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).

Listen:

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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. “www.meenaalexander.com”:http://meenaalexander.com

Homepage photograph via Flickr by Marion Ettlinger