The Poet’s Eye – Spring ’10

The Poet’s Eye – Spring ’10

In our Spring ’10 edition, THE POET’S EYE features Margaret Randall, Meena Alexander and Suheir Hammad;
from Poetry Co-Editor Clare Coss.

Ever Ready to Fly By Margaret Randall

In years to come I’d learn the world could change,
follow a route of broken bodies
and searing hope,
seek those ridges of place and time
where travelers swallow fear
to carve impossible trails
through jungles of pain.

Growing up I knew nothing of red paint
aimed at the breasts of white doves
stenciled on Mexico’s bullet-riddled walls,
nothing of kids not much older than me
dying for the crime of youth on Managua’s streets,
throwing their only bodies
at generations of shame.

In 1953 I attended my city’s whitest school,
dreamed of being homecoming queen,
wrote romantic poems
with church bells and tumbleweed
while Cubans I would embrace one day
made their first assault upon a dictator
who gave new meaning to an eye for an eye.

Words spoken only by desert rock back then,
words I neither heard nor understood,
wove a fabric keeping me warm in winter
and free of summer fevers
until I caught up with myself,
took risk in hand
and went in search of air.

Albuquerque accompanied me like a small tattoo,
bird or flower on my left shoulder,
this childhood city
where circumstance of birth
prepared me for nothing
but freed a spirit
ever ready to fly.

Margaret Randall (New York, 1936) lived in Mexico, Cuba and Nicaragua from 1961 to 1984. In the 1960s she founded and edited the bilingual literary journal “El Corno Emplumado / The Plumed Horn.” ” Upon her return to the U.S. the Immigration and Naturalization Service tried to deport her because of opinions expressed in some of her writing. She won her case in 1985. Among her most recent books are “Stones Witness,” “Their Backs To The Sea,” and “My Town.” Forthcoming are “First Laugh” (essays) and “Ruins.” She lives in New Mexico with her partner, artist and teacher Barbara Byers, and travels widely to read and lecture.”

©Aimee Lee

Muse By Meena Alexander

I was young when you came to me.
Each thing rings its turn,
you sang in my ear, a slip of a thing
dressed like a convent girl–
white socks, shoes,
dark blue pinafore, white blouse.

A pencil box in hand: girl, book, tree–
those were the words you gave me.
Girl was penne, hair drawn back,
gleaming on the scalp,
the self in a mirror in a rosewood room
the sky at monsoon time, pearl slits

In cloud cover, a jagged music pours:
gash of sense, raw covenant
clasped still in a gold bound book,
pusthakam pages parted,
ink rubbed with mist,
a bird might have dreamt its shadow there

spreading fire in a tree maram.
You murmured the word, sliding it on your tongue,
trying to get how a girl could turn
into a molten thing and not burn.
Centuries later worn out from travel
I rest under a tree.

You come to me
a bird shedding gold feathers,
each one a quill scraping my tympanum.
You set a book to my ribs.
Night after night I unclasp it
at the mirror’s edge

alphabets flicker and soar.
Write in the light
of all the languages
you know the earth contains,
you murmur in my ear.
This is pure transport.

Meena Alexander’s poem “Muse” (c. Meena Alexander 2002), was first published in the book, “Illiterate Heart” (TriQuarterly Books/Northwestern University Press, 2002), which won the PEN Open Book Award. Alexander has five other books of poetry, including “Raw Silk” and “Quickly Changing River.” Her book of essays, “Poetics of Dislocation,” appeared in 2009. The recipient of Guggenheim, Fulbright and other awards, she teaches at Hunter College and the Graduate Center, CUNY.

©Aimee Lee

sister star by Suheir Hammad

my sister
i chose you
wished on a light turned out
to be you

girl from across a room
you calm
i cross miles
your peach smile warms
my back grove lined
palms open and guiding
me home

eternal protection
maternal this bond word
made flesh spirit manifest
muscle strength no match
when i fall
you the catch

fly one
when i blue moon
you splendid sun

i shine to reflect
you so you see yourself
beautiful in my eyes

in another world we are
sitting children at our feet
plaiting hair dishing
rice in bowls of female bones

i fear no death
with you in my life

you grace
you sparkle

you forgive those who hurt you
i’ll hold your grudge for you

when we need them no more
we’ll take our pains
to the river honey
ourselves hum the vibration
we originate from

we’ve walked through
traps few escape holding hands tracing
the steps before us paving
a way for those who follow

we habibti are one
in ways no words can
illuminate no photo can illustrate

i am witness
to your age your
life in flame

in this brick world i
warm my soul by
your light by your
brilliant light

©Aimee Lee

What I Will by Suheir Hammad
I will not
dance to your war
drum. I will
not lend my soul nor
my bones to your war
drum. I will
not dance to your
beating. I know that beat.
It is lifeless. I know
intimately that skin
you are hitting. It
was alive once
hunted stolen
stretched. I will
not dance to your drummed
up war. I will not pop
spin break for you. I
will not hate for you or
even hate you. I
will not kill for you. Especially
I will not die
for you. I will not mourn
the dead with murder nor
suicide. I will not side
with you nor dance to bombs
because everyone else is
dancing. Everyone can be
wrong. Life is a right not
collateral or casual. I
will not forget where
I come from. I
will craft my own drum. Gather my beloved
near and our chanting
will be dancing. Our
humming will be drumming. I
will not be played. I will not lend my name
nor my rhythm to your
beat. I will dance
and resist and dance and
persist and dance. This heartbeat is louder than
death. Your war drum ain’t
louder than this breath.

Suheir Hammad’s books include “breaking poems,” “ZaatarDiva,” “Born Palestinian, Born Black,” and “Drops of This Story.” An original writer and performer in the TONY awarded “Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry Jam” on Broadway, Suheir appears in the Cannes Film Festival Official Selection, “Salt of This Sea.” She has delivered her poetry to folk around the world.