art of resistance, Libya

Khaled Mattawa | Bedtime Reading For The Unborn Child.

2013-09-10-iran-artist-2 /art by Hayv Kahraman/

Khaled Mattawa is a wonderful Libyan-American writer, poet and a translator. Mattawa’s poetry frequently explores the intersection of culture, narrative, and memory.

Here is one of his beautiful poems, Bedtime Reading for the Unborn Child, from the collection Amorisco (Copper Canyon Press, 2008).

Long after the sun falls into the sea

and twilight slips off the horizon like a velvet sheet

and the air gets soaked in blackness;

long after clouds hover above like boulders

and stars crawl up and stud the sky;

long after bodies tangle, dance, and falter

and fatigue blows in and bends them

and sleep unloads its dreams and kneads them

and sleepers dive into the rivers inside them,

a girl unlatches a window,

walks shoeless into a forest,

her dark hair a flag rippling in darkness.

.

She walks into woods, her feet light-stepping

through puddles, over hard packed dirt,

through grassy hills, over sticks and pebbles

over sand soaked in day, stones sun-sizzled

over lakes and frigid streams

through dim cobbled streets

darkened squares and dusty pastures.

She runs from nothing, runs to nothing,

beyond pain, beyond graveyards and clearings.

In the dark the eyes of startled creatures

gleam like a herd of candles.

They scatter and give night its meaning.

.

What echo of a bell lulled her

what spirit, what scent of a word

whose storm wrote her

what banks fell to drown her

which blood star

which thread of water

which trickle of light

whose heart being launched

whose floating soul seduced her

what promise did it make her

whose memory burned her

whose prayer did she run to answer

whose help, what sorrow clot

what pain dammed inside her

what wall must she rebuild now

whose treasure beckons her

who spread ivy like a veil to blind her?

Daybreak lies chained to a blue wall

from which the stars drop

and lose all meaning.

.

She runs past villages that lost their names

roads that lost their destinations

seas that lost their compasses and sailors

rivers that lost their marshlands and travelers

houses that lost their sleepers and criers

trees that lost their songs and shadows

gardens that lost their violets and benches

valleys that lost their worms and farmers

mountains that lost their prophets and marauders

temples that lost their sinners and spires

lightning that lost its silver and wires

chimeras that lost their bridges

minotaurs that lost their fountains.

Crescent moons hover above her,

ancient white feathers, birdless, wingless

lost to their own meaning.

.

Music rises out of her vision.

It stands, a wall covered with silver mosses.

A clarinet sounds a wounded mare,

violins women who lost their children.

Flutes blow their hot dry breezes.

Drums chuckle the earth’s ceaseless laughter.

Pianos are mumbling sorcerers

calling spirits and powers.

Cellos chew on the sounds of thunder.

Dulcimers skip about on crutches.

Dance floors flash their knives

daring their dancers.

Words mill about the streets like orphans.

Then a lute begins groaning

and dawn loses its meaning.

.

Night girl, night girl

your book is full now.

You have drawn all the pictures.

You have seen many weepers.

Stars held your sky in place and moons

floated on your lakes and washed them.

.

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art of resistance, Iraq

Dunya Mikhail: Tablets.

dymaxion/artwork by the amazing Hayv Kahraman/

The following is a poem Tablets by the great Iraqi poet Dunya Mikhail. I am posting it together with the great artwork by the Iraqi artist Hayv Kahraman. Coming from Iraq, both of these great women have dealt with otherness, with being a refugee, with giving and leaving a part of yourself (forever). See it in their work, acknowledge it, respect it, remember it.

.

She pressed her ear against the shell:
she wanted to hear everything
he never told her.
.
A single inch
separates their two bodies
facing one another
in the picture:
a framed smile
buried beneath the rubble.
.
Whenever you throw stones
into the sea
it sends ripples through me.
.
bagage
.
My heart’s quite small:
that’s why it fills so quickly.
.
Water needs no wars
to mix with water
and fill up spaces.
.
The tree doesn’t ask why it’s not moving
to some other forest
nor any other pointless questions.
.
He watches tv
while she holds a novel.
On the novel’s cover
there’s a man watching tv
and a woman holding a novel.
.
blowing1
.
On the first morning
of the new year
all of us will look up
at the same sun.
.
She raised his head to her chest.
He did not respond:
he was dead.
.
The person who gazed at me for so long,
and whose gaze I returned for just as long . . .    
That man who never once embraced me,
and whom I never once embraced  . . .    
The rain wrecked the colors around him
on that old canvas.
.
He was not with the husbands
who were lost and then found;
he did not come with the prisoners of war,
nor with the kite that took her,
in her dream,
to some other place,
while she stood before the camera
to have her smile
glued into the passport.
.
Hayv-Kahraman-part2-10
.
Dates piled high
beside the road:
your way
of  kissing me.
.
Rapunzel’s hair
reaching down
from the window
to the earth
is how we wait.
.
The shadows
the prisoners left
on the wall
surrounded the jailer
and cast light
on his loneliness.
.
Homeland, I am not your mother,
so why do you weep in my lap like this
every time
something hurts you?
.
Never mind this bird:
it comes every day
and stops at the branch’s edge
to sing for an hour
or two.
That’s all it does:
nothing makes it happier.
.
House keys,
identity cards,
faded pictures among the bones . . .    
All of these are scattered
in a single mass grave.
.
2_1
.
The Arabic language
loves long sentences
and long wars.
It loves never-ending songs
and late nights
and weeping over ruins.
It loves working
for a long life
and a long death.
.
Far away from home — 
that’s all that changed in us.
.
Cinderella left her slipper in Iraq
along with the smell of cardamom
wafting from the teapot,
and that huge flower,
its mouth gaping like death.
.
Instant messages
ignite revolutions.
They spark new lives
waiting for a country to download,
a land that’s little more
than a handful of dust
when faced with these words:
“There are no results that match your search.”
.
The dog’s excitement
as she brings the stick to her owner
is the moment of opening the letter.
.
We cross borders lightly
like clouds.
Nothing carries us,
but as we move on
we carry rain,
and an accent,
and a memory
of another place.
.
How thrilling to appear in his eyes.
She can’t understand what he’s saying:
she’s too busy chewing his voice.
She looks at the mouth she’ll never kiss,
at the shoulder she’ll never cry on,
at the hand she’ll never hold,
and at the ground where their shadows meet.
.
• • •
.
This poem was translated by Kareem James Abu-Zeid.
All of the artwork (paintings and illustrations) is by the amazing Hayv Kahraman – visit her official website for more. For more on the poetry of Dunya Mikhail, visit her official website and the Poetry Foundation.
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