Bara 3.0

BARA 3.0 

port

 

 

 

By Dani Arbid

 

 

Table of Contents

 

Table of Contents                                                                                                        3

The Duende;                                                                                                                  9

Song for duende                                                                                                      10

The artist’s inner possession; meetings with Lorca’s duende       12

The buoyed Body; Literature on the tones; poems that speak of the heart; wisdom of the inanimate: 14 light poems                                                                                                                          20

Interiority, Subjectivity; reading Erich Heller’s The Artist’s Journey into the Interior; Arthur Rimbaud’s legacy in the genealogy of BARA                                                                     35

Excerpts from The Port of Ports!                                                                     43

The man who rips through the hole                                                                44

Horticultural means                                                                                              48

Details on the room                                                                                               50

Poetry: the aging nymph                                                                                     54

Stasis to Ekstasis; portraying the struggle for illumination          56

from Letters to Her                                                                                                71

  1. 71
  2. 72

Living mentors                                                                                                          74

Ends and Beginnings; tiring virtues in a cyclical world                    94

Letters to her; writings to an impassive muse                                     101

from Letters to Her                                                                                             102

The BARA manifesto: social outrage in the political theatre; loss of self control  105

Omaha, Perkins; poetics and style                                                              106

Horror and the Obscene; the role of obscenity in the ecosystem of BARA 107

Ritual, Ceremonial Rites; Festival and other stories                       108

Dream transmigration; dream language- a study of dream communication and consciousness; transmigration prevalent in the text of BARA                                     112

Readings from BARA                                                                                           120

from Variable Seasons in the Port of Ports                                                121

Surah Yasin                                                                                                            136

The story of Faroukh and the Cemetery                                                     137

Fictional Spaces                                                                                                     141

The useful herd                                                                                                     145

Selected readings from BARA; the Sacrifice, Eldorado, the Fountain, the Sahel, the Walk             157

The Walk                                                                                                                 158

from Eldorado; the nihilist pig                                                                       163

The Sahel                                                                                                                 168

The Fountain                                                                                                         173

The Illumination of BARA                                                                                 175

3 touches                                                                                                                   181

the hand with the Gifts                                                                                      184

Foreword                                                                                                                  190

Notes on the Evolution of Dani Arbid’s BARA– working status; evolving intentions; progressive DNA; theories on identity; process of compiling a Collected Works; evolution of narrative perspective, characters, spaces over time                                                                         198

the land of lost thyme                                                                                         209

The BARA Manifesto as it appears in full                                               211

Thoughts on an American future                                                                218

from Eldorado; …ramifications of rejoice [in America]…                     220

Ramifications in Rejoice                                                                                   223

Readings of the Dionysian myth in BARA                                              233

Poetry: for the calamity!                                                                                  237

Poetry: Leaving the port                                                                                   240

Poetry: The Sacrifice                                                                                           252

Poetry: The Horns                                                                                                 285

Saudade, part I                                                                                                       300

Saudade, part II.                                                                                                    313

Song of Meera                                                                                                       318

Tangiers                                                                                                                  323

The prophet jewels                                                                                              341

The muse                                                                                                                 359

Joe                                                                                                                              376

the Humdinger Rooftop Cinema                                                                    388

The Sacred Garden                                                                                               394

The Sacred Garden                                                                                              396

1                                                                                                                                  404

The Cell                                                                                                                       422

The Dreamer                                                                                                         432

Poetry: Putsch!                                                                                                       444

Poetry: the Acrobat                                                                                              455

Offbeat, extras                                                                                                        458

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You have sold for luxury the land of your gods

the restless carve loathing to your tombs

the mute stand listless by a fountain

the vanguard bathe in impunity

 

 

 

 

 

The Duende;

inner conflict in mystical form

 

 

 

Song for duende

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the duende is a sexual force

the duende makes me want to fuck myself

the muse makes me want to fuck myself

where was she all this time?

when I feel most me is in the shower

so I told him, when I come over, meeting me in the bathroom

immediately

I want to feel you come inside of me

the duende tells me to fuck

I go into the shower, for the duende

I touch myself, for the duende

I fuck myself, for the duende

I sing the song of duende in the coming spirit of duende

the duende is in my lungs

the duende is on my toes

the duende is my voice

he wrote a book about me

I started to see him more

to keep him interested

I liked being his muse

closing the door on the others

only with him did I hate being disturbed

fucking him freed my mind

I started listening to myself again, my urges

my extreme

I called him the duende

he called me his golden flower

I told him to fuck me on the counter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I told him to fuck me on the floor

I begged him to take photos of me

to remember me

to want to

I please all my boys

where is the conflict?

 

I fuck myself, for duende

I fuck you, for duende

fuck me, for duende

fuck me, for duende

 

Let us fuck like men, for duende

Let us fuck like women, for duende

Let us fuck like fathers, for duende

Let us fuck like mothers, for duende

 

Bring me duende, to live

Feed me duende, to breathe

 

 

 

 

The artist’s inner possession; meetings with Lorca’s duende

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since antiquity, it has been the pleasure of artists to seek spiritual fulfillment through mystical incarnation. Artists, intellectuals, mystics. From St. Augustine of Hippo to Arthur Rimbaud, poets and scholars, theologians and politicians alike, have sought empowerment, immortality, and mystical incarnation with –a likeliness of- God.

It is well known and documented that our author believed himself to be possessed. But to everyone but himself, he seemed normal, only that he acted strange at times, which, by virtue of his being a writer, seemed quite normal. When he was sullen, removed form the weight of conviction, or action, still, his contemporaries thought he was only tired, fragile, a sensitive soul. But little by little, he sculpted out of his own being a habitual obsession with connection, connecting to frequencies he believed to encompass, or at least, in the material unity with metaphysical God, the divine. A poet in the likes of Rilke, Lorca, Neruda. Not by the weight of his work, but the virtue of his intentions, the process by which he assumed his poetics. What is most true of ecstasy, of that divine intervention that captures the imagination of a writer and paralyzes him to its force, is that it comes pregnant with superstition. Where does it come from?

Lorca says of the duende, that it almost rises from the desert, “…With deep spiritual feeling the Andalusian entrusts Nature with his very most intimate treasure, completely confident of being listened to.” The revolutionary Spanish poet continues, “…deep song always sings in the night…only the night, a wide night steeped ins tars…song without landscape…withdrawn into itself…terrible in the dark.” This unity is important for Arbid. As we see in his work a consistent method to appreciate Nature’s gifts while remaining potent to her wishes. He drops his characters into the void of Nature’s arms and watches them take heed responsibly. Lorca says,

 

The true poems of deep song belong to no one- they float in the     wind like golden thistledown, and each generation dresses them in a        different color and passes them on to the next. They are fastened to            an ideal weather vane changing direction in the winds of Time.       They are one more tree in the landscape, one more spring in the             poplar grove.

 

He continues, “…poems tangible in the immobile helix of the mariner’s wind chart.” But where does it come from? Poetry that burns marrow into bone. And if we know from where, then for whom?

 

When the cantaor sings he is celebrating a solemn rite. He rouses    ancient essences from their sleep, wraps them in his voice, and flings        them into the wind. Through these chanters the race releases its pain           and its true history. They are simple mediums, the lyrical crest             feathers             of our people.

 

And regarding the arrival of the duende,

 

The duende’s arrival always mean a radical change in forms. It        brings to old planes unknown feelings of freshness, with the quality           of something newly created, like a miracle, and it produces an         almost religious enthusiasm.

 

For the goal for, “…the duende of the composer to pass into the duende of the interpreter…”

While most poets have reviewed their own artistic process as a fruitful dance within the muse’s grasp, a pirouette between suffering and ecstasy, Lorca suggests otherwise. “the true fight,” he says, “is with the duende.”

As when Kafka “wanted to escape from the paternal sphere, but as an exile,” so too did Arbid envision his great life’s work as an escape from the maternal and paternal bonds, not just of his upbringing, of his home, but of his roots, his attachments to the homeland, for his becoming something other than what was planned. In his thinking that he may have cursed himself for doing so, we can devise an idea that the character of the one boy derives from self inflicted injury of shame and doubt for his wanting to escape, for his wanting to be exiled, and for his indictment upon himself of being possessed, cursed, led by the unmistakable touch of a trickster, for being so deformed. It makes the madness of him, and, “He is tormented…he is possessed…”[1]

But do we ever meet Arbid’s duende force, his possession? There has yet to be a clear and definitive study on where exactly Arbid’s force stems, where do we find her roots? While most readings of Arbid’s work have definitively claimed with authority that it is Arbid’s detention in the fruitless meanderings of politics and poetry in Arbid’s native land that drives his body of work, there is growing evidence to the contrary. Not that this is not invariably true, because it is. Much of Arbid’s work remains flaccid in the tortured reflections of a home destroyed. But there is something deeper, perhaps darker, that grips the reader, and so must have gripped Arbid himself, clenching him at the throat, powers that appear to strangle him, leaving him lifeless, desperate, clinging for a gift of hope, and when he rises to the occasion, meeting this stranger force head on, we find in his work the ecstatic emergence that Lorca speaks of, a duende that, “…is a power, not a work…a struggle, not a thought…” Where does it come from?!

 

The duende climbs up inside you, from the soles of the feet.

 

In Manhattan, the character struggles with the memory of a night he spent in the company of a prostitute. A night he remembers as having lost to the whim of traveling the vortex that is the island. He found himself alone in a room with the escort, not by chance but by his own admission a failure that is only mine. He had no intention of courting her or dragging her to the bones. He had only one wish, to understand something about her, something welled deep within her psyche, that arose and took hold of her, presumably, at some point in her life. He says, “I could see it in her eyes, and at one point in my life, in my own.”

What was it? We find several possibilities in his work. A character he calls the Ladybug, who is, “…born a man, eventually, evolving into a woman…two stories tall, fit as an ox, built for a bull, hung like a king!” A woman who, “…had something the others didn’t…because he wanted it for himself…”

The quote is taken from a scene where we meet the Ladybug for the first time, in the corridors of what appears to be a brothel disguised as a bar. He meets the brothel host, an old man with clear signs of dementia, in the corridor, who leads him to the room, knowing exactly what he needs. The scene unfolds like this.

 

The abominable princes. I watch her handle the sheets. She speaks without looking over at me, keeping to her business.

“I never trust these rooms.”

I step forward. The sound of a bed creaking next door. Hollow banging on the ceiling. Mouse trap in the corner. An open window. A cactus hangs in the balance.

“Sit down, please.”

I lay my jacket at the foot of the bed. I circle the room for a moment, sit on the ground by the door.

“Is everything alright?”

I keep my steady eyes pressed to her sight.

“How can I help you honey? You feeling alright? Is there   something I can do for you?”

I don’t answer. She sits by the window, removes her leggings and heels.

“The night is ours.”

She falls back into the chair, lifts her legs into the seat.

“We have time.”

Poems by Chaucer is on the table. A large print postcard hangs on the wall.

“You want to start with a foot massage?”

“I’m fine.”

“Nothing?”

“I’m on the job.”

“Prude.”

“Forgive me.”

“Don’t waste my time.”

“It’s safer in here, I need to think.”

“Don’t think about a thing darling. I know your type.”

“Good. You’ll trust me then.”

“What do you need?”

“Something needs to happen, unexpected.”

“You looking to fall in love?”

“I travel such darkness when aroused.”

“Is there anyone for you?”

“None that you know.”

She climbs onto the bed. I walk over and sit beside her.

“I need something. Something barbaric.”

“What for?”

“I’m out of love.”

“It’ll come. Stay with me tonight.”

He stares at his reflection in the mirror, looking past her sharp gaze, fixed on his position. She smiles.

“Do you want to know something?”

“Please.”

“You won’t always be this way.”

 

In Saudade, one of the monologues tells of his brief encounter with this mysterious woman, from her point of view.

 

It’s true, he used to visit me. He liked me. I had something the others didn’t. He craved it, because he wanted it for himself. That was all. I knew it from the start. He never asked for anything, just came in and did his part. He would climb in through the window so the others wouldn’t see, so his friends, other actors, poets at the bar wouldn’t see him coming into my room. I was the only one on the floor carrying his gold. The Ladybug, they called me.

He wasn’t afraid, but he was soft. Maybe he was a little ashamed, a little embarrassed. It helped him to drink, take the edge off. He would have six or seven sips of bourbon at the window, then crawl into bed and stare up at me with his eyes. He asked my real name, once, I think it was the first time. I didn’t answer. To be honest, I didn’t really know what to say. What did he want to hear? That I was human? That I had a soul? That he could love me? He couldn’t love, nobody could. It was enough for him to visit. I would hold him to that. I always let him leave surprised.

One night he knocked and I wasn’t there. It upset him. I think he waited all night. I heard     from some of the girls he’d spent the night outside my window, curled up and asleep. He wasn’t high, he didn’t take what his friends did, but he was probably drunk. I assume he was drunk, because he was never sober if he was near. I had some love for him, a reserve I hadn’t sold. I wanted to take care of him, treat him as my baby. When I found him at my window a few nights later he was ashamed to say he’d been by, couldn’t find me. I let it slide, let him think I hadn’t heard. I knew he loved his ego, it drove him all this way. Why force the boy to suffer? I’d rather force the boy to live.

That night he took out his camera. He played with it all night. He crawled into bed, crawled on top of me, left the bed and wandered to the side. He set up the frame and I did as he pleased.

He said he shot a roll, but it sounded more like half. He was struggling with the light. I wasn’t bored, having fun, I liked his eye on my ass, his thigh against my face, camera inches from my lips.

He left that morning before dawn, crawling out the way he came. I told him I was glad to see him. He didn’t look the way he usually did because he wasn’t as drunk, wasn’t as hurt, by time, by love, by me. Somewhere, his mind was freeing, from the pest that ruled our lives. I sent him on his way.

