Dec 1 — two poets — one Muslim, one Chaldean

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.


john sj

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,

or wrapped

in the blankets of emigrants,

or canceled

like a losing lottery ticket,

or helplessly forgotten

in Purgatory,

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

and fled,

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;
dear god
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
and whispered
where does it hurt?

it answered

Warsan Shire

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