You lowered your heads pretending to bow before the blood spilt, but you were afraid the screams, body parts, and blood running away from the veins would ruin your appetite. What type of beasts copulated to give birth to these who walk on two feet, stand upright and excel in crime as if penning a love poem. Those who eat with one hand and prepare offerings with another. They inhale and exhale as the most evolved mammals should. I am entering one history and exiting another, blending the scenes of earth and heaven. I only hear bones wailing. Are these video games or cartoons whose beings will dust off the blood and debris from their bodies and pick up their scattered body parts to return to how they were before?
It is odd that there are storms and rain here, just as there. Cold rain like crystal jugs rolled out by the hand of an angry god. Falling upon the heads of those waiting in endless lines before the heavenly archive. I saw skeletons running faster than the trees running before all. The ice-cold wind pushing them back. Naked, with no sex. They could be males or females waiting for their heavenly numbers. My mother has her own way of wailing to make death a pinprick.
Come, mother, from beyond stones and dirt, below the medicinal herbs that followed you to the grave. Come and wail for those lying here. Dark winds are whistling through their windpipes. They are waiting for the chariots of death which are carrying the others. Come and sing for them that song you used to sing for father after he returned at night from his long walk.
I hear someone next to me saying: Look, this is my throat. I used to sing and call my young brother with it in a funny manner. He used to laugh and ask for more. What can I do with it now that it has been slit and all the laughs and songs taken out? They threw it amid the trees and a bird whose name I do not know picked it up and brought it to me.
I do not know if it is my own throat. Nothing distinguishes it except that stream where the song flowed. The one in which I made the self-declared god a running joke. Since you will not strike roots in the earth and will not lean like a willow to a brook, what use are these glances you cast. At times fierce, blank at others, but imploring in the end.
You will only catch what appeared by mistake; the hand under the table, or a face that looked back unintentionally. It is not with a glance alone, no matter how long, concentrated, or even Medusean, that you, who are passing through Rome, can change the ways of Romans. Touch it with your hand to believe that reasons gather at times in an idiotic laugh, or a shirt with figures.
On The Inside Of Life – Alvin Pang
You have no knowledge as to why that woman, who is passing by like a long gasp, is holding on to that man who appears so unattractive to you. Or how that bulky man leans on the woman who could fly away with a breeze. It is not with the glance alone, no matter how trained, piercing, and intense, that you could stir the sugar spoon in her coffee. For you, alone, believe that lowering an eyelash, or a knight bending down, can barter a life of flesh and blood.
So, when your glances return crestfallen, do not say that it is money, fame, or even luck. The one passing through does not leave a tattoo on an arm, or a scar on a chest. But remember that reasons have gathered themselves for you in another Rome with one word. You do not know how it was revealed to you, nor how you uttered it, because the glances cast upon the one who fell in your arms with a full load of her lavender have gone astray.
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- When the Barbarians Arrive by Alvin Pang;
Since no family awaits you for dinner and there is no campaign to discipline the barbarians beyond the borders, what use is it to do in Rome as the Romans do? Sit amid the arrows flying off around you and see how you will emerge almost without a scratch. Light, even if the past has deposited all its weight into your feet.
At this late hour, you, who pass through Rome, will not change what has become of the Romans. Do not be surprised, then, by the surging noise in the cafes, nor the songs glorifying love and not war. This is another era where trees do not overstep their own shadows and do not die in poems, as they used to before. For when you saw the men of the royal court walking slowly in front of the solemn funeral procession, there was someone having a drink with a woman in Beirut, and someone making a salt-carrying camel kneel down in Timbuktu.
The day, according to rumor, that the old bearded man with Middle-Eastern features admonished an English girl not to take the subway, after she handed him back his wallet which had fallen out of his pocket, that day passed without menace.
When the barbarians arrive
Otherwise, that day, as an electronic sign by the municipality of Hammersmith on King Street indicated, was just another Londoner day. Sinan Antoon is a poet, novelist and translator. His latest work is The Corpse Washer. Fady Joudah has received the Yale Series for Younger Poets prize, the Griffin International Poetry prize, and a Guggenheim Fellowship, among other honors for his poetry and translation. Are you an artist at risk or know someone who is? PEN America's new report about the loss of localnews coverage in the United States calls for a radical rethinking of local journalism as a public good.
Local News on the Brink. Reply on Twitter Retweet on Twitter 5 Like on Twitter 9 Twitter Ten rupees.
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Bhang to make her drowsy. You halt at the crossroad, hair thrummed by a savage wind Later I try to follow marks of feet, touch cold cotton That lashed your flesh in place.
PDF When the Barbarians Arrive (Arc International Poets Series)
I hear your voice— Brood, and it will come, a seizure of sense, a reckoning: Write with chalk, sticks of lead, anything to hand. Use a bone, a safety pin, a nail, write on paper or stone Let the poem smolder in memory.
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In the desolation of time write. This was in the school with empty metal desks, near Fort Tryon Park. One whimpered in her sleep—Mother, I know I am a tree, I trail my roots behind me, the man with bad hair will axe me down. One daubed her face with white paint, crawled. Into a cage outside the museum, hung a sign round Her own neck— We are barbarians come to live amongst you, Some of us speak this languag e.
Hoarse already, you whisper— Come closer to me.
You who were born in the Gangetic plains. A year after mid century Consider the fragility of the horizon, The arc of stars into which your father raised you. When you fall, as surely you will one day Try to swim forward into blackness Arms pointing to where you imagine the vault of heaven to be.
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