phrasings which trouble me, as in Fawzi Karim’s "What Was My
One has learned to allow a tiny space in the head for contingency.
Yet, losses befall suddenly
– of the river and the date palms that used to balance
of the friends circling your glass like a crescent.
Then you in
one moment peel yourself of whom you love
and alone, dim-sighted, grope your way home,
the light of the street lamps heavier than darkness
the burden of exile than in memory.
ourselves with hope
shielding ourselves against…but the question in the middle
of exiles suddenly attacks:
– What have you chosen?
about to desert the self,
annihilated in God’s self,
or prefer to watch, like a trap,
the tripwires of another.
When exile took us by surprise,
a surgeon ready-scrubbed
he treated us with scalpels
cleansed us of the dream tumours in our organs,
and pushed us into the last scene of the shadow theatre
in order that we perform for him our secondary roles
Who are we?
Fury of a blind man
being led by a thread of loss,
dice thrown on the night’s page
without even an echo of their
In an affecting and immediate poem, with memorable images such as
the "friends circling your glass like a crescent," exile as surgical
excision, the rolling of soundless dice, lapses into awkward English
syntax are especially jarring. Phrases like "peel yourself of whom
you love," "the burden of exile than in memory," "the question in
the middle/of exiles" (at the core of exile?) "prefer to watch, like
a trap" (preferring?) "the tripwires of another" (another’s
tripwires?") "in order that we perform for him" (to perform for
him?) seem to need more attention to values of the ear.
July 4 2003
Poetry International Web