The next time I saw him he was only passing by. He shared with me a smile, a fruit and a kiss, nothing more. He didn’t seem angry, but he looked alive, so I blessed him and that was that. I asked about the photographs. He didn’t say much, only that he developed the film and it was strange, because only a few of the photos on the roll came out, which were taken before he arrived. The photographs with me, posing, naked, hanging from a ceiling rope, were all darkened and blurred, the images distorted, nothing could be done to revive them. He could tell it hurt my heart, because he shrugged his shoulders and I was supposed to laugh, or smile, say something to be          understood as, that’s alright, there’s nothing wrong with that. I didn’t. I nodded my head. He left.

 

What can we make of this story? That on a dry, summer night, our character, the subject, felt touched by the divine, saved, as he would later call it? What could the encounter represent?

Lorca reveres the force, the black sounds.

 

These “black sounds” are the mystery, the roots fastened in the   mire that we all know and ignore, the fertile silt that gives us the         very substance of art.

 

Not to be mistaken by the blessings of a muse.

 

Every man and every artist…climbs each step in the tower of         his perfection by fighting his duende, not his angel, as has been said,    nor his muse. This distinction is fundamental, at the very root of the           work.

 

Lorca continues,

 

The muse awakens the intelligence, bringing a landscape of            columns and a false taste of laurel…the angel gives lights, and the        muse gives forms…the poet receives forms in his grove of            laurel…but one must awaken the duende in the remotest mansions       of the blood.

 

Again, lest we forget, “The true fight is with the duende.”

But Arbid rarely wrote directly of his possession, or of his state whilst within the grip of a possession, except on a few occasions, only in drafts, fragments never to see the light of day. An early fragment of Eldorado reveals some interesting highlights of his state while within the rapture he describes.

 

He sat curled in the corner entangled in his own arms. A soft light illuminated the center of the room.

I hear voices which are not my own. I feel a presence upon my shoulders. I fear what is behind me. At any moment there may be confrontation. I hear heavy breathing behind me. The sound of choking; the sound of plotting, whispering, a shadow means many things.

Soon the actors will arrive, he thought. If they do not know the story, he decided, he would keep them there until they did. They would not be allowed to leave. Those who tried to leave he would have to hurt. He did not like to think such things, of hurt and cruelty and necessity, but he knew there had to be sacrifice. They must know the prophecy, he thought, in its entirety. They will be saved if they know. Nobody is mad. There is no madness here.

He could not open his eyes. He knew he would see them; he did not want to. Sometime it was enough to hear them. At an unsuspecting turn of the head he would catch sight of one; it would freeze, stare back at him; he would shiver, his neck would curl, his fingers clench. Sometimes they looked tender, other times they appeared as they truly were, terrible. They were terrible because they were becoming needy, incessant. They would invade his mind when he was only beginning to think they had gone away. The slightest change in his surrounding would startle him. He had not slept. He did not remember a thing about sleep. The room, the city, the void had possessed him. He had become the play. The others were waiting. The Professor understood but had left. He did not resent him for leaving but he needed him. For the others to understand he needed his alliance.

He banged his head against the wall, beginning in a rhythmic nudge, keeping time, arriving at substantial blows against the surface. Blood dripped from his head in a romantic stream. He refused to open his eyes. The sound of a distant door opening caught his attention.

He heard urgent footsteps rushing towards him.

 

 

 

 

 

The buoyed Body; Literature on the tones; poems that speak of the heart; wisdom of the inanimate: 14 light poems

 

 

 

 

 

The buoyed body

episodic bodily thirst

quenching

the moment of illumination

rapture

ekstasis

transcending the microscope of war

progeny

annihilation

lifting to the effervescent

lying in the eternal name

singing the following

I am in blessing

            I am in everything

in outer bodily ekstasis

ekphrasis of the Carmel ascent

the three colluding paradises

or

letting the moment pass

 

 

           

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

            The sermon of the inanimate

in praise of the eternal name

bowing to the shadows

prophecy and thirst

the presence of ecstasy

the presence of birth

ecstasy in the heart

ecstasy in the womb

injury to the seductive temptress

the pioneering essences

mentor inflections of the pupil elderly

tributes to imaginary loss

aquatic sunset

dystopic days

the shape of the many mouths column

apotheosis and outrageous birth

passing beyond the maternal grasp

BARA is healing through pain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My father coerced me to existence

I plead innocence in that respect

applying the mystical attributes of zero

or the cautionary instinct of a hero

loss of relation to I audience attribute

crucial displacement of perspective

drawing the I of an accumulation of other eyes

senses, sensory exchange,

the staging of a wonder journey

the ringing of a sacred bell

BARA as intellectual undertaking

            BARA as foil, other nature, extreme

           

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Telling of a drifter

the quiet winter

omens that pass

over the landscape of more

resigned to the fates

aural captivity

looking over the bridge

the symbol of mist

coming of an age

outside of the dawns

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Migration patterns

fleeing sought refuge

clinging to the Other

the atrocity pillar of wisdom

striving for a new nature

contact with the faces

            awayness and suffering

the use of force

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Evolution, transformation, change

castration, mutilation, forced other nature

            dominance as a theme in heroic literature

surrendering willpower and extraordinary strength

surrendering to the will of the goddess figure

methods of acceptance and letting go

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Power in a semiautonomous, semi coordinated state

agency oriented psychosis

sleeping, automatism ambulatoire

temporary passing omens

methods of experience and melancholy moods

in the absence of a nurturing figure

the gift of silence

acceptance, letting go

watching from afar questions of destiny

fate announced, fate confirmed

passing from the womb into exposure

temporary psychotic states

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Observations on the method

            acting in the face of death

organizing rehabilitation

climax in the abscess room

suffering as a means of instinct

on the messengers and the passing omens

the hawk, the birds and starry voices

the shoulder, the abscess, the libidinal pain

BARA is looking over the shoulder

            BARA is I am not afraid

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The painter as object

the artist as motif

 

“An object’s use can only help dissipate its essential form and emphasize instead its attributes.”

Barthes, p.64

 

faces of the important

walking into the gallery

enjoying the work and singing the lines

 

I was a poet

            you left me for a prince

 

Part 3, the image

 

in the belly of the whale

impressions on the journey

the landing in the port

“…Outside of the attempts…”

the prophets discover

the ascetics moving in the mountains

the masters plowing the fields

the valleys overcome by sea

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“…Between the hands and feet of my days…”

the hawk in the forest pasture

the lion in the troubled dreams

the mouse in the Manhattan apartment

 

the park in the harbor near the bridge

the acrobat the jester and the mime

the port the muse and the myth

the flood the plague and the curse

the notation of a message

the motif

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Open door

myth and beginning

textures of self in the passage of life

pages and pages and the myth of BARA

invading the public space

installations and secret readings

competing landscapes

territorial integrity of literature and film

the promises of the one boy

on shelter and refuge

on meaning and purpose

the obsession with failure

failed revolt

the deep space

cycles of repression

feeding lust

the night owl

on the article of madness in the work of BARA

on the disappearance of a generous dwarf

the use of symbolic atropism in BARA

racial disintegration in the modern state

the suffering poet aggressing the cage

boredom and indifference, tales of flight

cosmos and psyche

the Hero chart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Borgesian labyrinth

wormholes and the distance

the inward journey

the New York School

fear and nightmare and the obscene

essays on sacrifice and ritual order

Festival of the Diaspora!

a case study of fanfare violence

symbolizing the personal abyss

the great abscess of the soul!

losing identity in the New World

the force of Pluto

cosmic shift

the vertebrae column

the hands of the room

mutilation and murder

legality of torture and other techniques

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cultural sacrifice, loss of heritage

the murder of gypsies in the BARA ports

studying scenes of rape and torture

ecstasy and unconscious insight

mystic afterthought in the legacy of BARA

knowing the importance of dreams

dream language

communication

consciousness transmigration

suicide as a means of life

exegesis through the portals

engineering and militancy

the sea, my sea, as symbol

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On kindness and endless compassion, singing

           

            Treating my soul to the holy ghost

            I’m gone

            and gone

            and gone!

           

            Treating my home like an ancient stone!

            I’m gone

            and gone

            and gone!

           

            Treating my chores like an open door!

            I’m gone

            and gone

            and gone!

 

 

 

 

 

Interiority, Subjectivity; reading Erich Heller’s The Artist’s Journey into the Interior; Arthur Rimbaud’s legacy in the genealogy of BARA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poets write with a sense of urgency. Those poets who perform within rapture, in a fugue state. Considering that BARA had the tendency to bind itself into a finished form before overnight splitting itself into a million little pieces, it would not be surprising to hear that Arbid wrote with a desperate sense of urgency, urging himself on to finish the book before, “…it started all over again,” and he would have to, “…face the image of reincarnation…”

Having accustomed himself to the legend of Arthur Rimbaud- whose escape into the jungle of East Africa has been the subject of iconic speculation for over a century- it is conceivable, through a particular reading of BARA and Arbid’s collected works, that he intended himself to disappear in some way, whether into the jungle, as he mentions in the poem “Africa, Africa” in Eldorado, or to a different sort of jungle, such as Berlin, as he mentions in Putsch!. Like many artists and sociological entrepreneurs, the idea of roaming among the native peoples of the world, immersing in the daily enactment of mythical rite so common- at least in Western perception- among indigenous tribes seems like paradise when compared to the drag living standard of mediocre urban living. However far Arbid eventually traveled is unknown. The various versions BARA and their supplemental counterparts lend credence to several clashing beliefs, one of which the essays in this book take for speculative fact: that however far he may have physically traveled, to, as he puts it, “…escape from the paternal sphere…into the immaculate womb of possibility…”, his physical mobility is but one aspect in a totem of elements that comprise the extent of his journey, meaning, there is evidence to suggest the writer’s interiority comprises a significant portion of his travels, of his journey’s itinerary. this is where we find Arbid’s staunch romanticism, his unwavering belief in the collection of objects and things possessing inherent value, and his inherent desire to apply their immaculate meaning. Arbid’s attempts to establish an order of meaning, relying heavily on the metaphysical attributes attributable to inconsequential wholes, what the Buddha considers the sermon of the inanimate, refers his romanticism to its root core. As Erich Heller outlines in his closing remarks on the interiority of Rilke, in his essay The Artist’s Journey into the Interior, evidenced in the transformation of Rilke’s poetic touch from his early “Requiem for Wolf Graf von Kalckreuth” to the later Duino Elegies, Rilke evolved his aesthetic and conceptual approach from a desperate preservation of the things to an inward introspection of Man’s subjectivity.

 

As early as 1910 he denounced his dwelling upon “things” as        inhuman, obstinate, and greedy…he was…so sure that the poet’s          salvation lay in his faculty to transform himself into the visible       things…[But] In The Duino Elegies savior and saved                have…changed parts: no longer is it the visible things that save    the unquiet inner spirit by granting it a refuge in their         unshakable “objectivity”; on the contrary, it is the invisible inner                spirit that redeems the visible world threatened with destruction…For salvation lies in infinite subjectivity…we are the                 owners of subjectivity, the artisans of the heart, the          householders of infinite inwardness…

 

Heller reminds us of Hegel’s words.

 

For in the epoch of Romantic art, the Spirit knows that it cannot find its truth by immersing itself in the flesh of reality; on the               contrary, it assures itself of its truth by retracing its steps from    the external back into its own internality, leaving the outer world          as an inadequate form of existence…The true content of Romantic art is absolute inwardness…In this pantheon all the      Gods are dethroned and consumed in the fire of subjectivity…

 

By measuring up to his deepening immersion in the pantheon of Romantic art, his absorption in interiority, subjectivity, we can say Arbid was swiftly occupying himself with the Rimbaudian puzzle, the I as an Other, and we find several incidences of Rimbaud’s palpable presence in the writings of BARA. For f we conclude that BARA was articulated and written by one hand, we can conclude the transformation from one epoch of literature to the next within the text to be the result of a single, metaphysical evolution that builds, as T.S. Eliot says, on the traditions of the past, and we find within this subtext of growth, change, destruction, death and rebirth, the subtle signs of an ideology in the making, a belief system yet to be constricted into a dogma, that appears illusory at first, with its manipulation of historical artifacts into the channeling textured voice of one single act, emerging with more vitality than the poetics of its ancestor. And in effect, the whole literature of BARA stands in a sense voyeuristically and characteristically on a watchtower, gazing over the decrepit ruins of its own civilization, discontent with itself, buoyed by, as the writer eloquently claims, “…the passing of another martyr, the turmoil of another day.”

On meeting the shadow, the interiority of his being, we find a character chasing a figment of his own imagination, deep into an empty wilderness, that is only a separation of darkness and light. He is one of these characters who loses sense in the rooms, whereby following his instinct to confront his shadow, he is inevitably drawn into a conflict with himself, thinking the conflict is between himself and another being.

 

I thought of you, but was driven too far into the madness. I had aroused the darkest spirit, stirred the creature to an engagement. What darkness lay ahead I could not know but know the limits of which I came to imagine. In truth I was not frightened, though one stiff thought grappled me, tortured me to submission, as I realized, the closer I came to this madman, the further I departed myself. I dove recklessly into the madness. All subsequently lost.

I followed my senses in the manner of a wild predator savagely hunting his prey, patient at the necessary moments to unleash when afforded. I could not then have imagined the man I would encounter. He met me, quite unavoidably true, first. He led me, rather, to him, sought me out. He came to me in my dreams. I recognized his face by the hunch of his back and his eyes by the quiver in his lips. In our parallel moment all else ceased existence. I was led slowly towards him, as he punctured my past with striking shrieks. His figure hunched over the body of a boy presumably a pupil of his, it seemed a pestilent liquid excreted at his mouth. His aged skin more pale and patched than I could have imagined. It is true, he offered himself to me, sick, diseased. It was then I realized I could never have tracked him had he been well. It seemed what element I would enlist as an accomplice would vanish quite suddenly. I recall his eyes. They were no human eyes.

