Homepage photograph via Flickr by Marion Ettlinger

We have come to Haifa where the sea starts.
The theater Al Midani floats by a tree.
I see this clearly though a dark filament twists round the moon.
I tiptoe through surf—
A rope someone left at the end of the jetty
I knot it to my ankle
Not wanting to be swept away by sudden longing.
Inside the theater, candles, a mountain of bloom.
Does Haifa have almond blossom?
Must they gather it from the edges of the sea?
Someone was shot point-blank and killed—
A man who kept waiting for the good life to occur,
For the mouth to speak what comes before speech,
Sap in the tree and firmament of flesh.

A child approaches me in the darkened theater
And whispers in my ear—Yes we are waiting for Godot—
I am overcome by the scent of tuberoses
And cigarette smoke and can’t reply—
Yes, many friends of the dead man are smoking.
Six or seven take turns reading from a poem
They pass the pages from hand to hand—
I left my gloom hanging on a branch of boxthorn
And the place weighed less.

A woman in black jeans forces open the windows,
The moon uncorks herself and blows away—
So this is how the sea starts: increments of longing,
Mostly in half darkness
Then a white light as waves rush through.


Poet’s Note: The italicized lines come from Mahmoud Darwish’s Mural, translated from the Arabic by Rema Hammami and John Berger (London, Verso, 2009).


Meena Alexander

Meena Alexander has published six volumes of poetry including Illiterate Heart (winner of the PEN Open Book Award), Raw Silk, and Quickly Changing River (Triquarterly Books/Northwestern University Press). Poetics of Dislocation appears in the Michigan Poets on Poetry series. In April 2011 she was a Poet in Residence at Al Quds University, Jerusalem. She lives and works in New York City.