Two poems: Sargon Boulus and Ahmed Yamani

by qisasukhra

Two poems originally published on Youssef Rakha’s website, the Sultan’s Seal, here and here, the first by Sargon Boulus, the second from Ahmed Yamani’s penultimate collection أماكن خاطئة (Dar Merit) [Wrong Places]

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Meeting with an Arab poet in exile

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At that outcast and lonely hour,

that hour of night when choices narrow

until each absence takes on meaning as a cloud of smoke,

between the voices of the drunken patrons in that small restaurant

and the wash of the still sea that beats, below, against its rocky shore,

at that neglected hour of night, that lonely hour,

he talked to me of the legendary poets of exile

and how he’d known them in his youth, he

who still followed the same path,

and from an ancient notebook

which bore on its cover the cedar of Lebanon

began to read aloud his long two-columned poems.

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He’d known them all,

from The Apollo Group to The Pen League,

Rashid Ayoub, Iliya Abu Madi, Abu Shadi and the rest,

but chose the endless road, wandered

the world, sortied and sallied through the Americas,

not always lion-like (he gave me a wink);

he had brought down more than one gazelle in the Chicago snows,

been shot at by more than one doe-eyed maid on the banks of the Amazon,

among them a mulatto girl—her red-hot beauty haunted him still—

who’d borne him a child in some jungle on his way.

g

He’d been a tour guide,

guiding tourists from Miami to Brazil

through cities whose names I’d never heard, a chef

on a ship that crossed the Caribbean,

had tasted strange fruit, had brushes with death, Destroyer of Delights,

on more than one occasion,

(had been, for a while, a smuggler);

Indeed, there’d been a time, my friend,

a time when he had called himself a prince

     and owned a row of houses

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until the treacherous partner had appeared like Fate

followed, in search of forgetting, by drink

then women and their wiles, then thieving lawyers circling his head

                       like hawks, then the face of the Ashkenazi judge

               like the kite of doom flapping over

      the hill of garbage, then the abyss

of penury

g

and here he was

at last in San Fransisco where

the final storm had cast him years before,

worn out by travel, cooking from midnight

till dawn, in this restaurant overlooking the sea and called The Lighthouse,

for these night birds, these wastrels,

but he explained to me that things had always been thus,

were always always always thus,

and reminded me that Khalil Matran

had opened a store selling charcoal in some city of exile

(Rio de Janeiro? He, quite possibly over sixty, forgot the place)

where, as one customer left laden

and another with empty bags looked in at the door

he’d pen in his ledger

lines of verse.

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He said his goodbyes smiling

and waving his notebook in the air

and I saw him return to his stoves and the smoke rise up

once more, the notebook put back on a shelf on which

a ragged copy of Jibran’s The Prophet could be seen.

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I saw his smoke rise again.

I saw once more the cedar on his notebook.

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*** ***

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Tomorrow the village market day

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I will go to the spring

where you slip away to fill your jar

everyone at the market and me by the tree

we maintain twenty metres no more no less

and this before you catch on a stone or two

and before a foot slips and a jar slips

leaving me ahead

on our way to the spring again

by twenty metres and a slight smile.

Today the village market day

everyone at the market

and you by the spring and me

ahead of you by twenty paces

my whole back shining eyes. 

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