 

Realizing he needed a symbolic entity to represent the interiority of the soul, Arbid developed the concept of the omnipresent, omniscient room. BARA, in its final state, is the story of a journey into the room.

The story begins with the short monologue of a gatekeeper.

 

The first image I heard. Nobody witnessed the image and it passed without notice. He remembered, I was the one at the desks taking notes at the time. To notate the trajectory of a single thought. He went down to the water. He left his number, told him he should call. What do you think happened? He watched them paddle right in.[2] Under his nose. They were prepared. I was greeted by a host with no name[3]. The manners of the room are different. Like all rooms, rules vary. He asked me, did I play a part? I tried. I was relieved to be inside. The gate behind him, he felt tightened from the world, and he was. He was further than he had been only a moment ago. Were he any further he might have thought himself dead.[4] But he was not dead, and will not die in this narrative. Those expecting profound difference in life and death are not equipped for the room. The gate was only just closed. And what sort of room locks from both sides?

 

And how do Arbid’s characters gain access to the room? In a society ruled by corruption, the only way to accomplish the simplest task involves bribery of some kind, a formal exchange.

 

I met the man they called the keeper, my keeper. He had inked names onto his chest, letters of the alphabet realigned to managing the housing situation. Crowds of people, desperate, divorced from their minds, wandered like hungry fiends across the quarry. The keeper wore the deeds around his waist, buckled to his body like a belt, strung six thousand times to accompany the names.

I turned at the labyrinth hole shaped like a brain. The crowd was growing restless. From their revolving windows I could see their faces pleading surrender. Deeds fall like a paper plane winding through a roaring stadium. Chance.

He unwrapped his belt, undressed before me. I dropped to my knees and bowed my head. I lost sight of those freed from their cells, rushing to expand their sight, wandering at a loss, blind. I reached into my pockets for some paste, given to me at the door. I applied the paste to my lips and hands. His rosy cheeks were glistening. I rubbed the shaft with two fingers, putting his cock into my mouth. With a sordid tooth I lynched one of his balls, cutting a mudslide open. I swallowed his sack whole. He writhed in my mouth, I jittered, shaking my shoulders, goose bumps overwhelming my body. He was grinding his cock on the back of my throat. I wanted to yell but I squealed. I opened my mouth, dropping my tooth into his hands. The sack, I could feel, in my stomach.

“Is it over?”

He handed me my deed.

 

Visitors to the rooms are always deceived into believing themselves the product of consumption. But in Arbid’s universe it is their being that is most highly consumed. The entire structure that the character enters relies, for its energy consumption, on the harvesting of energy through the captivity of their souls. A passage that odes not appear in the final manuscript of BARA reveals an early understanding of the room.

 

As I continue into the room I hear faint moaning, the rising agony of an older man. Turning the corner where it is dark, finding my way through the outlined shadow of two adjacent curves, I stomp my feet to announce my arrival. The sound grows, and I begin to hear more of them, voices grown pale and murmuring their woes.

Finally I come upon a long chain railing, that, when stepping up to its armored face, I realize covers the entirety of wall that is itself the entirety of the building’s monumental façade, a landmark to our penitent eyes. Chained onto the corners of each circular chain composing the whole are imprisoned men and women, whose faces run deep into the armored wall, away from my sight, and the only vision I have of them is their ass. Long metallic tubes run alongside the asses, and every so often, at an indiscriminate pace, singular tubes detach from the main system, pull away from the wall, move slightly the side, and force themselves into the imprisoned ass. From the ass the tube returns, propelling itself outwards with less force than was used to enter the crevice, carrying with it a fistful of shit. The shit is then compressed into a ball and dropped out of sight, down the length of the wall towards the invisible surface floor.

 

An interesting element that was withdrawn from the final edition of BARA is the presence of fecal matter as an agricultural source. Agriculture in general takes on this highly mobilized, comedic force. The reality is quite clear- in whatever society the story is imbued, resources have been depleted, we have injured Mother Earth. In the beginning, it was only the concept of capturing the feces for later use, along the expansive railing. But the idea developed further before being withdrawn altogether. See, for instance, the following two passages.

 

He was overcome by a strange sensation. He felt his fingers to the air and from his deed acknowledge it was the smell of curling feces being hurled into a well. But he could not make out a bathroom in the distance, though he heard the groans and urges of an ailing fecal plan. He heard the large anus blossom, and from it a sea of fecal waste strove onto the courtyard. Not just any courtyard, but a monument to his ancestral position as the foremost onlooker of the port of ports. He could be savage but he was not afraid of admitting his sensitivity to matters entitling the dead, and the dead who rose to his imagination were among the noblest wailers of a fallen dream.

He walks further inside to light’s shifting, steadily away from the blizzard of human waste.

“What’s happening?”

There was a leak somewhere in the system. Entire planting fields, those long beaded chains that stand like towered walls, were sinking from erosion. The weight of all the shit was pulling the land apart. There was too much shit in every basket. Too much shit to go around, and they kept collecting.

Everyone was getting sick.

I was having compression sickness. Every minute the air felt thicker and more ingrained into my face. The large mass they called the anus would recede her muscles and pull our souls into unequal parts. I felt heavy and weak, and the room kept spinning her seldom web for an imprint.

 

I will now provide three monologues that hopefully illustrate in their own way the development of these ideas. In the first monologue, Arbid employs the relationship between captive beings and their fecal matter again, this time, telling through a citizen’s monologue, the story of a collector who comes to the house, at first, to study what the citizen has, what sort of provisions he may have stolen, but then proceeds to take a shit. Upon doing so, the monologue reveals that the port town is so dismembered from its own survival that the government has forced citizens to collect their shit and bag it for collection by collectors, presumably to be used as a resource. This monologue appears first. Following is an excerpt that describes a plan by the same government to use living human beings as mediums for harvesting their crops, presumably because of great environmental damage that has been done to the town. And finally, the third is an excerpt that describes the objective experience of the room as understood by researchers, architects, themselves. The three passages are taken from The Port of Ports, but they do not appear consecutively in this order in the original book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Excerpts from The Port of Ports!

 

 

 

 

The man who rips through the hole

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He had really big boots, and they didn’t seem to fit his feet, they were bigger, so he looked really awkward, and on top of that, he was strangely built, because he had a skinny torso, overly skinny arms, but his waist was big, and his thighs were immense. And then, just to round things off, his knees seemed to buckle in under his weight, causing his ankles to sort of hinge to the side, hanging, and it made his calves look really small, and his entire leg even smaller, so he looked kind of like a dwarf, but he was over two meters standing upright.

At the same time, I think he had never worn socks, so his feet smelled really bad, but I guess it was collector protocol to take your shoes off at the door. He would always come in, take his absence from his host immediately, go see the bathroom, and the paperwork laid out for him to collect. You know, who’s been in the house, visiting or staying there. If any photographs had been taken, he came around to collect the negatives. Something really extreme. The collectors never let an inch they didn’t look at, and their eyes were always bulging. I remember once, this guy came in to our place, and it was right while everyone in the building goes around for a jog around the quarters, or people are just shooting the shit downstairs on the concrete, so I was alone inside. The people I was living with, well, I was living with certain inmates of the fifth ward, they were refugees who didn’t have somewhere to go back to, they could only be considered refugees seeking asylum, because they could never go back, so it was kind of permanent, and they try to set their shit out, sort life out so its good here. I was living with two of those guys. My paperwork was messed up by one of the landlords. Anyway, nobody was home, so the collector showed up and I was already busy taking a dump in the bathroom. The collector was sort of weirded out when he came into the house, but it wasn’t like he could smell anything, but he could tell, maybe I was still buckling my belt or something, but he took an immediate interest in the bathroom. It was like he had been called to duty. I didn’t even have time to shake his hand. As soon as I opened the door, he was about to start speaking and then suddenly he just came out of nowhere and barged right in, past me, head straight without even looking at me, shooting towards the bathroom. We lived in a two bedroom, so one of the two guys had his own room and I was bunking with another guy. The bathroom sat right in between the two rooms, no living space, and the door directly facing the bathroom. So, he gets into the bathroom, and I guess then he notices that I’ve already taken a shit before he arrived, because he turns around, without saying anything, he just turns around, takes a few whiffs, his neck is sort of hunched, lurched forward, and he farts. It’s a very disgusting fart, I remember it almost every day, when someone else farts, or sometimes I’m just tiring on my way home, on the bus, or walking under the bridge. I could smell it instantly, but it had a very echoing sort of noise. It started strong but fizzled out, and I’m sure he left some stains on his underblankets. At that point I was more confused than anything else. I heard about some collectors who come into the house and let out a massive load in the bathroom, just to prove a point. But it still didn’t dawn on me that that was happening. I was convinced we were in the midst of a misunderstanding. But then he took off his pants, in front of me. His dick was pretty small. He looked like an oversized, overfed Athenian statue, with lots of hair, and big brown nipples, and puffs of hair sticking out from his shoulders. I hadn’t noticed his nose or ears until then, when I could finally see his entire being force its figure onto me. I waited for something to happen. Nothing happened. He farted again. I realized the door was open, and the last thing I want, probably the only thing I could think of more disturbing than the scene unfolding before my eyes, would be for someone else to witness my seeing it, and report to the general public, for some crude fascination of their own, that I was enjoying it. Because I wasn’t, and if you mistake my enthusiastic telling for excitement, or worse, pleasure, it’s not true, and you’re gravely mistaken, and shedding an indecent cloud over my life. If you think I’m the sort of, I won’t say it, but listen, I wasn’t excited, I was very confused, but I do enjoy telling the story either way, because in telling it I remember certain feelings I’ve had since then and for some strange reason I have a certain enjoyment. You know, the way our hair isn’t growing obviously, but it still grows, for some. I feel like a hair, lifted from its owner, and all the time, wondering why I’ve stopped growing. Ever since that day I’ve asked myself, why me? Why was I chosen to be the victim of the collector’s heinous crime? And it’s not the rhythm of its happening that confused me, it was the entire plot, the occasion and the riddles, and the startling joy in my companion’s eyes. Not a real companion, just someone I now know, deeply, because I’ve seen him do things we should never see done, or do ourselves. I’m not trying to be moral, I’m just saying, the man filtered his load all over the bathroom, and it was everywhere, seeped right into the walls. He did it in front of my eyes, and I had to clean it. I had nowhere else to go. I had nothing else to do. I had to claim the space as mine, but I didn’t. I watched him. And so we’ve shared something deeply, the two of us. And afterwards, when he left, I shook his hand, because I pitied leaving his hand empty when he offered it. You see why I’m so sullen? You see why I’m ruined? I do anything for others to enjoy my company, and my life. I do everything for others, except living. Living, I tend to do it for myself. I tend to try certain things and hope for others. I tend to tell the story like it usually is. I can’t go back from having seen this though, and it worries me. I’ve seen prettier things since then. I’ve seen uglier. Nothing pushes the image from my mind. I want to share it with you, of course, but I can only tell it. I can’t paint for shit. And how do you draw shit these days, you know, with the exception of an abstraction? I wouldn’t want to be abstract about it. That’s not how I felt. I felt abused. I felt harmed. I felt disabled. So you see, I can’t do anything, except wait for others to ask me how I’m doing, when I’m looking at something, when I should be walking but I’m dazed, and I forget where I am, I forget where I’m going, and I stop and think to myself, why me, why did I have to be the victim.

But you know, it’s worse now than it was then. When they come around and collect our feces, they never ask for it. It’s difficult for me to live like this. I always wanted to be a free man. I wanted to experience certain things angels experience, while still alive, because dying I’ll try easily, I’ll do my best and have a go, but living, I want to make it work, I try really hard, it’s not possible. It’s not fashionable either, to try your hardest to live. It’s supposed to come easily. How can it though, when we’re out on our limbs like this? The last time a collector came through my ward, he dropped six bags for an entire floor. He filled the same bags with our shit. He said it would be like this from now on. And he left. And you know what I’m staring at? Nothing, but my gut hurts, my stomach is growing more scarred by the minute. Imagine the rules. Imagine the irony. At first, the collectors came to our doors, and took massive shits in our bathrooms. And then, they came in bigger groups, and shat all over the walls. And now? Now they come in and ask for our shit. They don’t have their shit anymore so they need ours. They say they feed it to the prisoners, and to the wanted, and to the damned. I say they feed it to themselves. I say they’ve grown sick and tired of human food. I say they have nothing else to live for and so they need to take my feces and put it in a stew of all the other feces and mix it with a ladle and some piss.

 

 

 

 

 

Horticultural means

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are many things we take for granted. Agriculture is one of them. Not many people think about where they get their food as long as they get it. And the people who don’t have any food think the only place they can get it is from someone else’s hands, and sometimes it’s true. But people don’t really think about hunting for themselves they think about gathering from other people’s plates and it’s because we’ve designed the plates to understand the meaning of exclusivity and worth. But the value of a crop is not in the hands of its bearers, it’s in the land. Something we destroyed long ago. Our soil doesn’t know the hollow voices of our leaders. She knows our neglect.

They gathered all the eligible students fit for emancipation. They were brought in single file into a large atrium that fit thousands of young men and women. The seats were raised high on planks, and at equal height, so that the first row was equal in stature to the last, and the thousands of rows in between equal in dimension and spectacle. The idea was that they were to be raised high enough to ensure they would not have the courage to jump from their seats. Why would they jump? It was the function of their gathering to employ their heads for horticultural means. Meaning, their brains would be dismantled and destroyed, and in its place, a manipulated life system that would allow for the growth and reproduction of vegetation. From their heads would sprout the republic’s food. But the plan never worked. Most of the young did jump. They jumped before their knees were tied down, or before the authorities understood the severity of their refusal and cut the nerves and tendons of their limbs so that their motor functions would cease. And those that did not jump were wasted after the first season. Very few of the seeds were planted successfully. Those that were still produce far less than would be produced using traditional soil based harvests. But the program was still in effect in operation at the writing of this story, and it is probably the case that the program will outlast our shared memory. Not because the program is of any use to history’s tale. Mainly because history does not judge on the treatment of those sacrificed. Still the seeds bear their original soil based names, and the produce sold at the quarter markets is no less wanted than its inspiration.

