Monday, November 30, 2009

This House, My Bones

My Mother-in-law's mantle

On Thursday, July13, 2006, the writing that normally fills the dates in my We'Moon Journal calendar just stopped. After that, the dates are completely blank. It's not that I had nothing to do-- it's that I was incapable of writing. Suddenly, writing flew from me like a frightened bird. I was in too much shock to record the banalities of my daily routine. Thursday July 13, 2006 was the day that I sat down in the morning to watch the news and saw the footage of Beirut's airport runways being bombed by Israel. That was the summer my family was in Lebanon, the unfortunate summer of 2006 when Israel bombed, invaded, destroyed, murdered, injured and terrorized a whole nation --- and terrorized loved ones living outside Lebanon.

I have witnessed state terrorism and it does not allow you to sleep at night.

Why don't we have compassion for each other? What if we imagined ourselves and our loved ones as "those people over there?" Or as "those people" in our own countries who are supposedly not "like us"?

Some poets have the magic gift of being able to write down the seeming impossible. One of those poets is Elmaz Abinader.

Aimee Suzara writes:

"To enter Abinader’s poetry is to enter a dream, now war-torn barren, now lush with imagination. A true storyteller, Elmaz Abinader unites the memoirist’s attention to detail with the songwriter’s penchant for precision of sound, bringing the reader into intimate relationship with her subjects, be they a family preparing for occupation, a sorrowful woman and “war-addicted” child, or herself as the daughter of Lebanese immigrants. Equipped with her own experiences of emigration and travel throughout North Africa, the Middle East and beyond, Abinader writes about occupied and invaded territories, about forced and voluntary migrations, with a voice that is at once humble and prophetic."

This House, My Bones by Elmaz Abinadir

Enter the house,
Sit at the table covered in gold
A cloth, Sitt embroidered
For the third child's birth.
Take the tea, strong and minty,
Hold the glass warm
Against your palms, fragrances
Of centuries fill you, sweetness
Rises up to meet you. The youngest boy
Fuad, shows you a drawing
He has made of a horse
You touch his shoulder, stroke
His hair, he loves to talk to strangers
Show them his room filled with posters
Of extinct and mythical animals: dinosaurs,
Unicorns; dragons. You want to linger
In the music of his voice, afraid his disappearance
Is inscribed on shell cases stockpiling in the Gulf.

Enter the mosque,
Admire the arches
Inlaid with sea-colored pebbles,
Follow the carpets, long runners
Of miracles in thread, your feet still damp
Slip against the marble floor.
Spines of men curl into seashells
In the room ahead. Echoes
Of the muezzin shoot around you
Fireworks of speeches and prayers.
Don't be afraid because they worship
Unlike you. Be afraid that worship
Becomes the fight, faith the enemy;
And yours the only one left standing.

Some one asks, what should we do
While we wait for the bombs, promised

And prepared? How can we ready ourselves?
Do we gather our jewelry and books,
And bury them in the ground? Do we dig
Escape tunnels in case our village is invaded?
Do we send our children across the border
To live in refugee camps remembering us
Only in dreams, ghostly voices calling their names?
What do we pack? The coffee urn father
Brought from Turkey? The pair of earrings
Specially chosen for the wedding day?
How can we ever pack anything if not everything?
If not the tick on the wall marking
The childrens' growth, if not the groan
Of the washing machine in the kitchen,
If not the bare spot on the rug
Where Jidd put his feet when he read
The Friday paper?
Help them gather things: brass doorknobs,
Enamel trays, blue glasses made in Egypt,
Journals of poetry, scraps of newspapers, recipes
They meant to try. And what about the things
They cannot hold. The beginning of life and all
The memories that follow. The end of life
And all that is left to do.

Enter the heart
Read the walls and all the inscriptions
The love of lovers, of children and spouses,
The love of stars, and cardamom and long eye lashes.
Tour the compartments telling
The story: that life was begun with faith,
That life may end with folly. See it heave
In fear that threats, predictions and actions
Are a history already written, spiraling,
Loose and out of control. No amount of hope
Can save it. No amount of words can stop it.
Hold the heart. Imagine it is yours.


Merche Pallarés said...

¡Beautiful poem! So descriptive, so heartbraking, so, unfortunately, TRUE. Hugs, M.

marja-leena said...

I was going to say the same as Merche, heartbreakingly beautiful and painful. It truly is hard to really know that kind of pain when one has not experienced that kind of situation, I can only sympathize with the victims and be angry at the aggressors. How very hard for you...

northshorewoman said...

Her poem is very beautiful and heart-breaking at the same time. It is hard to know the pain some people are forced to bear....but that's why we have poets. They are a portal to empathy; their words allow us some slivers of insight and feeling into places we can't imagine.