I would rather cook you dinner but here are poems

{ Tuesday, December 4, 2007 }

A woman who lives too far away from me to visit has shared her life with me. She is kind, generous, ready to laugh, and deeply loyal to her friends and family. Life has tried to drag some ruts in her. She considered it plowing and planted crops.

Lately she has been battling an illness that her doctors have not been able to identify. They are telling her that because no test has been conclusive that her debilitating symptoms are her invention. She wants nothing more than to return to work, to be able to tend her house and herself.

There are things that happen by luck of the draw and things that happen by the cruelty of others, and she knows some rare truths about surviving both. And she is thankful every day for her life.

My whole heart goes out for her - to where, I don't know; saying what, I don't know; to what end, I don't know.

If poetry's not for that, then I don't know what it's for.


the handful of sand that I'm holding means
I'm holding in my hand
the bottom storms,
the tossed seaweed
a big fish descending deeper silently

- Salih Bolat, translated by Asalet Erten

One Day Vacation

I exempt Monday morning from music
I exempt the radio
I exempt my hand from all its chores
I exempt my ribs
I exempt the day from all earthly cares
I stifle all pain
I exempt silence from all declarations
I exempt the door from the key
and I set the winds free.

- Muhammed al-Qaisi, translated by May Jayyusi and Jeremy Reed

All of Them

Everybody said it was useless
Everybody said, "you're trying to lean on sun dust"

that the beloved before whose tree I stand
can't be reached

Everybody said, "you're crazy to throw yourself
headlong into a volcano and sing"
Everybody said that salty mountains
won't yield even one glass of wine
Everybody said, "you can't dance on one foot"
Everybody said there won't be any lights at the party
That's what they all said
but everybody came to the party anyway

- Qasim Haddad, translated by Sharif S. Elmusa and Charles Doria

Three poems from The Space Between Our Footsteps: Poems and Paintings from the Middle East, selected by Naomi Shihab Nye.

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