 

 

 

 

 

Details on the room

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Researchers, usually of a technical criminologist past, citing the continuous influx of handwritten pages seized at several ports in the vicinity of local naval expeditions, suggest the likelihood that BARA is at any given moment in a state of becoming, and growing in the activity of its participants, who are hidden from the public eye, spared justice where it is thought to be deserved. They say BARA is projecting its contents as we speak, pervading our sleep when we lose attention. But as with most other legends, and especially those told in an era of conservative habitation, there are many myths attributing rare sightings of BARA, somewhere where others are not present, like the sultry corners of a forest, or the basement of an abandoned plot of land. It is difficult to follow any leads with discernible evidence. Most of what        is seen is cited by those who have given themselves up to mystical or psychedelic enchantment. Common stories speak of a room that does not evolve, but reacts to the presence of subconscious psychological contents that encompass a physical form, reaching into the contents of a visitor’s soul, and projecting it. Like most other myths, legitimacy is shrouded in mystery. And most who lay claim to a performance of BARA do so at their own peril, for many of them vanish soon afterwards, without word, never to be seen again. It can be argued they have been freed, to an archive of subconscious imagery playing against a pendulum of archetypal norms. But it is also argued, vehemently by rejectionists of mystical beliefs and faith in metaphysical chance that the sightings of BARA are attributable to mad, possessed aggressors of violence and, completely void of social virtue, under the curse of a Paleolithic spell, causing its bearers to lose function of the mind, body and soul, wandering aimlessly into an invisible abyss, shielded by towering structures of vision that distance the individual from the natural world. Confidence in this theory is helped by the revealing testimonies of several citizens who have survived morning leaps over the edge of a bridge, who claim to have been led by indescribable forces into the confines of a monolith, only to leave some years later, with nothing but an inscription on their heads, and an encrypted number tattooed into their hands.

Many report the strange hand of a trickster overcoming them in the preceding moments before actualization, described as an intense physical altercation with gravity, characterized by deep tremors of the inner joints, twitches of the muscular lining of the vertebrae, a yellow filament clouding of the retina, and increased tension in fingers and toes, followed by a series of hot flashes that drench the participant in sweat, usually lasting around seven minutes, at which point control over motor operations of the body are recovered. But the yellowing of the eyes continues to for another five or six minutes, until a thin crust has coated the outermost layer of the eye, a cut like the running image of mountain splitting two distinct ends from north to south, running the length of the eyeball. The participant experiences a hardening of the hands of feet. The mind, largely absent from the experience except for the sending and receiving of involuntary muscle signals, spirals back to life with a surge of imagery transforming the landscape and dimensionality potential of the participant, whose eyes are most likely closed, and whose hands and feet are cramped to such a degree that the body is lifted from the ground, two fists and two upright heels holding the participant upright, whose navel is positioned as the peak of the stretching figure. When the participant’s eyes are able to open, the space is             transformed into a surrounding landscape of images portrayed intertextually so as to seem, in a methodical and metaphysical way, to be aligned, part of a single grid. The next few minutes is spent learning certain curvatures of the new world, discovering how to maneuver through space without adhering to former provisions of gravity, thereby allowing the participant to move about the imagery with unprecedented freedom, possessing the ability to move with full degrees of rotation.

Certain participants experience increased brain activity, eliminating the absence of smell, illuminating all five senses into the experience. What then feels like a continuous presence of the immediate continues for the rest of the participant’s life, or what feels like the rest of their life, until they sullenly and without damage, save for their two marks, walk out of the theatre doors.

Some of these testimonies have been given by individuals who were at one time functioning and trained members of the internal staff, responsible for perpetrating the menial jobs necessary to run the operation. But most people who are known to have enjoyed the experience are actually afraid of retelling it, for fear of retribution form an unnamable foes, who they remember to have met in their adventures within the monolith. And they are known     to posses a trembling symptom of phobophobia, such is the extent of their despair. To account for their losses, and to prevent their wasting at the mercy of living squalor, many of them choose to flee, as far away north as possible. But very little is known of the north, and those territories over the hills are recluse in the imagination of those who remain in the port. From this great ignorance, and the testimonies given recounting adventures experienced in the monolith theatre, stems the feeling among most ordinary citizens that the people who leave under this pretense are thought to have walked to their death.

 

 

 

 

 

Poetry: the aging nymph

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Castes of neophyte wanderers absorbing their weight

the bored little prince searching for a hero

here is a tab of melancholy and a tab of shame

fucking dogs, fisting the elderly

I think the great Satan is a literal asshole

we should plug the anus before it leaks

galloping the masses to the polls!

soon the insensitive will burn in the mire

wooed by the politics of an open chest

a populist toy used for survival

I’ve seen the way fear takes a man when he’s healthy

seen the way health takes a man when he’s feared

I am the empty quarter

I am the yellow beard.

 

The other night, I watched two hummingbirds

staring at the crest of an impressionist dream

you know, I fainted the night you let me kiss you

tossing a horseshoe into the river spree

reviving the hour of greed and gluttony

I swim in a vacuum of possibility

I shower in a pantheon of love.

 

I remember the moon turn in October

the horse’s eyes before he was butchered

I want to rehearse staring into your eyes

to confront the chance I draw nearer to you

quarreling for subscription to the new autonomy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I say this with a fork and a steel musket knife

we who are bold trample Plymouth’s progeny

vibrating souls drinking her ripe

passing her carcass like clouds on the periphery

dancing to the trinkets of a loose hearse kite.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stasis to Ekstasis; portraying the struggle for illumination

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The space a poet claims and examines is an illusory recreation of life, elusive to the uninitiated eye. What is remarkable of Arbid’s work is the ease with which he transcends, within the same whole, a style or an art. There is the writing that seems to emerge from a solitary corner on the blanket face of the earth, written in the poet’s evening trench under candlelight, smoking by the fire. The result of which is poetry that does not contain, in the BARAesque style, the mythological essences that comprise much of his other work. An interlude, then, of tenderness, simplicity, laughs. Charmed, perhaps, by the tender texture of O’Hara’s Lunch Poems, and what probably was an introduction to the verses and style of Pierre Reverdy. We must remember Arbid was a writer in the most complete sense of the term. He was not only a poet, but also an avid essayist, a dramatist, writing both for the stage and for the screen, and probably his most deliberate form, a novelist. But it is in his poetry that Arbid most reflects the paradigm from which his mind and soul entrench themselves, and it is the evolving nature of these paradigms, conflicting, complementary, that exhibit Arbid’s profound scope.

In one poem, he writes,

 

hungover

showering

makes

me tear

parcels

of joy

nakedness

wanting

to smoke

blunts

on

bowery stairs

or

the KGB

to

charlie parker

dressed

in lutheran jeans

with

phantom

clocks

and guitar

spikes

humming

rhinegold tunes

and

the taste

of

sour rum

 

While not convincing as an artifact worth preserving, it nonetheless exhibits the difference in style which Arbid was experimenting at the time of his writing BARA. He writes, in the second part of this poem,

 

hot

shallow

sun

wine

 

brood

prude

callow

whimper

 

keep

the kaleidescope

on

our fridge

so

we taste

the greens

of choice.

 

then i sat

she danced

bored

i scored

another

round

of tetris.

 

a jewel’s heart

a fool’s wallet

a tender cold callous.

 

we are the lovers who are afraid

tying

our type

to gender

but where is promiscuity?

 

in secret’s pantheon

the whole scale of infinitesimal things

outlast our rampage

embolden the courts

tie these failed hands to self esteem!

 

i love

that you come knocking

for breakfast

with two napkins

and a player.

 

i hear

your soft choke

on your morning spit.

 

like

a barricaded chuckle lion’s

a pool phosphorous smoke.

 

yum

the texture

of your kneels

against my lap

rocking chair

disasters.

 

he holds brittle wood.

he rolls child’s toke.

 

Again, while it fails to convince as an artifact, it nonetheless offers a vivid representation of the development of style, which would later transform into several distinct poetry collections, such as The Yellow Pages, The Horns and The Acrobat.

When we compare his work, written in the exact same time, with some other writing of his, we can deduce that Arbid was in his state of writing in a continuous state of becoming, and that this very state was determining not only his intentions with BARA but also his potential.

Read, in this scene taken from The Port of Ports, the loss of a youthful, invigorated voice, and the emergence of horror. In the second part of this passage, a human carcass is used as a grounds for feeding.

 

On a very special day in the calendar year, the tomb is lit by fireworks and children are raised to the mantel. They are then dropped from the head of the tomb as a sacrifice to the Diaspora. On this day, the people of the old port town are sacrificing their progeny to prevent the Diaspora from ever returning. This day marks a fictitious day in the future of the colony, where the Diaspora has returned, lays claim to the land, and burns all the citizens at the stake. As a compromise, the citizens sacrifice their children, hoping to evade the Diaspora’s intervention for another year. The ritual does not shock the public. Questions are not asked, investigations are not made. No eyebrows are raised. People are in good spirits. The children do not suffer, falling a dozen meters to the ground. They are usually only several months old, but every now and then a child will come around who is older than three! Once, as a result of some family dispute, a full grown woman ascended the mantel, hurled herself to the ground. This defies the ritual. To prevent the evil spirits of the Diaspora from avenging her death by returning, or being granted safe passage by her defying the ritual, more children are hurled every year, beginning a process of dehumanization. The brutal death of the elder woman is celebrated, on top of the usual celebration, just to make sure.

The process of sacrifice is not so outstanding. In other colonies, it is reported, people make amends with their gods by lighting themselves on fire, or eating out of the carcass of their loved one, for decades. Usually, it is the body of the eldest male who is celebrated with this honor. When another male dies, the new male replaces the old male, whose degraded body is discarded. There have been stories of an elderly male not passing for a hundred years.

 

It is important keep in mind, what we consider a writer’s oeuvre does not necessarily include the selection of their story, their own personal account of what they themselves experienced and within the context of experience, to include the oeuvre of their selected readings, for example, as a result of having read what is certain to illuminate the lessons of their own experiences. Thus, without prior knowledge of his having read the ecstatic poetry of Rumi, Rimbaud, and the like, to illustrate his own personal illumination, whereas reading of poets like O’Hara, Ashberry, Reverdy, and even George Albion, draws him into a grounded, honest conceptual state, into the realm of urban narration, human experience, a world of unequal pairs, of trinities and opposites, the haves and have not’s. A space where he moves between comfort and discomfort. Furthermore, we know Arbid was fond of more outrightly political writing, such as Jimmy Santiago Bacca, Amiri Baraka, and Mahmoud Darwish. The relationship between these three poetic lines reveals the relationship Arbid had with his own intentions, motivations as a writer, wanting to secure a homeland for the oppressed, while being instated in a liberated urban environment, while also forgoing these considerations and searching for spiritual enlightenment, in the form of ecstatic illumination.

His transformation from a poet of grounded extremes to an ecstatic narrator- the transformation of character representing a movement from stasis to ekstasis- happens simultaneously at times, conflicting the reader with his various announcements.

 

into the inside and without the other

the touch of the temptress

the touch of love

of the occult

of the touch of the other

the ceremonial chorus

the presences

the crowd

into the eternal flame

 

the sea is sunk

between the clay

I can be anywhere

yet I am here

raiding the museum of Tunis

counting the bodies in Tahrir Square

how many protestors dead

and with whose weapons?

I can be anywhere I want

with the word[5]

 

I rise on a journey to freedom

to study the people and their worth

writing these pages in utter darkness

I feel you, at the bottom of my breath

the city as organism, as refugee

the soldier at the checkpoint

has tears in his eyes

“are you the traveling mystic?”

for what’s it worth,

I lied.

 

Speaking of a mentor, a pupil who “watches from the fields as the sage gives his lesson, afraid to disturb, careful not to be seen.” Speaking of invisibility, apologizing for his presence, in an identity full context, a non free world. There is no free passage, always the presence of a gatekeeper.

 

the door to the sun

is manned by a keeper

the door to the room

is manned by the sun

 

In the contexts of closed borders, loss of mobility, praise for the mobile, the sea emerges as an imaginary access to freedom, mobility, empowerment, change. Change, then, is a sign of liberty. The ability to change, to transform, to evolve. But in captivity, the word emerges as a tool, a means, to freedom, the only passage he can afford.

 

I loathe the museum, except in the mornings when it clears out. I    can stare at my thoughts through images on the walls, without the           others wondering what I’m thinking.

 

In a scene from The Sacrifice, the character spends much of his time moving in circles, rotating on an axis of security apparatuses manning the borders. One passage illustrates his frustration.

 

“Where are you going?”

He passes by a checkpoint. It would be simple to imagine the silence foreboding, but he was used to silence, and preferred it to the noise. Nightfall, early. There was war, too late. Tragedies played in amphitheaters. A quagmire of verses read firmly. He loses imagination fumbling for his papers.

“Is this necessary?”

“It’s for your own good.”

“Is it?”

