Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Poem to End the Day

Another poem, this one by Libyan-American poet Khaled Mattawa, a poem to end the day, a day when I ran at dusk along the coast with the dog, through grass taller than my head, ran with a stick for cutting through crab spider webs, ran on an old sugar cane railroad bed blasted through rock, then out in the open, through cow pastures, under ironwoods, along dead electric fences, the dog slinking beneath the wires, leaping above the grass chasing mongoose, the dog joyous to be running at last at day's end, running in circles around me, leaping at me in happiness and gratitude, running with him under gray scudding clouds into wind, inhuman, alive wind, running along cliffs below which gray waves bashed themselves, wind like a storm coming, just ordinary trade wind, but this evening, no every evening, when I run that way, alone, no human habitation in sight, with the dog running on ahead, the wind not ordinary, but like expectation, like portent, like something coming, something big, and good, and urgent, and out-of-control, and unknowable, salt-wind urging us along, Kohala mountain wrapped in cloud.  A poem to end a day that drew to its close with running through a herd of cows, who jogged upslope, turned to look at us and bellow, scaring the dog just a little.  A poem to read after dropping down into a gulch, running down a steep slope, dusk now, at the bottom the sea crash-landing against the boulders, wind sending up seafoam in clots, spattering on the headland rocks, white salt-splats in my hair, and suddenly I was talking aloud in Latvian to no one, saying putekli, putu crejums, migla, dusmiga jura (dust bunnies, whipped cream, fog, angry sea), a run ending on top of a headland, running straight into chaos, gorgeous wild chaos, waves crashing below, and wind shoving me around, wind trying to push me down, bullying, shoving, and me breathing loud in response, raising my arms, bending, throwing them down, breathing it out, whatever it is that's lodged inside, old fury or pain, fear, loneliness, the wind carrying away the sound, drowning it out, the wind howling its own anguish, taking mine, the dog, hot and panting, clambering down from the headland to jump into the crashing water, letting it douse him, wash him clean of whatever it is dogs hold onto, then we were running home, to dinner, salmon and breadfruit and eggplant and then this, a poem to end a day, a day when I ran ran alone with the dog, out of hiding, a salt-tang on my tongue, in my hair, maybe it was expectation, maybe it was hope.

Now That We Have Tasted Hope
by Khaled Mattawa
Now that we have come out of hiding,
Why would we live again in the tombs we'd made of our souls?
And the sundered bodies that we've reassembled
With prayers and consolations,
What would their torn parts be, other than flesh?
Now that we have tasted hope
And dressed each other's wounds with the legends of our oneness,
Would we not prefer to close our mouths forever
On the wine that swilled inside them?
Having dreamed the same dream,
Having found the water behind a thousand mirages,
Why would we hide from the sun again
Or fear the night sky after we've reached the ends of darkness,
Live in death again after all the life our dead have given us?
Listen to me Zow'ya, Beida, Ajdabya, Tobruk, Nalut,
Listen to me Derna, Musrata, Trables, Benghazi, Zintan,
Listen to me houses, alleys, courtyards, and streets that throng my veins,
Some day soon, in your freed light, in the shade of your proud trees,
Your excavated heroes will retum to their thrones in your martyrs' squares,
Lovers will hold each other's hands.
I need not look far to imagine the nerves dying,
Rejecting the life that blood sends them.
I need not look deep into my past to seek a thousand hopeless vistas,
But now that I have tasted hope
I have fallen into the embrace of my own rugged innocence.
How long were my ancient days?
I no longer care to count.
I no longer care to measure.
How bitter was the bread of bitterness?
I no longer care to recall.
Now that we have tasted the hope, this hard-earned crust,
We would sooner die than seek any other taste to life,
Any other way of being human.


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