’s once white galabeya,

and most probably to the Coptic woman’s black attire.

You just can’t see it, because black hides it all. Even her son’s blood.

You observe as your chauffeur drives you in the air-conditioned car.

You’re disgusted.

You’re disgusted not at the sudden hyper-awareness of your privilege, but at your privilege itself.

Your privilege and pacifism.

You go back to your book.

You’ll write about this, you think.

You should do something

…one day.

But will you?

You arrive at the pub downtown.

Your friends already ordered the red wine.

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The Pacific Ocean

The Pacific Ocean

How can a gesture erase

                                                           a thousand others

are less than the one                         person

insufficient                                          one

                                                               flawless.

The hand’s caress

                                                           caressing un-draws

figures in the sand                              the cathedrals,

                                                           erected to capture

children playing

distant sounds                                    the awe for God,

now                                                    are now gossamer structures

                                                           floating on the frothy water

The hand holds grains                        towards the indeterminate

It constructs                                        horizon’s alter.

The hand holds onto a grain

like a drowning man out of luck.

                                                           And as he pulls on that speck,

                                                              he unravels his own fabric,

                                                                 for he is made of sand,

                                                                 as much as his castles.

 

That hand’s caress                             unforgettable, unforgiving

Nothing more persists                        nothing more exists

than the downing man’s living:           excess

                                                              of sorrow

of another tomorrow,

                                                           in-between being.



Like a comb
                                                  found when unsearched for
missing some teeth…

Like forced smiles                      in a nursing home

Like a hurt animal                      trying to save some last moments

                                                  demarcated by some random feet of space

                                                  in the deep of an engulfing forest

                                                  (before the attack comes again).

This shelf

whose order was broken,

                                                  this shelf––

little holes of space––

belonging                                   no more together

than separate.

Dusty remnants…

                                                  Does the dusty plane

                                                  maintain a solid?

Array of sordid

                                                  two and three dimensions.

This shelf bares its items

like a gypsy traveler abandons his circus.

He glares as the lion there

and is no less pathetic.

                                                    He growls at command,

                                                  snaring with hate and hurt

                                                              manifests

                                                    prosthetic and decayed,

                                                        chipped off fangs.

Every roar betrays

                                                  a throng of pangs.

The shelf                                   laughs

and bares its soul––

                                                  some one took away

                                                         his things.

Some one took away,

from the shelf,

some things

contained                                   some one

                                                   remained

                                                 some things

                                                    retained.

The shelf snickers and hisses

now

with

its maimed mouth.

And somewhere

                                                     a gypsy,

                                                     or a lion,

                                                  or an owner

                 mirrors and mimics

                 its shriveling sound.

September 2014 — Sunset over Rosenthaler Platz, Berlin.

Sunset over Rosenthaler Platz. Photo by the author.

How can one convey a complete upheaval of comfort and routine, a loss of language and comprehension and direction? Is it possible to put into words the magic of discovering a new place for the first time? So have we, the Bard in Berlin cohort, experienced a complete cycle of disorientation and reorientation in moving to Berlin for this fall semester. The sixteen of us hail from Bard College, Al-Quds, Simon’s Rock and the Kansas City Art Institute. We are proud to join our fellow Bardians in a place that feels like home, but is really nothing like it.

As each in our group goes on their own adventures, works their internship, discovers a cool hole in the wall café or can decidedly say they have eaten the best Turkish food in the city — we expand our reach, taking in all that we can and are constantly searching for more. This city is monumental and massive, old and new, kinky, concrete and just plain crazy. One could only dream of seeing it all.

To get a grasp on our first few weeks in Berlin, I have composed a collaborative poem using language gathered from several members of the Bard in Berlin cohort. Our journey through the semester is both an individual and collective experience. This poem is an attempt to coalesce some of our best moments thus far, and to look towards our next three months studying, living and working in Berlin.

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M.14

With you I share

this little piece of self,

for the temporality

of days in which

our presence

lacks and lingers,

slithers and soothes,

smiles in remembrance—a game:

 

I said,

‘One plus one is two.’

 

You said,

‘I promise you.’

 

And this self I share with you, I share

with none other.

 

Do you know?

The truth—for only you,

I uncover.

 

In the temporality to come,

already, within you—

it spreads, hatches and multiplies.

 

‘We will meet again.’

 

Though it hovers, lingers

between us two—the shape

of the eye; the line of the lip;

No need—there is

no need, dear—

 

I know.

 

With you I share this

tiny piece of self.

 

In flight I

am setting you, till again

we meet.

 

And when we do,

these two halves that are you

and I

will merge

once more into

that self we were

some very ancient ages ago.

 

Oh, don’t you know?

We’ve been sung.

 

We’ve been sung longtime.

Serenity

I yield,

To the morning haze that engulfs my spirits;

 

I yield.

 

For Mother Nature calls,

My body withdraws;

I am within and without.

 

Serenity.

 

I know not why

My slumbers break with the sunrise.

My inner and outer worlds meddle and wed,

 

And I am one.

 

The birds sing me a tune of old,

As though they hold the secret of my soul.

 

My soul—in flight with the birds of old—

Says ‘I shall not rest

‘till my flight is turned into song!’

 

And so I traverse between

Heart and Reason,

‘till my entire being gives way to sunrise, and

Tranquility is my one and only

 

Monarch.

Root of Unrest

Somewhere,

In the root of the stomach,

It is born.

In the gut,

It unfolds.

 

You walk.

 

It spins around your neck,

It swims from head to toe,

 

And you swoon.

 

You talk.

 

It knocks you back and forth.

It’s your mouth that moves,

Another voice

That’s coming through.

 

And you stumble,

You stumble,

You stumble.

It’s a force

That knows best.

You fight with no rest.

But it knows,

Oh it knows,

It knows best.

Question ?

Succumb.

Question ?

Succumb.

Question.

 

 

Question.

 

 

It’s a form of doubt.