He hands him back his papers, asks him to leave, kindly, noting that he is young and apathetic and not really a threat to anything. If he were a threat to himself, he would be more threatening, yet less threatening to others, but more enticing to those who know him, but not those who come a long way, seeking asylum as refugees. If he could muster up the abstractions necessary to propagate ideas amongst the masses, he would be a threat, but his relation to the masses carries the weight of an eyesore, nothing more. He refuses weapons of material or ideology. He’s never held pamphlets decrying the modern malaise. He sees the invisible in his mind, but reflects the visible in his dreams, somehow coming to life orthodox when he is pained for being free, and can’t afford his tokes. How he moves from this place to that is still a mystery. He does not watch the sun rise or set with any interest, but always seems to be there, watching others meditate, noting their enchantment to the real. What is natural he obsesses, what is unnatural he defends. Somehow, this is his poetry, blurring the lines of a bigot and a louse. A sense of deserving liberty, a deep reserve of love, compounds the blinker’s mischief. At least, that is what he thinks, splurging on a run of fantasies.

“Stop!”

He turns around. Apparatus uniforms manning a checkpoint.

“You cannot go this way.”

“But this way leads nowhere.”

“Still…”

“There is nothing there.”

“I understand. But it is for your own good.”

He turns. Where to now?

 

We will examine the role of closed borders and mobility further in the next section. For now, let us return to the writer’s coming together with his spirit, his transformation into a state of ecstasy.

We know Arbid diffused his fears into elements he could write about, fearing that if he approached them directly it would appear too cynical, too sentimental, or too mundane. Oddly enough, his work is often extremely cynical, extremely sentimental, and rarely mundane. However, one character in particular represents the writer’s struggle with loneliness. Arbid did believe his writing to be a blessing and a curse, to be both alone with the universe in his hands, yet confined to the emptiness of a solitary room. At times, having forgiven the solitude of anomie to the pleasures of society, having discovered love, embrace, companionship, he would often wonder how to return to that dreadful place, “from where the songbird sings.” He marvels, “charting for both the soul and the imagination, the convex mirror dance, quatrains and refrains, held in all his tightening breaths, new territory, safe passage, the only night of nights that he prays, My delicate little port town, he says, a flower amongst redwoods.” And suddenly, he would be gifted his impressions into the artist’s metaphysical space, from where his narrative could glide.

Speaking naturally, he would tell of how, “…all sailors dread Iran…” and how, “…everything can be sought in West Africa, even the insides of a human skull.” Having lived himself on several ports, he must have made contact at different intervals in his life with the traveling seamen. The presence of a sailor usually foretells a change in discourse, alluding to another way out, an alternative path, the sailor as a symbol for the one who travels further than the mind can go, and really, in much of Arbid’s earlier work, the one who travels into the arms of nostalgia. He loved to ask, “Have you seen the port of ports?” Before answering himself, “It is destroyed.”

Various sources cite the implications Carl Jung’s theories of the occult on his own work. To include Jung’s theories of occultist investigation is to inform the reader of an acute self awareness common throughout the writer’s work. Many of Arbid’s characters experience conditions that have been diagnosed by Jung in his seminal lectures on the subject, compiled together in Psychology and the Occult. For example, the basis for Eldorado, the catalyst for the narrative, the main character suddenly deciding to drop his life and leave, resurfacing in his native home, came to Arbid through his reading of Jung’s own studies on the condition known as automatisme ambulatoire, a strange and elongated condition of sleepwalking, whereby a victim of the condition might disappear for two or three months, and take up a life elsewhere.

Jung’s theories of the natural archetypes are also present in the oeuvre. For instance, in one of his earliest stories, probably his most obviously occultist, a young boy is on the raft with a ferryman, aptly named the Ferryman, who is escorting him to the ends of the earth, and of his life. He had not realized, until reading Jung’s literature on the Ferryman, that the Ferryman was part of a series of archetypes. He had acquired the character by his own imagination, but later discovered the character existed in his unconscious, and he had simply plucked him out, from the roots of the depths of his collective spirit. For his own personal evolution, Jung’s theories also allowed him to perceive himself with less judgment, to view his own shadow figure with greater acceptance. The following passage illuminates the way in which Arbid himself grappled with his shadow figure, as his most autobiographical character struggles with a shadow force, who terrorizes him to his will.

 

They would never know the nights he’d spend alone weeping hysterically in the corner of his room clenching at his cheeks to tear them off while his hands were tied and the Shadow forced him to fuck himself brutally. They knew nothing of the days he’d spend vomiting in fear and agony at the violent whispers of the figure; could never know of the time he had tried to hide his own right hand from the force only to be dragged crawling naked weeping to his bedroom where he was forced to stare at the image of his Muse and strangle himself incessantly. They would never know the violence and brutality inflicted upon him by the Shadow, the final trinity of his beloved jester, beloved mime, and beloved hero figure, but he knew and remembered everything and he bore it. He wondered how many would have done the same.

He bore it because the Shadow was, by all means, all measures of the fact, beautiful. He strode upon the image he presented with immeasurable grace. When all were summoned to the field of Ritual he emanated only love and all in witness adored him, loved him, worshipped him, so that none felt horror but only truth, love, and grace.

His eyes beamed with porcelain like softness, almond colored eyes, shaped like those of a baby camels. His legs seemed like they carried the weight of a boulder as they strode along, each time they lifted, landing again on the ground by the heel that would part the sand beneath his feet. His arms moved like the wings of an eagle, outstretched they seemed to protrude into the sky. When he sat and watched in amazement this figure, he felt the whispers of his worshippers, straddling through the cavity of his lungs and resting in the back of his throat. This figure, who embodied darkness and light, together, in union.

He had not chosen the Shadow, he knew that. He had only named him, which seemed honor enough. So it was, no matter how much the Shadow tormented him, forcing him to masturbate to a photograph of his parents, for instance, he, too, loved him, cherished him, and worshipped him, so that he promised, vowing only to himself because nobody else could hear him, that he would bring the Shadow to life. This he did.

He promised the Shadow a kingdom, fingers intertwined at his face and eyes lit up staring into darkness, which was not void, but the presence of nothingness, an emptiness he admired.

 

Willis Barnstone, in his book The Poetics of Ecstasy, writes,

 

The mystical text of the experience of ecstasy…records an unverifiable area where conviction depends on the verbal genius of the mystic…a reader’s belief in the authenticity of the author’s         mystical experience depends on the reader’s preparation, on his or     her creative ability, in the act of reading, to complete the mystical    text.

 

For the reader must let go of the forms, experiencing a state of acceptance, benediction, a state of giving whilst giving in. To relieve the reader, the experiential differentiator, the one who decides on the finality and totality of the literature, to delineate a bias based solely on the literature on hand, the device by which one, as intended by the mystic writer, delivers the soul to a state of ecstasy, ekstasis. As Barnstone points out,

 

The mystical text of the experience of ecstasy…records an unverifiable area where conviction depends on the verbal genius of the mystic…a reader’s belief in the authenticity of the author’s mystical experience depends on the reader’s preparation, on his or her creative ability, in the act of reading, to complete the mystical text.[6]

 

Letting go of the forms, he experiences a state of acceptance, of benediction, a state of giving and whilst giving in, a gift to the blessing of the outer world. This sort of acceptance, a revelatory act, by which the mind diffuses the associations and possessions, diffusing the importance of such attachments that maintain a strong and powerful egocentric force, begins within the body, as he points out, several times in several of his stories, a state of revelation emerging from the hands, breathing its way into the mind.

Presenting a scene from Eldorado, his most basic and obvious attempt at portraying the spiritual transformation of a nihilist to a mystic, auteuristic believer, the main character is seated in the room of an old friend, who describes to him the various ways in which, “…Somewhere along the lines, we messed up.” The friend continues, and it is unclear in the text whether the tone is one of tenderness, humor, or seriousness- what is obvious is a sense of betrayal, of everything having been misunderstood, and everything in this context being inclusive of human nature– mainly because the language and the imagery is not sufficient to carry the weight of the message,

 

This way we see as natural is the only way…of competing, and the strong survive…and the rest is left without question…because we were chased and eaten…we misread the whole thing.

 

As the scene progresses, the character is left passively listening, focused not only on the words of his friend but also on the manifestation of a certain dogma in his hands.

 

I had the Tao in my hand. I had never read it. Twice before I held it in my hands and read parts of it and realized I’d retained nothing; seen nothing with my eyes but words that did not flow in their intended way but sat there stagnant on the page unable to leap out at me and I knew it was my fault and blamed myself for it. This time I held it and something felt different; I could see; I could hear what the translator described as witty and sarcastic and spiritual. In my possession, I could feel.[7]

 

He continues, content to hear the words of his friend who, “…continued in his own special way of saying things with a smile but deep down his soul was weeping.”[8]

 

I was listening, but I held the Tao in my hand and for the first time I could hear what I was reading. I wanted to hear him but he needed only to say these things because he was lost, he was angry, he didn’t know how to survive in the world without being his own vulnerable self, and he didn’t want to commit to the destruction of his soul.

 

He excuses the agony of his companion, while enduring the acceptance he is beginning to discover. At the time of this scene, the character has already unraveled before the reader in various dimensions of agony, having endured the flight from home, the initiation into a new world, the decapitation of his moral code, and his various conflicts with the monsters, the beasts who prey on the passing hero, in this case, a woman whose addictions drag him to the depths, a play that is spiraling out of control- another case of his losing sight of the method, of his losing the practice a theater director requires, namely, control- and a return to his ancestral home prompting deep visions and experiences of interior investigation, nostalgia, serene depictions of loss and abandonment, and his nearing the inevitable flight from home into the new world, having begotten or not- answering the hero’s question- the elixir, the keys.[9] But in this moment the character escapes from his own journey to accomplish the task of another, to accommodate his companion, leaving his own narration to enter the void of another, his old friend. This sign of relenting is modern in its application, relieving the character and his followers – the readers- from the tension of their path, to fulfill a civil service – something quite ordinary yet largely neglected, listening- before continuing on the path to ascertain a destiny. The character finally returns to self awareness, and here begins the acceptance. The notion that the revelation comes in a state of passivity, that in his adhering to the principles of compassion, namely, hearing his friend out, and leaving his own spiraling life for a moment, the keys to his passage are handed down to him, through the manifestation of an ancient text, in the physical sense, and in the manifestation of metaphysical ideals, in the metaphysical sense.

 

I held my past in one hand, my future in the other. I closed my hands. I opened them. I did this several times. I was not focused on anything but breathing and doing this. I did it to remember in that moment that I, too, have hands, like any being capable. I did it to remember I held what I wanted or thought needed at all times and the past was always there to grapple with because I required of it to remain there to remind me I had come from somewhere meaningful, and the future held such anticipation it culminated in only dear and hesitation and destruction of earthly being which is connected to a higher and lesser power of nothingness which is not nothingness of nothing and null and void but of everything; everything that surrounds and resonates and fades and returns again, winter and spring and the hitchhiker on the highway and the old mother slowly dying at home; the child infant newborn, the adolescent struck by awareness of living, consciousness, that fatal moment – of coming to life.

When I ceased, there was nothing left but the faint distant sounds of my breathing. I did not know if my eyes were open or closed. My vision was obstructed by light. The darkness. Then light. And darkness again.

I was not saved. I was saved. There was no longer any need to partition the two…

 

This is also the beginning of the character’s – and therefore the writer’s- acceptance of equal duality, the principles of Yin and Yang completing the circle of the universe, what Joseph Campbell describes as the “…androgynous character of the Bodhisattva: masculine Avalokiteshvara, feminine Kwan Yin…The Great Original of the Chinese chronicles, the holy woman T’ai Yuan, combined in her person the masculine Yang and the feminine Yin.”[10] Here we see the first instances of BARA revealed, the very basic principle of BARA being is and is only not,

 

I wonder how much of it made sense; how much he understood or how much felt right to read or hear or say but not know precisely, because that is the Tao, it is not known, if it is it is not, and known is impossible; knowing, a lie for the Ego to dismiss truth and truth can only be found outside   of the Ego.

 

We can thus track the evolution of BARA from this revelatory passage of the character who begins to understand the duality present in all living things, the duality that composes the universe, and sees within this duality (include quote from Campbell on the ‘one living in God’ who sees the duality as nothingness)

His physical descriptions of ecstatic upheaval, one of several principle states of ecstasy, are acute and familiar to the mystical eye, but to the uninitiated resemble a physical altercation, an endangered sense of self, the onset of physical harm.

 

He reported, many report the strange hand of a trickster overcoming them. Tremors of the joints. The sensation of sudden pricks in the vertebrae. Yellow filament clouding of the retina. Tension in the hands and feet. Restricted breathing. Hot flashes. Motor functions recover after the initial seven minutes.

 

 

 

 

from Letters to Her

 

 

 

 

 

 

I.

 

 

Have you ever been in love?

she sings the gentlest song

the same could be said of our story

the painters were all mystics, and they fled

we drowned the poets in their sleep

doesn’t it tire you, the rat race?

packing lives into one glass case

we, who revere the moon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

II.

 

 

How does it sound [back home] in the original language?

Do they remember my name?

most people lose themselves in galleries

where the paintings are flawless and the soul obscure

what of the painter who lives in obscurity

designing a temple that remains invisible

until the moment he is forced to flee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Living mentors

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arbid tried to create a mysterious ascetic figure in much of his work. A divination constructed from several component parts: the imaginary self in ascension or the imaginary ascension of self; the drifter hermit who travels the unexplored, mastering the world thereby; and the master of control, the incarnation, the mentor, sage, professor figure. A character who, “…does not expense for food, shelter, or safe travel,” and is, “…given free passage, accompanied by a host of guides, intellectuals, nurturing the ascetics.” And what of these intellectuals? Their habits? “They come of their own free will. The Master does not respond to their presence, or exhibit any resentment. He offers smiles, and bows. No single being can determine what the Master is thinking, but for the Master. But by the fulfillment of his smile, it is clear he is not dead in the head, but alive, pulsating.”

