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Friday, September 28, 2007

Fast Day 16 September 21, 2007 {Maha In The Reeds}

notes for the poem:
1) shiqq : a half, a double, an exact image, a doppelganger. related to shaqeeqa=a full sister on the father's or mother's side. The verb shaqqa means to cut in half, bisect, leaving us with two equal and exact parts.
2) "She said the only time I was a good Muslim/ was when I surrendered my head to a pillow." a pun here: muslim ra'isee 'ala wasaada = laying (present participle) my head upon a pillow.
I am a bit late in posting.
I forget how this all came about. I remember writing it. The impetus lay in a night time forest.

based on the first poem here:

Maha in the Reeds

We went looking for Maha
where the reeds grow.
Layla, her mother, was sick
all the time and uncle Yusuf
had disappeared, unseen since
Maha went away from us.
So Ahmad and I went looking
for our little cousin by the water,
by the reeds.
We got up before dawn
and took food and rope
and herpecide for any snakes
sleek and soft and so quick.
We cat crept into the street
that runs through town,
darkness on our left and
the river on our right and
no light anywhere but dead mens eyes
shining in the distance;
the eyes are bugs…
and the light is too cold to bear.
We walked along the Kourniche
running by the wall by the river,
heading to the sea of reeds
where Ahmad said he had seen
Maha and she had seen him,
bared her teeth and growled.
I told him it could not be her,
but…she was nowhere else…
we’d already gone through the dumps
and pools of garbage and,
praise Allah, we had not seen her
nor any emblem of her brief life.

We went through an ancient door.
The hint of dawn filled the reeds
with what seemed like spirits,
but they were only insect ghosts,
a weevil, a roach, pelting us
like powder and seeds
hurrying in the dust,
fleeing the onslaught of the sun,
hurry up, signs of dawn,
moving as ghosts do.
Ahmad and I did not believe
much in ghosts; but we did not smile.

The Lady of the Reeds
was still dark as pitch,
as dark as the bitumen
between the planks of Noah’s boat.
She saw with eyes as bright as saucers
and as large and round as lanterns.
She wondered at the boys,
a wonder like amphetamine,
and moved in her secret ways
until she pounced like a wild beast
and descended from the far space
through a sallow and pallid light
directly towards the boys,
coming down with all womanhood,
falling like a mighty chevron
multiple, like a hard neon arrow;
her hair streaming snakes
and meteoric screams.
Too late for poisons, she thought
too late…until she enwrapped
them within the deep and sounding
sheath of her presence.

I remember you, she said to me.
I was her faithful devotee, and
of her sister-like, of her shiqq, the Inanna.
Now my amazement took flame
and flared as fear, and I said:
No, oh, Uzza! I am a good Muslim!
She laughed at me and bared her fangs
in a motion as graceful and slow
as a deadly snake in its way
across the quiet courtyard of a house
on its way to a catastrophe
of languor and venom ejaculate.
She said the only time I was a good Muslim
was when I surrendered my head to a soft pillow!
She threw her hair back and it was
veils of gold in the rising sun and
she winnowed it with her fingers
and she had the most beautiful face
or smell we had ever seen.
At her invitation, we told her of Maha.
She seemed to think…
She seemed to remember…
She flew with us to her other sister,
Ereshkigal, the queen of those awaiting
that Day, Yaum al Qiyahma.
She left her clothes, a piece at a time
at the nine fold gates of the palace
of her mighty sister whom we saw
as we lay as if within a dream.
Her sister laughed and denied passport
to any of her charges.
The Lady, not demure, spat poison
as her sib. It seemed that this
had all been done before
with tragic outcome, either here
within the gates or on the way
returning to the world of light:
Orpheus condemned to ever seek
his Eurydike, condemned ever to glance
a forbidden glance, driven by love and loss.
Ereshkigal grew silent and said the one
we sought was not there…
she saw her nowhere, either
under the sun nor beneath
the clay-like ground, and she
had never felt ignorance before.
The Lady of the Reeds flew back
through all nine gates and took
her garments from the porters
who stood with empty skulls
and empty orbs of amazement…
as they always did…forever.

She was in the reeds again
and we were with her.
She said our cousin was somewhere
but unknown, her fate was unparalled
in heaven and on the earth:
her sister had never been at a loss
to know the whereabouts a soul,
quick or dead, was hidden.
Something was changing.
The evil of man was evolving.
She invited me back to her worship
and I denied having known her
when I tossed at nights in summer.
She laughed and was gone
and Ahmad and I walked back
along the river, stumbling against
the parallel wall, the white-washed
wall along old Kourniche Street;
exiting back through the ancient door,
into the ancient ways,
into the ancient town,
where evil was comprehensible
and could be contained within
the ambit of a man’s hand.
Where to Maha would not return.
It was our old town no longer.
All had changed, just as She had said.


Affable_Atheist said...

I'm just curious on how you've come to the conclusion that you not eating food will stop the global hegemon from trying to maintain its empire? It has obviously shown by its actions a total disregard for the lives (let alone nutrition) of those most affected by their excursions into the Middle East. Might there be more productive tactics?

montag said...

That's a good question.

Initially, somewhere around these postings, I mentioned that many people would think that fasting ( not to mention poetry) to stop the war is insane.
My reply was sort of a quote from Catch-22: if everyone is insane, then I'd be a fool not to be insane.

Now, beyond that pat answer, I suppose there must be something with a bit more substance.

Fasting is not pleasant, nor is writing a bloody poem every week.
This results in some first class fasting and some mediocre poetry.
However, these exercises force me to constantly be an Outsider to the usual flow of society...a society which does not fast and does not write about its crimes.

Back at the beginning, almost the entire country supported this war which was based on the most specious reasonings.
It was quite an experience to see an entire country gone mad. I certainly never thought I would see it. I certainly have a better historical understanding of other countries which have undergone such a process.

Therefore, I think it is important to deliver a jolt to one's system and remember to see things from a view different from the normal view of one's society.

Furthermore, I did not conclude I should do this,for there was no rational process by which I sought tactics.

It was more of the nature of an imperative: do the fast and write the poems. So I did it.

I felt comfortable with it, for it was the same type of imperative that made me oppose the war.

Thank you for the comment.