Sailing to Lebanon
1957, after the Suez War
We were steaming northward, leaving
Alexandria behind us, the white city
receding, floating at the edge of the sea.
My sister and I were singing together,
“Day-ay-ay O…me wan’ go home,”
something we’d heard on the radio
though we didn’t know where home was
or if we’d ever see Stanley Bay again,
the minarets, the tram cars at Ramleh Station.
We wanted to be Harry Belafonte on a record,
we wanted to be in America
where everything might last for some time.
Our parents were talking in whispers.
Clouds were passing across the sun.
It was almost evening, we had never seen
the horizon as far away as it was.
In our small cabin with the port hole open
we could hear the sound of the ocean
lapping at the ship’s side,
we were smelling the odor
of salt, iron, rust.
In a few days, we would be in Bhamdoun,
Dour-el Shoueir, mountain towns
where we could stay a few weeks
looking for further passage.
Everything seemed on a rise and fall,
the sea was growing thicker.
Sometimes the fog was so heavy
the ship’s horn would sound
and we’d be startled into laughter.
“It’s the old man snoring,” I’d say,
and we’d think of someone so fast asleep
he wakes up years later in a different country,
walking in a daze, singing
all the songs he’s never known.
Conversation with Landscape
There may be moments when the world
lies beyond any calibration,
like a word that’s never been said,
or a joy so private
not even the body can sense
the small purl in the bone.
Sometimes an object falling faster out of the sky
does so not for anything but love of the ground
and a woman pausing outside her door
feels the completeness of grass, tree, stone
around the root of her standing,
leans into it.
Sometimes another step is unnecessary
to be where one is,
a conversation occurs
without anyone’s asking,
the wind arching through the trees,
the river lapping at its dark alluvial edge—
the earth speaking to another earth
Whatever is strange is strange in its own language.
Cup the wind to your ear,
the water in the palm of your hand.
Something arrives that is not of our making.
Half the tin roof of the shed
is shifting back and forth
like a weathervane.
The birds are gusting away in mid-flight
and those ghost horses in the droughty field
have sent up dust funnels
that are drinking up the sky.
If there were a boulder on a chain
someone might bulldoze it
into the hardscrabble yard,
hook the house to it.
Yesterday, the moon for a moment
slid over the sun
and everything seemed under sentence.
Everything still is.
The dogs are chasing their own tails.
Widowmakers are groaning
their arias from every tree.
Hooray for the sun that will last
another billion years.
Dear gravity: save us now.
Mercy, lend us your coat.
The wind today is a woman with long hair
entangling all she loves.
Every rock is no heavier
than its weight in feathers.
A jewel may lie buried in each stone.
Whatever lifts has new wings.
Whatever sticks, sticks hard.