This very character attracts another character, a disciple, Arbid’s attempt at portraying the master and disciple relationship, a theme he draws from often. In the early manuscripts of Eldorado, a professor less in the dark, less vague than the professor we meet at the pier at the opening of the published novel, is seen walking through university grounds with a student at his side. The tone is different from that of Eldorado, but it is clear this is the early characterization of the two characters, the main protagonist, who is returning home, and the professor, who heralds the onset of the novel. They are bred from the same root. The Professor is the one speaking.

 

When you felt belief, that is what it is, why we cling to nostalgia and            sentiment…possessed by its power…it…fulfills the void, so to speak…there will come a time when your generation will be             accountable…Then, let yourself be consumed by the burden…

 

The Professor suggests to the writer to be patient, to hold on to his creative instinct but to reserve it, saying, “Awareness is a sensitivity…you will not lose it.” When the writer asks if with time his sensitivity will be lost, or diffused into something of lesser value, the Professor answers, “Consciousness cannot be lost…you have trained all your life.”

This Professor appears later in his work as the herald, who marks the onset of the great voyage, the first of various BARA expeditions, albeit before the name came to his mind, and a continuation of several other expeditions that had already been launched.

Arbid tends toward such creations, using archetypes to launch his narratives, to know the vantage point in its mythological foundation, but to freely maneuver away when he sees fit, as the story progresses and the need arises.

Measured archetypes include but are not limited ot, the Ferryman discussed earlier, who escorts the one boy in the first installment of the story, tasked with delivering the boy, as in the myth, to the other side, the underworld through the great river passage past the unknown. In a film adaptation of this story, the film opens with a woman studying seven paintings scattered across a room, where a painter’s body lies in the center, with deep excavations made into the body, and markings signifying a symbolic message of some sort. The woman plays the herald in this instance, not for a reader but for the camera. Thus, the willing voyeur is the determined collaborator in the task, unraveling the mystery as it willingly unfolds.

The paintings consist of six depictions of the one boy in alternate dimensions of reality, composed through the artist’s rendering of the myth. the paintings as a motif appear later on in his work as a theme for the style in which the measures of BARA are composed. The role of the painter stands as a necessary configuration of means, the method by which the words are expressed and engraved onto the page, suggesting that the page itself resembles the canvas, and the words form a collective form that transfers them into an image. Likening the process to a mystic’s ecstatic state along with a primitive state of contemplation, the painter stands as a symbol of spontaneity and ecstatic impulse, responding to the cosmic reverberations of a soul coming towards an acute self awareness. Little is known of this painter figure within Arbid’s oeuvre, except that the brush reflects the evolution of awareness the writer feels in applying his pen to the page. One passage that may illuminate this point reads as follows.

 

He wanted to make use of the empty space on the canvas. A tiny paragraph of blurbs would do, but he could only do with what he didn’t have, boredom. He could never accomplish boredom, as though it were finite and colored in an unequal pigmentation, so as to elude his brush from his strokes, escaping at his point of emulation. But he could never speak with a brush stroke what could be ascertained from his curves, so he focused his attention on another drawing. He had often stared at the drawing thinking in the morning that it was not yet finished but could have been done had he gone about things with a different air, and then, in that very moment, he would recount such air with a gesture, linking his hands together, raising them in the air, high above his shoulders, and cracking his knuckles, before cracking his back. He wanted his cracks to sound the way they sounded for a tightrope artist who does not fear taking the lead, like a gin fizz that sinks like butter fries in a pan. He wanted to be immaculate, and rise from a kingdom of errant woes to a temple, where every night, descending his cabinets to share a lick to his brushes, the muse would climb against his heels, and bite him in the ass. He would make a sound, and later would use that sound to ascertain an impression, from which to detail his wounds, to draw. And each drawing, made simply by applying his fingers to his mouth, sketched as an imprint of his perception, would encounter an audience at a later time.

Or so he thought, so he imagined. But he only imagined because it was safe to say he was beginning to imagine himself worthy of reputation. He had not yet made any note of himself, but it was his obvious intention, otherwise he would not have maintained such expensive focus. Finally, he came upon a painting. A painting that had troubled him over the years. He could not decide how exactly to portray the evolving scenario. Naturally, the painting involved the memory of a woman, and the importance of a place. Over the course of his recent life, the place would change form, alter to the state of his own perception. But the woman remained the same. It made him wonder, of course, wondering what great harm he might have done to the woman had he ever known her. To detail their estrangement, he never quite knew how to draw himself in the dark, hidden somewhere     in the picture for only a learned eye to follow. But he had gotten used to wondering. He was always learning the fate of the picture, scarred into his eyes. A painting, like bone marrow. A sculpted image on a dimensional form.

 

The idea of an empty canvas, the process of filling the canvas, as in filling the page, and incentive for fulfilling the task overcoming the hurdles, all player a major role in the shaping of the writer’s work, in the evolution of his thematic elements and in the progression of his larger narrative- the narrative that begins with the first poem directed at the muse, and ends with the final illumination recited in BARA.

Returning to the master and disciple relationship, when the pupil, admiring the Master, begs for a kind word, asking, “Why don’t you love me, as your brother, or your son, I, who has been here, served you like a servant?”, the Master responds with, “…a smile and a bow, creasing his lips, pouting his eyes, a deep glaze overcoming his vision,” answering, “To love another I must learn to love myself, but I am not forgiven this desire.”

In a letter addressed to the woman perceived by many to be his ill fated muse, Arbid writes,

 

I could have loved none other than you, though I could never have             loved you as I wished, until I learned to love myself, truly, but we             are none of us forgive that desire, are we?

 

Arbid’s relationship to the muse experienced as turbulent a journey as his narrative works themselves. Remembering the woman, “…whose face turns cold at the sight of him…”- a subtle yet eminent reference to Borges.

 

and to have seen nothing, or almost nothing

except the face of a girl from Buenos Aires

a face that does not want you to remember it.

 

“That’s life, isn’t it,” he asks, “people come into your life so they can disappear.”

Recall the lines, “…the painters were all mystics, and they fled/we drowned the poets in their sleep.” The ending to that verse, “We revere the moon,” is an apparent stab at the patriarchal hegemony of his oppressors, whose legitimacy and reign has disabled the cosmogonic impact derived from the feminine order. His refusal to align himself with the present order- an order that strengthens and maintains its grip on power through the suppression of feminine energies into the spiritual and intellectual discourse of the time, a, “…Zeitgeist of cosmic disorder…the maternal pains…”- advances the idea that his writing, and poetic impulse, drove him into the arms of occultist, or at least, feminine based spirituality, sympathy, or, more so, that he viewed his poetic license as an extended gear to, “…bury the order in the shadows,” having found himself in the company of mystics, witches, and various other gnostic and cabalist types of the present age. What would be made of his efforts, in the town, “…whose name I hardly remember, but…all ports are quietly the same…”, he asks, hoping to engender himself in the discourse of his countrymen, whilst remaining on the periphery as an outside voyeur, standing alien on his watchtower, alone, away from the drudgery, and malice, of their condition.

As in any text dealing with the primordial fear of authority, the oppressive nature of Big Brother, awareness to the all-knowing eye, the relationship between state institutions of security and authority and the main protagonists in the complete works of BARA is one of fear, delusion and suspicion. Much of the resentment is compounded by the reality of the day which in turn influences the very inspiration for writing the characters in the first place. At a time when trust in judicial authorities is at an all time low, it is to be expected that much of the discourse surrounding authority in the work of BARA revolves around a character having caught the attention of the wrong suspicious figure. In the final sequence of Eldorado, the catalyst, last straw act that delivers our protagonist to the culminating scene is a sequence of violent attacks against his person that compel an absolute turn in the tone and narrative direction of the story. When, in the end of the second act, the writer claims,

 

If I am nothing, so be it.

 

There are various ways to interpret this line, but it is important to keep it in context. He says these as a response to his mirror self, a voice who the protagonist discovers at the onset of the narrative as an accomplice in the development of the story. Perhaps it is important to shed some light on the very nature of Eldorado, and the narrative that is employed. The protagonist, as most of the writer’s protagonists, is a writer, and the novel takes the form of two faces, part novel and part play. In the novel, the writer returns to his hometown, having lived abroad for some years- and we discover quite early that in his years abroad he has manifested a nihilistic record for himself, a truth to which he and others continuously allude- and in his return seeks to produce a play, a production to share with the people. At this point in the story, he has hit a dead end, in both faces of the story, having lost the motivation to produce a play, and in the play aspect of the story, having lost the motivation to write the novel, which the character on the stage is doing at all times, composing the various chapters that comprise of the writer’s lived experience. As a totem structure for their related existence, when one strikes hard rock the other suffers simultaneously. At this juncture, the writer realizes that there is, “…a void, an element missing…” He is reminded by his mirror self to inspect the interior of his journey, to withdraw from the material superstition of his perceptions, and to return to the interiority of the living soul, in order to, as he shares, “…lead the words through a timeless source…to be read by a critical mind…who passes the poetry as living truth…” As an important function in his method, the writer is forced to reconcile with automatic writing, a writing that derives its form and function from mystical initiation, rather than practical and theoretical exhaustion. Thus, the very words which the writer compiles into sequences and scenes, memories and abstractions, compose, “…the narrative in and of itself…detailing through subtraction…” In this way, the writer is forced to come to grips with the subjective outpouring of his perceived subconscious, having exhausted the relevance of indifference that a living being masters over the course of their life. The following scene is an important turning point for the character, which leads to this very crucial moment in the text. In this passage, we come to learn the real, underlying truth that governs the writer’s motivational task, the very root of his subconscious journey towards liberation.

 

The world is a wandering mystery, capsules of imagery and tone. Do you recognize the color of my lens? You capture what the eye absents by the heart. What is radiant but the excursion of light upon your face, he thought but wished he were able to say, to belittle the proverbial space of ego. He sat on the steps of the museum and thought of how he might tell her, finally after so many years, he would sit her down, hold her hands and if he so managed would look her in the eyes and declare his incessant love. Love in the first instance, bountiful, the tenderness of her arms wrapped around his revived form, striving the extension of life with the inclusion of another. Even thinking these words now he felt a sudden rush of indescribable sadness, that he may cry. Tonight may be the catalyst to his conclusion. The last time he would stand before her unannounced. What if she felt nothing that he felt? He could not bear to imagine the ache that would erupt volcanic to spiral him to the deepest trench of depressive allowance. He could not fathom a world where he did not have her to lament. But if she felt so less of him than he of her, he could not imagine how terrible it would feel to stand beside her in knowing. The hours would pass and          he would stand before her and speak. He had come to the moment of decision. He had either to ascend to her pedestal, or be driven pitiful to the depths. How love strikes the final chord! I know what it means but not why it is there. He told me, the poet refuses to examine the entirety without subjecting himself to the whole. Isn’t that the dilemma we face, chiseling snippets of a time to reflect a narrative in and of itself? Detailing through subtraction. He wondered, is it that I am lazy and nothing more? The common thread to which he subscribed postulated that the poetry which is only modern, in and of the now and nothing more, does not sustain through time but diminishes, reflecting the absence of tradition for the pervert and overt simplification of contemporary circumstance. This, he told me, is the poetry of death. And the tragedy unfolds as such poetry ascends in the public eye and passes as living truth. I wonder, where else would I steal from? Living truth? The validation the public affords those who have made it, as they say, squandered past the contempt of their dreams. Early aspirations are usually forgotten. Speaking exclusively to his contemporaries, he rejected the affordability of sought refuge in absurdist norms.

I spent a rough night, visiting old habits. I drank more than what I was given. I thought of her. I spoke to the voice, urging for more than I have. My tools are fleeting. I am forced to capture little fragments of justice as they arise, holding them captive as insurance. From myself! From her. The only plague I’ve ever known. Nature’s great insurance. A part of you remains there. She is implied. If I am nothing, so be it.

He asked me, how often do you look into the mirror? For the importance, you must know you are the better for it if you stand to be compared to a louse like me. A wandering wishless nothing. Do you doubt your friend after so many years? He listed the things he shed along the way, noting that nothing of substance simply vanishes. He asked about the others in his life who he had forgotten, who picked all his purging behind him, sweeping his indiscretions under the rug, as the saying goes. He spent a lifetime in their midst yet hardly noticed. Things come to be as they are meant. She remained the spawn of his heart, the whistler of his soul, though she had no idea. Questions are often asked when the story is past conclusion. Why had he come to be there in the first place? Strange days, transforming the energy becoming, shared taste of fluid exchange. Collective indifference masked with theatrical charade. Did appearance convey character? He knew he had assumed the mess. The city as junkyard, as refugee. First days of summer ending in the winter of nothingness and gains. I was there. Children marking pages of our lives. Meaning to offend. Digressing to intercede. Exuberant fantasies of decadence in the capital. Lost transcendental experiments of time manifest. Tell me, what’s there to say old friend, she was there and so was I. I saw her that day, after you left. He told me, I would have heard if she’d gone off into the woods. You thought the mystery died, and so you fled. A territorial dispute over his soul. You should leave here, to the mountains. Write someplace else.

