Thursday May 23

ChararaHayan Hayan Charara is the author of two poetry collections, The Alchemist's Diary (Hanging Loose, 2001), named a Publishers Weekly "Notable Debut," and The Sadness of Others (Carnegie Mellon UP, 2006) , nominated for the National Book Award.  He is the recipient of a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and recently received the Lucille Joy Prize in Poetry from the University of Houston.  He is also the editor of Inclined to Speak: An Anthology of Contemporary Arab American Poetry (U of Arkansas P, 2008).  Born in Detroit, Michigan, he lived in New York City for many years before moving to Texas.  He is also a woodworker.
Something Sinister Going On
I’m one guy sitting in a chair, you’re a bunch of guys
on the street, screaming, chanting,
“Death to this” and “Death to that”
You’re always so angry
You should try being calm, letting go, own a pet, quit caffeine
I don’t smoke—maybe you should be more like me
A person like me enjoys bacon, pork chops, corned beef hash,
eggs over easy, French fries, woodwork, girls in bikinis,
Netflix, instant coupons, running, camping, Coney dogs,
souvenir coffee mugs, cable survivor shows, oak trees, rivers,
the country, family reunions in Corpus Christi,
the Detroit Lions, voting, complaining about voting,
deep-fried Oreo cookies, rodeos, state fairs, baseball,
and apple pie—
I know, I know, how American of me!
It’s true
I could stand to lose five pounds, I can turn off the war,
I can afford to be peaceful
Did I tell you about my grandfather who died from the same bombs
you are raising your fists at?
You know, my father’s piece of sky is in the same time zone
as yours
Something’s happening
I can feel it—can you feel it?
It’s like two drops of water coming together and then the flood,
like seeing through the right eye
and then the left, back and forth, one eye then the other,
a headache, really, if you try
It is 5:35, outside my window a tree is blossoming
Maybe this is why I want to compare you with birds
Except, seeing you I do not think nightingales
or ruby-throated hummingbirds
Who ever heard of such a thing, turning grown men into birds?
You’re restless like bees—I’m restless, you’re restless
We are one and the same
We are getting close, at least
Let me be clear about what is happening:
I’m here, you’re there—
The trees are blossoming—
Red birds flash past my window
I can’t help but think of fire
I see a mob, men holding matches to the trunks of trees,
a row of fire ants marching past
A burning tree, you know, is like a redhead on fire, except
a tree does not scream
and even trees without leaves survive
It is midnight, and all the trees are gone
This is mayhem
You’re making it impossible for me to live
You want to take this outside?
I didn’t think so
Cowards the lot of you
Flying airplanes into buildings
Bunch of yellow-bellies
My wife says I spend too much time talking to myself
Oh great
Now I have become you, and you me
What are we now if not the birds and the bees in the trees?
Something sinister is going on
A fire speaks to a tree, the flame is patient—
it loves the tree to death
The God Experience
A scientist in America believes
God is a nerve cell.
All it takes is getting struck by lightning
or bumped hard on the head,
or a lack of oxygen—a near drowning,
a choking—for a man to say,
“God talked to me.”
And why not?
Martin Luther turned from the law
to becoming a monk
after a heavenly bolt knocked
him from his horse,
which reminds me, when Mohammed
saw the divine presence
an angel filled the sky
with light and a voice growing
louder and louder came from
every direction, and this
reminds me of a sentence
I read in a field guide to weather:
“If thunder is the atmosphere’s noisiest production,
lightning is its most dazzling.”
Having never had the God experience
or anything like it
I was at a loss when sobbing and rambling
my sister called
not a week after the sudden death
of our mother
and said,
“She was in my room.”
I didn’t ask if she meant
she’d seen her
in a dream or as a ghost.
And I did not bring up
or anxiety-induced hallucinations.
I did not have to.
My silence alone provoked her into
saying, “I wasn’t dreaming.”
And if she had doubts
about God or the afterlife or seeing
our mother again, that night
she believed.
As for me, I was simply jealous.
I loved my mother and let her death
ruin my life, yet she
never showed up, no matter
how much I drank
or smoked or banged my head
against the walls.
I was living in
New York City, a young man
walking the streets most every day
and night, during which
I met dozens of men with whom
God had spoken.
If I had money in my pockets
I gave it to them,
and I walked away
when they tried talking to me.