Saadi Youssef

Days of June

In a sour morning a soldier grabs his rifle
and smashes it on a tree.
In a sour morning Khalil Hawi grabs his rifle
and smashes it on his head.
In a sour morning S. drinks his tea alone.
This is how sour mornings pass,
living tissues leavening,
the sun a muddle,
the sea fogged up,
and the record spins around itself
like the newspapers,
like the PLO,
like Sinnin water,
and civilian planes
and anti-Marxist think tanks
and the ideal methods for two bodies to join.
The tree near my window doesn't want to spin.
The sea has no wish to soften into green.
The passersby have no desire to walk on.
And I stutter here in secret like a swing
seeking the water in the trees,
hoping the sea will soften to green,
the sea that will rise to my window.
I will move lightly to spinning terraces.
But what makes the noon light glow this way,
heavy with vapors and empty bottles?
Who invited one of the enemy's colonels
to sit on the low chair?
Who taught the pig how to eat flowers?
And this roaring from Palestinian skies-
is it bearing the rockets of judgment day?
Noon is hot and bloated
like a ram tied to
a ragged tree.
Noon shuts the inflamed eyes of a dog.
Noon stretches on the sea
like a whale that has been dead for days.
And in the refugees' thousand-story hotels
the smell of winter socks,
vegetable oil,
and distant fields.
Noon throbs
and when the jet fighters pass overhead,
a small vein throbs
between my temples and eyes,
and this small space between the cigarette
and the ashtray throbs.
When the planes fly over
pieces of shrapnel lodge in the soul.
Then it becomes
the spirit of a counterfeit god,
an Israelite god,
an ugly god.
I do not want to see you on another evening.
I want to see you this evening, this evening only.
The boat like a warship,
the warship like a warship.
There is the tree and there is the warship.
Maryam's coat and a warship.
The evening alone with a warship.
Isn't she the one who slipped away from Cherbourg one evening
to cross the Gibraltar Strait while an Arab king watched her?
This evening is red. Is it Dante's cloud?
I want to see you this evening....
To the thirty shells per minute,
to the houses that crumble,
to the eyes that look out or grow dim,
to the strewn tombs,
to the saplings choking in ash,
to the refugee camp isolated like an island nation,
we draw a circle,
we draw a fumbling nation,
then drag it
into the air of the trenches.

Beirut, 15/7/1982.

from Without an Alphabet, Without a Face


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