 

At the climax of the story, we find that the character, after having accumulated a certain number of physical injuries, sentimental and spiritual catastrophes, finds himself, finally, in the presence of this very woman, “…the catalyst to his conclusion…” As he says in the end of the second act, he has either to ascend to her pedestal, or be driven to the depths. In his acceptance, in seeing her again, he is forced to reconcile with a reality outside of her. Meaning, to observe with love what can only be accepted with virtue. After having suffered the result of her disappearance, of his alienation from his love, we hear him say, at the beginning of the third act, “…I don’t believe in the soul…I believe in this moment right now…” A few months later, this very protagonist would, “…appeal to your soul if you do not understand. Somewhere, her heart races, and she thinks of me. To that, I say nothing else, except I would be a fool not to hear her sing.” And in the very same text, the passages of the Manhattan edition, he would, “…remember the eyes of a woman who knew me, from surface to soul, I’ll never know love again.” This acceptance comes at the cost of his mission, at the expense of his journey having any navigating principle. In Eldorado, while we are excluded from the reality of his mission until the very end of the second act, when he reveals in the passage the history of his having left in the first place, the archetypal story of a love lost never to be united again, the narrative always moves, from onset toward the final word, to the resolution of this very breath. Possessing the impetus to carry his own life forward, the narrative carries itself in a unidirectional way. All the abstractions that seem to drift away from a central, driving force of narrative actually possess the character to return to the heart and soul of his journey. When he is distracted, his is brought back t the matter at hand, grounded again, either by his own admission, or by his mirror self. He cannot escape, “…because you are still there…” Having lost, at the culmination of Eldorado, the impetus to a mission, his journey combusts into a million fragments of what he had been, a revelatory expansion into the deep unknown. Eldorado is the last living tale of a protagonist who is ushered into a journey, with the expectation of returning at the end with the elixir in his hand. From then on, the protagonist’s mission diffuses, he enters into a flight of chaos, chasing the fleeting gift of past. As in Marker’s La Jetée, where, “The man finally realizes that there is no escape from Time, and that the image that had haunted him since childhood was that of the moment of his own death,”[11] the hero is forced to reconcile with the ultimate truth that governs his entire being, that, “There is no way to escape Time and return to the past as if it could be lived over again; there is no way for the hero to escape the implacable, preordained drive of the story…”[12] It is no surprise, then, that at the end of Eldorado, we come to realize that the story has been told in reverse, that the very first words,

 

He waited at the pier.

 

Are exactly where we find him at the conclusion of the story. It can thus be ascertained, from the complex multitude of returns and images the protagonist experiences, that the entire novel is a replication of his journey, a stake chapter out of the annals of his own life. Memory, thus, is the driving figure, and not the protagonist himself. Where the protagonist is exactly cannot so well be known, until we find ourselves in possession of Manhattan, where it is abundantly clear, the prose is told in a direct, invigorating first person, through the conscious, living and breathing eyes of our hero, and Eldorado, the flight into the subconscious gallery of his deepest conflict, remains etched in the past, the narrator having subsided from the podium of words, silenced by an everlasting clear that resonates when a character finds themselves in the presence of resolution. The underlying motivation, the great ungovernable task that drives Eldorado forward is the writing of the story itself, which, when fused with the knowledge of it being bred of an escape into the archive of his memories, suggests the great ungovernable task that drives Eldorado is memory itself. And the only balancing enigma that surfaces to silence the shutter of his mobile imagination is the figure of the woman he distinctly remembers, whom he watches from a distance, observing in her beauty the silence of the night. As with Marker’s  La Jetée,

 

The remembered image of the woman focuses the ambiguities of   memory’s nature and the role that memory plays in creating the    identity of the hero (and by implication other human subjects). La Jetée recognizes that memories become memories ‘on account of            their scars’; their intensity is directly related to the proximity of       trauma and loss, and to expose them to its presence. In Marker’s           film the founding memory poses the enigma of the hero’s selfhood,             which turns out to be his own annihilation.[13]

 

The relationship between Eldorado and Marker’s film is most evocative in the end. In his flight towards the woman, “He recognizes a guard who has followed him from the camp and who shoots him in the end.”[14] His flight brings the resolution to the narrative, and in his seeing her face one last time, our hero is governed by an implacable silence. While the hero in Marker’s tragedy is caught in the moment of reunion and ultimately killed, our protagonist is able to return, actually, to his instigating place, a state of calm overcoming him. The flight he makes from the officers who burn his house, who chase him away and lead him into her presence are catalyst to his reunion with the image.

There are three stages to the resolution in Eldorado, all of which are strongly connected to the archetypal and thematic forces at play. The stages begin with the emergence of a foreign force. “Suddenly,” the protagonist says, “I was overcome by the strangest sensation.” [1] At the moment of his declaration, he is physically bound in the family home of his hosts. The lady of the household, duly named, was to play in his production, and her daughter, to assist him in the process. Their relationship, as everything in this stage of the drama, collapses, when the patriarchal figure returns to the scene, the man of the house. In a dramatic turn of events, the two women confess their enduring love for him, the man is angered, and their son, an indifferent character in Eldorado but the beginnings of a significant role in the writer’s later works, declares his intention to transform himself into a woman.[15] The transformative nature of this scene stands as an instigating force in the final resolution of the novel. It is no surprise, then, that the writer on the stage, whose mirror self has taken him on quite the interior journey, is finally silenced after the culmination of this scene. The mirror self appears beside the writer, questioning him on his agreeable mood, to which the writer responds, curtly, that he is in an agreeable mood, for having finally come to a conclusion. The mirror self asks what the conclusion may be, but there is no response, only a laugh, a sigh, and an enchanting smile. From two characters whose drawn out dialogues do much of the talking in the text, the simplicity of their exchange comes at an ideal time. Having passed the threshold of the final tasks, the writer is ready to surrender to the inevitable, and in so doing, to carry on into the end.

 

He felt the apology of his heart. He was laughing. How it came I’ll never know. But in that moment, suffocating under his noose, he laughed. He broke the hold of his surroundings, elbowing his way to the edges of the floor, piling his feet into the running stream, he toweled his body in its warmth.

I crawled.

I laughed.

I felt alive.

Using the accrued powers of his being, all he could do was laugh. He recounted the last image he had seen before his eyes clotted with guilt, crawling towards the emblem of an ending room. He heard the festival’s child cry a chorus of laughter thrown over the reigns. A betrodden fiefdom, he sought the fleeing temper of a hearse. He wilted, pushing his head into the plexus of a muse’s statue and a door flung open. He flew into the marked abyss. His clothes had been changed, his vision depleted. Why do I run? His neck was striving from his shoulders, his back hunched like a hawk. By some force foreign to his nature, he pushed through the curtains. I could not make sense of the distance. A forceful light drew his form. He was alone, in that he did not recognize he could be seen clearly with both of his eyes. He must have been struck by esoteric sensation, overcome, because his face blurred like the portrait of a man whose paint is melting. He spoke his first and final words. If you are the type to believe take them for what they are.[16] He turned his attention to the empty audience, and he spoke, knowing the words could not have been his own.[17]

 

His emancipating act is both an escape and an entry. An entry into the unknown, an escape into the wilderness. He pushes through to the other side, and one cannot help but feel the other side is not only indicative of the physical space he embodies but the other side of consciousness, or the other side of being. The doors of perception are opened, the floodgates of his persona released, one can either ascend to the palace of enlightenment or descend into the fiery quagmire, where the defragmented soul remains, to suffer the parallel chains between two worlds.

As a rule, once a door is opened it can never be closed without memory of what waits on the other side. The pushing through is a Plutonic passage, a dive through the birth canal, great force launching irrespective of the unknown. The courageous act of the hero surrendering to the elements their strength, their wisdom, their wits, is an archetypal source of triumph that begins with Homer’s Odysseus and has no end. We can establish from the final words of the passage, “…and he spoke, knowing the words could not have been his own…”, that the protagonist is now in the protective company of the divine. His passage is clear, though yet unknown, and his being protected. He will be gifted to safety, bridging the fragmented parts that comprise his soul, recovering from the interior insurrection that precedes this fateful, dramatic act.

In the following scene, after the brief exchange between the writer and his mirror self (mentioned above), the protagonist is caught in a state of rapture. Still ignorant to the commanding presence of the divine, he enters into a state of chaos. The next three scenes are the most important in the story, as they carry the narrative towards the climax, which is the deciding act for the hero. He begins, “I caught the face of a girl I should never have noticed.” The allusion here to the face and the girl is important, as it illuminates the hero’s evolution into understanding. The memorial image of the girl, to whom he is steadily progressing towards, is also, in his recognizing revelation, the antagonist of his will, the bearer of his however fated destiny.

 

I followed her home. She led me there, I knew it. She wanted me to            see her one last time. In my mind, I held her in my hand. I wanted     her to be mine. Her refusal drove me to the edge of the universe and          back, to her doorstep, awaiting her approval.

 

But in fact, there remains an interlude before the very same revelation is acknowledged, this time in presence, in person. “Leaving,” he says, “I knew someone would follow me home.”

It is unclear at what point in the narrative the following stage takes place, but the relevance to the resolution is clear: his surrendering to the elements entails his losing the function of his past, his writing disappears into the ashes. He returns home, closes the blinds, loses himself into an ecstatic state of deprivation and distress. He drinks, consumes what drugs he has left, burns the image of his face in the mirror, sets the house alight. He hears commotion downstairs, and he, “…knew who it was…”, he was, “…happy they came.” The voices, the obstructing agents, the delusions. Their arrival represents the emptiness that expands into a freight of boundless forms and illusions when the hero surrenders to the elements. There can be no safeguarding measures taken against the forms. He suffers the loss of innocence, reeling in the vision of an extended soul.

BARA does not end where Eldorado ends, nor does it begin where Eldorado ends. BARA is the mirror reflection of Eldorado, the image that is not present in the first life and expressed in the next, and it is in this way the two take their endings from their consecutive beginnings. Where Eldorado ends,

 

I didn’t know where I’d come; slowed down; walking slow; head to the ground. I turned the corner and realized where I’d come. Then I saw her.

I cannot say how long it had been since I’d seen her last. I should’ve gone up to her. I should’ve gone up to her and said something. I didn’t. She was with someone. She still had the look about her. She had everything about her. Her eyes resonated all the life I’d ever seen in all the years I’d desperately tried to come alive. She was laughing at something he was saying. I knew her laugh; I’d never forgotten it; her back would stutter and she’d barely show how deep she was laughing but she was. Then she put her arms around him. She kissed him. I couldn’t see his face but I knew he was smiling.

I stood there a while down the road from her and him and wondered what I’d do if she ever noticed me but she had never noticed my lurking in the shadows and figured she wouldn’t notice now. But she looked well, she looked           alive, beautiful mesmerizing and unafraid.

She had something in her that I could sense meant she was on the verge of stability, comfort, a home. I looked up. If only it would rain. It would be beautiful if it rained. It never did.

I walked over to her house. I stood on the street in front of it thinking how much had changed, how far we’d gone to forget our being here but then each returned in their own way and neither of us needing the other to signify what life meant or would mean in the coming years, only that one has a choice, plain and simple, either to live, or to die, there is no other way, there is no other way.

I heard a cello playing inside. It was her mother. I peered in through the glass window. She was there, as she always did every night, playing a song of hope, never a lament for the dead; she didn’t believe in death. She was older now but still beautiful.

I left.

He walked. He heard a voice he recognized call his name. It was not true. Nobody knew his name. He had come a long way to return where he had begun. Still he did not hear his name when it could have saved him.

The endings surged and seized hold of him. He no longer felt any dread but only benediction. He had acquired it and further on would find absolution; sins would be washed, guilt dissipate to cleansed disappearance. Validation for life had arrived. He was alive, yes, the boy was at last alive.

The next morning sang the wail of a new beginning it rang ashes in the rain. The dust of their lives had come to formation concluding the hands of Time. The road ended in embrace of something beautiful and it surprised them all. You would have wept at the sight, He would say. The Jester must have been watching, lurking as he does.

 

Whereas in BARA, this scene is diluted into two, the identical image of her and him seeing her at the doorstep, and the final paragraph, with respect to the jester, appearing near the end of the text.

 

            He did not know in that moment where he had arrived. He slowed down, his head fixed to the ground. He turned a suspicious corner, where he felt he had been freed, led by his own decision. Then, he saw her. No length of time can imply how long it had been since he’d seen her last. It would seem he had passed through paradigms unscathed, supplied to hold her in his sight. But could it be so romantic! I was expecting myself to be kinder near the end. He shoveled me off, like I was paying for his penalty. But I forgave him. He had the         virtue of a fox. He urged, with the fire of his youth to approach her. He did not move from his place. He remained transfixed, a fiend for marching stripped of his legs. But he knew he should have gone up to her, in whatever way. The sorry street. The cabin rope we lunged over the rail. The image of you dancing at the fountain. Somebody must have saved you. I was a fool for you. A mule. He watched her, beside the steel enclosure of a home. Scattered images of a life together. The shading of the light, the shadow of the street lamp forming on their shoulders. Had she been warned, she might have noticed the strange figure lurking in the shadows. But she would never notice. The insignificant loom large. Sometime later she disappeared, they    all disappear. He had crouched in the darkness, mesmerized, overtaken by calm. Let it last! Having seen it all again. He walked over to her home. The ornament of fall. The path had led him there and he relented to reflect. Inside, he heard the playing of her mother’s cello. He peered in through the glass, stained with the embellishment of life. Her mother wilted in her chair, as she had always done each night, playing a song of hope. Never lament for the dead. She did not believe in death. Older now but still beautiful.

Over the past few years I have taken a journey.

 

But this is only halfway into the text. The second part comes much later, before the final illumination of BARA is revealed.

 

He stands before her headstone. Not all dreams, but some, are messages. He was an acrobat, a painter of       sighs. He walked. He heard a voice he recognized call his name. It was not true. Nobody knew his name. He had come a long way to return where he had begun. The endings surged and seized hold of him. He was alive. The boy was at last alive.

The passing of another year.

The next morning sang the wail of a new beginning, ringing ashes in the rain. The jester must have been watching, lurking as he does.

Let anchor down!

            We’re shored!

