Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Poetry Month, Day 21, Amal El-Mohtar, "Day 11 - Blackberry Honey"

Administrative stuff: ChimeraCat notes that posting comments is complicated by the fact that the comment section is not secure. Sorry - I'm not sure if that's a thing I can fix? I'll look into it.

ChimeraCat also notes that zi doesn't usually like poetry. I think many of us feel that we don't like poetry - maybe it is something to do with the way we've been taught to analyze rather than enjoy poetry?

Yesterday, I posted a summer poem by a noted Arabic poet. That, naturally, made me think of my friend Amal, also an Arabic poet (also, Canadian). Long time readers of the blog will remember that I reviewed, extensively, her collection The Honey Month back in 2011 (newer readers, the series starts here, and runs for 28 days). This was, as the title suggests,the poem from day 11 of February 2010 (the project was 28 poems/short works of fiction written over the course of the month of February, accompanied/inspired by 28 different flavors of honey). This was my favorite poem from the collection (I think - I may have said differently back when - say, rather, this is my favorite from the collection right now).

My body is a knot of limbs
and I dream of Alexander
of a clean bright blade to slice
through the tangle of what is left.

They pulled me from the rubble
like a fabled sword; never
was Excalibur so tarnished, never
did dustier hands reach
for so shattered a hilt.

Blueberries washed the ash from my tongue
after they came; after the metal and the phosphor
that washed us all so red, so white. Perhaps
if we powdered our cheeks so every day
they would come to think us beautiful?
We might ornament their lawns, their homes
that once were ours, their swimming pools
and tourist traps, their cafes and museums.
Behold! The savage Philistine
undone by David's sling! See
how his mighty giant's body
is limned in our pale chalk!
The Americans would live it
buy a t-shirt to take home.

Yesterday I had daughters. Today
I have these berries on my tongue.

I am lucky, they say, to live; to have
blueberries and water, medicine for my wounds.
I am lucky, they say, to breathe
the air thick with stone
that was my house; safe in my lungs
who would think to take it?

I am lucky, they say, to sleep. To dream.
I lay my head where the Son of Man once did
and close my eyes. To think,
tomorrow I may yet wake
to better.

I cannot sleep.
The earth is knotted with screams.
I taste blueberries on my tongue
and dream of nothing.


This poem is explicitly political, which is made most clear when you understand that the Biblical Philistines are today's Palestinians. I've been preparing a lesson plan which addresses the status of Jews in Europe at the time of the French Revolution (yes, there's more to that story). Consequently, I am sympathetic to the ongoing need for some sort of Jewish homeland. However, I'm sure that there could have been a more equitable way of creating such a homeland. And that's as political as I'm going to get right here.