Sunday, November 28, 2010


Rhythm rolls over your poetry
like green hills roll over your countryside,
wet with words as the grass with the morning dew.

Tend to your stanzas as a shepherd would his flock.

And when the poem reaches maturity, carve it with the precision of a butcher,
but drink only its blood.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Refuge

The barriers kept cars out of the Palestinian neighborhoods,
windows boarded, the balconies crashed down to the sidewalk.
The apartments rose from the ground like ant hills. The Palestinians swarmed
to collect enough to survive.

A girl stood white against the Syrian neighborhood,
her skin mud against her teeth.
With her hijab, she looked like a girl who rose with the sun to pray
fajr. A man, too thin for his years, drank sun-dried lebnae: crust
white on his beard. He shouted orders.

The girl came to me and took my hand.
Men on the block took knives and dug them through the skin of lambs
and twisted until the blood
flooded the street,
the lamb’s eyes frozen
forever in shock.

She led me to her home,
a hummus-covered rug - the dinner table,
the pillows placed on the floor for seats,
the chairs bent at their joints, the old oven
and a hole in the ground at the back.

The girl’s mother sat on the edge of one of the chairs
and rocked its joints looser
and looser.
Water from her eyes wrinkled her skin
and wet her lips,
puckered on her white rosary beads.

The girl took my lira
and then took me into her bed,
weaved straw like a bird’s nest.

A lamb billowed as the butcher slaughtered her.

I finished and walked to the door.
The girl’s mom left her chair and ran her hands,
slick like the pages in the Quran,
over my fingers. She began a prayer:
“Bismee ‘llah ah rahman ah raheem,”
In the name of Allah, the most kind, the most merciful.


The bright desert sun shines down on the tram,
overlooking clay biniya that sit between-
grassy mountains and the sea, cradled like a new-born.
The Mediterranean crashes
against large, rounded boulders like the stomachs of customers
bloated with shawarma and cous cous.

Cars speed through red lights
cruising around al-humra- 
malls, jewelry and clothing stores
 of impenetrable glass.

The other buildings hide in bombed-out clay
and broken stone like the Wailing Wall.
A twelve-year-old janitor
mops up endless sand from the marble floor-
as I grab my hose and puff on arguilay,
wrapping my mouth around smoke rings-
just to prove I can.

Mission Accomplished

The little girl

in front

of the armored

her hands



to the soldier,

“wad you git der,”
he smiled.

Her head

by her arms

her torso

and his hands,


his chest.

In remembrance of:
  William Carlos William's "The Red Wheel Barrow"
 and Coalition Forces in Iraq.

Highland Park Block Party

Mr. Tarka wondered
"Why do wild-eyed girls
with long curly hair
waste days

for the skies
on the Showalters’ trampoline,"
 as he twisted his handle-bar mustache.

He watched the street fill
with ribbon-covered bikes
and the fields fill
with grills and expecting stomachs.

That night, his lights
were on 'til two
as the basketball
kissed the net,
making less noise
than a cricket.

Twelve o’clock heat
roasted my skin
while I headed down
to the pond-
where I saw his baby blue pickup
 drag dirt in its rear
as frogs left wet drops
 on green lillies.

I followed him down
to an empty lot
where he was building a house
with little more
than hammer and nails.

July 4th Carnival

Indulge in caramel apples
and hold its sweet smell

like kindergarten valentines
red, white and blue

on the Carousel.

And all the colors
wash over you
like sprinkles - dipped
in caramel.

Between the Mountains and the Sea

The mid-afternoon sun beats down on the sheets

covering the cars, parked half way on the streets

and halfway on the sidewalk between the feats

of Khalil Gibran Khalil and Arab treats.

So sweet with honey-

Lebanon does not need Arab money,

or anything in the cents

of Americans envisioning tents,

or mansions paid by oil rents

when Lebanon is not Palestine

and when Lebnan is not Kuwait,

and where Lebnan cannot be mine

and Lebanon spreads her sectorial state,

still if she were a girl she would be my date,

a marriage made in love and hate

and one thing sure about our fate,

that we shall live forever to mate

those fractions of us that won’t stay

longer together than a day,

but come together as if to say

truly in Lebnan only the mountains can exist-

three cities and towns betwixt-

the sea blue and the cedar green,

love is cruel, love is mean,
love is Lebnan, in between.

South Sudan

My brush begins to paint a story
Bristling black, green and red gore,
Tents as far as the eye can see,
Blood as deep as red can bleed,
Bruises as deep as black can be,
The wind batters tents against burnt grass

An armored jeep prevents a pass,
A child cries, a mother dies,
Free at last, free at last
Free from hands so calloused they don’t heal,
Free from peace so brutal they can’t feel,
Bashir signs a treaty, and then violates the deal,
Makes a move for the land,
While the people weakened, can’t stand
Up to the homicidal maniac,
Employing child soldiers, cuts filled with crack-
Burning farms so there’s no back
To the food and water they lack

And legs so weak
They can’t stay on their feet.


Ar’rabs grab sandstorms,
placing their open mouths on the hole,
A bousay- soft to your first born,
roll it over al-naar, string sand to glass.

Chords strung out
like praise to yarub.
Sand beats like a drum on dune-swallowed tents.
Tightly-tuned ouadan
burning notes in the night.
Poets string words as blowers stitch sand to glass.

This is Quraysh.
Tribe of Mohammad.
Children of sand.

For Brailey

The fireworks whistled
Red, green and orange
against pitch black.

Some spinned, some crackled.
Yours shot high,
Into the sky.

(In Remembrance: 1988-2005)

The Rose that Grew from the Concrete

Did you hear about the rose that grew from a crack in the concrete?

Provin nature's laws wrong it learned how to walk without havin feet

Funny it seems but, by keepin its dreams

it, learned to breathe FRESH air

Long live the rose that grew from concrete

when no one else even cared

No one else even cared..

-by Tupac Shakur (1971-1996)