Friday, First Day in December
Harsh news these past days brought to mind how much of my city I share with a large Muslim community and a large Chaldean community. I’ve posted poems from both of these places in my home culture, including these two poets. One, Dunya Mikhail, I posted last March 13; the other, Warsan Shire, I posted the morning after the November 2016 election in the U.S.
Two poems breaks my ordinary rule for these posts. You may want to spread their wisdom across this first weekend in my favorite month, December.
Have a blest weekend.
Today’s Post # 1 (from March 13, 2017) Dunya Mikhail
Last Friday I spent the afternoon visiting with, and an evening listening to, Joy Harjo at the University of Michigan’s Michigan League. Joy emailed on Wednesday to explore the possibility that I could drive to Ann Arbor. It worked out because I had a free afternoon and evening, an unanticipated grace. She read mostly from her most recent book Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings. Listening took me into stillness for c. 2 hours; to the language of her poems and of her flute, and her sax. Definitely worth the 45 mile drive from our campus to Ann Arbor.
That night Joy introduced me to the Chaldean poet Dunya Mikhail. Dunya and I share some of the sprawling space of Metro Detroit and we share the Catholic faith, hers Chaldean, mine 1840’s immigrant European. When I got home, I looked for some of her poetry and found “I Was in a Hurry.”
Today’s Post: “I Was in a Hurry”
Yesterday I lost a country.
I was in a hurry,
and didn’t notice when it fell from me
like a broken branch from a forgetful tree.
Please, if anyone passes by
and stumbles across it,
perhaps in a suitcase
open to the sky,
or engraved on a rock
like a gaping wound,
in the blankets of emigrants,
like a losing lottery ticket,
or helplessly forgotten
or rushing forward without a goal
like the questions of children,
or rising with the smoke of war,
or rolling in a helmet on the sand,
or stolen in Ali Baba’s jar,
or disguised in the uniform of a policeman
who stirred up the prisoners
or squatting in the mind of a woman
who tries to smile,
or scattered like the dreams
of new immigrants in America.
If anyone stumbles across it,
return it to me, please.
Please return it, sir.
Please return it, madam.
It is my country…
I was in a hurry
when I lost it yesterday.
“I Was in a Hurry” by Dunya Mikhail, translated by Elizabeth Winslow, from The War Works Hard
Today’s post # 2 (from November 9, 2016) “what they did yesterday afternoon”
they set my aunts house on fire
i cried the way women on tv do
folding at the middle
like a five pound note.
i called the boy who use to love me
tried to ‘okay’ my voice
i said hello
he said warsan, what’s wrong, what’s happened?
i’ve been praying,
and these are what my prayers look like;
i come from two countries
one is thirsty
the other is on fire
both need water.
later that night
i held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the whole world
where does it hurt?