 

After this sequence is concluded, BARA then turns inwards, and the final chapter, the walk, the meeting of two voices, the collision of two worlds, is illuminated, and this very chapter closes the book that is BARA. This very chapter is exactly the chapter that opens Eldorado. The walk at the pier. The resolving consequence of his being there, of his having come. In this way the two novels, the first and last of the writer’s inconsequential oeuvre, incline steadily towards one another, advancing to a meeting point that comprises the whole. The mystical illumination that occurred during the writing of the text transformed the original fragmented verse of Eldorado into a living, breathing ornamental structure of praise, admiration and joy, a gift to the voices, a blessing to the divine. Where Eldorado suffered at the expense of the writer’s intention, pulling itself cold in all directions, undoing its very formal stuff to the damaging point where the words, laid bare, naked, stung with no weight, BARA returns the narrative to its rightful place, towards the illuminating onset of the journey, the hero waiting at the pier. In that very way, the cycle of the two narratives concludes not only the narratives themselves, but the very omniscient voice that births the two voids. Having wanted nothing more than to, “…pull from Calvino’s hearse…”[18], to illuminate the marvel of literature in its beautiful form, to return the medium to its rightful place, in the poetic labyrinth of a poet, the writer succeeded in turning the evolutionary clock onto its head and moving steadily into the past. In the closing lines of T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets, arguably his most obvious mystical illumination, the speaker claims,

 

We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.[19]

 

The writer, whose journey began with his writing the initiatory words of Eldorado, who then found himself so entombed in the case of solving his own fragmented mystery, sailing deeper and deeper into an abysmal void, losing the perceptible measure of sight, memory and initiation, having rewritten the very story several times, moving from port to port in an hysterical plot to scavenge the elixir from its ogre maid, finds himself, finally, like the poor drifter who surrenders to the elements in a heap of ash, or a pool of his own waste, standing at the very moment where his journey had begun.

 

He lay there, immersed in the earth. Beside his body, a fire refused to light. It had been lit sometime before. Someone had been there. Something. He departed his body, viewing it as an extraordinary vessel distant from his arms. The surrounding wilderness, and the fire. As he departed his solitary form, rising in alternate conception, he enjoyed hovering over the vessel, seeing from above the matter he had consumed. He            remembered, I drifted further and further away from the subject. He continued to rise, seeing with great precision, an expansion manifest around his departed form. His figment on the expanding zenith. A call echoes for the stranger. He turned to me on his way, and then he was gone. The clouds are gathering. Unmoved, gathering his footprints. The feeling had passed. He did not turn towards the pier, well and away at sea.

 

If BARA is the sum of its parts, Eldorado is the skeleton, the origin, a world where names still existed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The air is desolate because I say it is

your hair curls like the curvature of a trumpet

but you are not brass, stone

human, divine

my words, I hope, ensure this

I can be anywhere yet I am here

not- in the windy city watching a blind man mourn the blues[20]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Several of our missteps lead me here

to this fountain in your palms

I witness the gifts evolve

devolve into lesser evils

expelled from the paternal void

a core never breached

except through the idyllic sea.

 

 

 

 

 

Ends and Beginnings; tiring virtues in a cyclical world

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Every story manages itself from the vantage point of a beginning. In this context, we can assume that every beginning is an end in itself, as it determines, by its very coming, that which emerges is programmed to die. The inevitability of death. We find this in the very nature of the words, as the words propel themselves towards the beginning, and not, as would often be the case, towards the end. There is no end in sight, and the end of all his stories mask the illusion of form, mask the reality behind the pages, that of a writer whose inhibitions towards death cost him the expanse of his imagination. Without shedding from his own interior the fears, the writer remains paralyzed in their conflicted states. thus we read, the beginning of one journey encapsulates the last, returning the hero to the beginning, carrying the narrative through the circle, in order to remain planted, with “his feet firmly on the ground.”

We also know Arbid was not fond of ending the writing process. Maybe he was unaware that most of his writing had the nature of an ending. the writing tends to pick up from an already established point, but for the reader, the point is absent. In the following passage, extracted from the very first pages ever written for his first novel, Eldorado, Arbid writes, through the early narrator’s voice, of his relationship to endings.

 

He also had a trouble with endings. He did not like them.

I do not like them, have no use for them.

That was because he could never conjure up an ending. Maybe because he still believed in something; maybe because he believed in nothing at all; it did not matter; he could not make them.

Once, he had thought he had managed an ending. But then he added another hundred pages, thinking it was only the beginning. That was fun. Not for the others.

If it were up to him, he would ask them all politely to leave. He wanted to be normal. Normal people. He did not know them; could never create an ordinary character.

He wanted to be in love and knew he could not be able to because the universe inside his head was too loud. And nobody else heard it. He hoped once if she heard it then she would love him. She never heard it.

I am lonely.

He was always very lonely. He was the type of lonely who sought more loneliness out of fear of being noticeably lonely. The only thing worse than being lonely is being noticeably lonely; that is pathetic; he did not want to be pathetic.

I have no use for them.

He had no use for them. He thought he had use for them but nobody could hear them so what was the use; they would only destroy him. Death appeared pretty.

He was not bitter, only sad; never angry, a little hurt; always lonely.

Nobody could hear them.

Finally, he declared,

If nobody will hear them with me then I will die soon, but first I must hear them all, and everything they have to say.

That way he would know them. Otherwise he would die alone.

 

Paragraphs of great beginning are a continuing them pervading his work. In a script he sold under a pseudonym to The Autumn Bench, the protagonist, a boy, who from his position appears the age of no more than six, stands fully clothed and erect in the midst of a great Church fire. He makes extensive reference to the surrounding landscape, dusty, plain of death. Written in a rather withdrawn tone.

 

The church stands alone in the desert. A sandstorm fires her intensity. Voices grow from inside the church. The boy is unmoved.

The church doors fly open, along with the windows, kicked in, and the entirety of the crowd inside the church rushes outside in hysteria. They rush past the boy, mad in hysterics, pushing past one another violently, sending children, men, women, injured and handicapped to the ground.

The boy approaches the church, slowly. The crowd rushes and pushes past him.

The people have all now disappeared behind the boy. They can be seen wailing in the distance.

The church goes up in flames. The boy stops in his position. He turns around and watches the crowd who, once reached a certain point, halt all manner of hysteria and watch like curious passerby’s at an accident, or any scene of carnage, voyeurs of destruction.

The boy turns his focus back to the church. The fire is thick and black smoke fills the sky above it, sending a thick cloud of smoke over his head. The roof collapses, the fire intensifies, the smoke corrodes the air. The boy is now unseen by the watchers, having disappeared into the smoke.

 

The story is called The Sacred Mountain. A parallel can be drawn between the evolving notion of Arbid’s story with Mircea Eliade’s positing of the Sacred Mountain, in his book The Myth of the Eternal Return, as the place, “Where heaven and earth meet…situated at the center of the world.” Eliade states, “Every temple or palace- and, by extension, every sacred city or royal residence- is a Sacred Mountain, thus becoming a Center.” He goes on to illuminate the Iranian belief that, “…the sacred mountain Haraberezaiti is situated at the center of the earth and is likened with heaven.” A theme among most archaic peoples, including Mount Meru for the Indians, which, “…rises at the center of the world.” And, “The Buddhist population of Laos, north of Siam, know of Mount Zinnalo, at the center of the world.” His position claims that the symbolic prestige afforded to the center of the earth, for in Palestine, Mount Gerizim, called the Navel of the earth, results from two complementary principles of archaic man. Firstly, that, “…Hell, the center of the earth, and the ‘gate’ of the sky are, then, situated on the same axis, and it is along this axis that passage from one cosmic region to another was effected.” And secondly, that, every symbolic center in the terrestrial world, the profane space of man, has its model in the celestial world. “The Center, then, is pre-eminently the zone of the sacred, the zone of absolute reality. Similarly, all the other symbols of absolute reality(trees of life and immortality, Fountain of Youth, etc. are also situated at a center. The road leading to the center is a ‘difficult road’ (durohana) and this is verified at every level of reality: difficult convolutions of a temple (as at Borobudur)l pilgrimage to sacred places (Mecca, Hardwar, Jerusalem; danger0ridden voyages of the heroic expeditions in search of the Golden Fleece, the Golden Apples, the Herb of Life; wanderings in labyrinths; difficulties of the seeker for the road to the self, to the ‘center’ of his being, and so on. The road is arduous, fraught with perils, because it is, in fact, a rite of the passage from the profane to the sacred, from the ephemeral and illusory to reality and eternity, from death to life, from man to the divinity. Attaining the center is equivalent to a consecration, an initiation; yesterday’s profane and illusory existence gives place to a new, to a life that is real, enduring, and effective.” Furthermore, “The summit of the cosmic mountain is not only the highest point of the earth; it is also the earth’s navel, the point at which the Creation began.”

In the beginning of Arbid’s story, the character overhears a sermon inside the church, where the priest leading the sermon says, “So too will the sacred mountain be returned to our children.”

While the allegorical story takes on its own philosophical accord, the idea of the sacred mountain in Arbid’s own life is central to his working. Where does Arbid’s creation begin, and where is it in relation to BARA?

There are two substantial elements to be discussed. Firstly, the nature of Arbid’s own intuition, and his moving from the act of creation to the act of inception. There is a cyclical nature to his writing, and his process, and if we do not draw a distinction between his work and his own experience, fusing the two as fundamentally rooted in the same experience, then it is possible to state that Arbid and BARA are in a constant state both becoming and returning to their original source, either as a means of life, or a catalyst to propel them to their desired end, the ending perpetually eluding both in their quest, the moment they appear closest.

Second, there is the political reality of the time, which in turn informs Arbid’s own life, and in turn his writing, for he naturally chose not to take up arms, as most of his contemporaries did, but instead to live the life of a poet refugee, in the tradition of the al-mahjar poets famous to Lebanon, where he remained a part of the diaspora. His decision to return several times, it is believed, to engage the public, to incite the public, through his work and not through violent means, always ended in dissatisfaction and an eventual emigration elsewhere.

Many of the characters who appear at the early stages of his stories are usually older than the protagonist, seemingly wiser, whether in intellectual capacity and study, such as the master, professor, or sage, or street wise, having seen a thing or two, who know the meaning of existence and survival, such the native, old timer, and the fated character of Lorenzo, who, “fell to his knees in the mud…a precious figure stolen from my eyes…succumbing to the sweat of disease claiming his pores…” A tendency to reflect on lives lived rather than, within the present tense o the story, living. Characters whose adventure or journey has yet to begin, who are in a state of preparation, and characters who have already passed through the passage of their destiny, and survive to tell the story, or are likely to be ghosts, fleeing their shadow in the sight of warmth. BARA makes use of these tendencies to full effect, and the writer is keen on presenting the work, however reflective of previous work, as something fresh, ulterior, when in reality most of the work is a regurgitation of itself, a prominent theme within the pages, of cyclical coming and going, the essence of time lost and time disappeared, the very nature of a cyclical life. As with the story of a witch in Manhattan and Eldorado, who, upon his meeting her, asks, “You saw someone else…she told you to come back…why didn’t you?” To which he could only respond, a recurring theme in its own right, “I left.” But his being there in the moment signifies to him at that moment that he has been there before, that he is in the midst of company he already knows, and if she is not the one who asked him to come back, she is someone who he moves steadily towards, who has him in her sights, completing the motion of a circle.

 

The idea is that he began the journey sometime during an autumn shower. It was written somewhere in the numbers. He lived his life, but finding himself there years later he realized he had gone full circle. The spawn of an immaculate sunset would raise the charity of his name. It never happened.

He met her first, spending the following years moving steadily towards her. How long could that be?

She put him in her care. You never went back. Why didn’t you? He left. Of course he did not realize he had begun the cycle until he came full circle, finding in his being there the juice of premonition.                                    A circle follows a certain lead, and a lead a certain spell, and so it was that he was found there, but where were they, if they were just involved. It was one night, then another. The shading under her eyes, naked in the bathroom, under a settled moon. A sign of things changing. The crooked out skirt of a tooth. She occupies her body. There are others, left in the dark, spurned from his vision. When I look at you, I see her face.

The merging of two spirits.

Disquiet, in his soul.

 

This of course is the edited, published version of the text, but the remnants date further back…we can see the essence of things he deemed unnecessary, or too trivial, or too full of information…the original scene appears less condensed, and perhaps, the image of who it might be is clearer in mind…

 

The idea is that he began the journey in her chair. The crooked tooth, the baby breast feeding in the morning, the autumn showers raising the stakes on his coercion, and his confusion, playing a unified part. Afterwards he lived his life. When he found himself there years later, he knew he had gone full circle. He had met her first. He spent the following years moving steadily towards her. She sat him in the chair.

Of course he did not realize he had begun the cycle until he came full circle and could find in his being there premonition that it had begun, at a point he could remember. He was attuned to the potential of strange things happening, but it was not to be perceived as strange, as that would mean unlikely, and it was all likely to become reality in the very moment described above, where he had first come to recognize the circle. And a circle follows a certain lead, and a lead requires a certain spell, and so it was that he was found there. That is not to say he hadn’t realized the cycle before he came to recognition. Maybe he had, and it is only withheld from his memoirs for the purpose of portrayal, to illuminate the uncertain in a peculiar way.

He could not tell the woman who read his spirits would be the very spirit to love him. It was one night and then another. The shading under her eyes standing naked in the bathroom, coalesced under a settled moon. An early sign of her teeth changing. Imagine her a mother, feeding her young.

“She’s occupying her body now.”

“There are others, left in the dark.”

“When I look at you I see her face.”

The merging of two spirits.

Disquiet, in his soul.

 

Is it the very woman who lured him away into the unknown? The woman who pulls him towards Berlin? Or is it the pale figure of a stranger who happened into his life, briefly, by chance, and who, in his leaving, he never saw again? Or is it, furthermore, the woman whose stairs in Istanbul, whose home in Beirut, whose visit in Chicago proved rapturous for the artist? Is it the muse he deliberately leaves behind?

 

I visited her four times before leaving.

 

The recurring image of him leaving, her standing at the doorway, him having already packed, and her reacting with indifference,

 

“If you’re going to leave, then leave.”

 

 

 

 

 

Letters to her; writings to an impassive muse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Somewhere, her heart races

and she thinks of me.

I would be a fool

not to hear her sing.

 

 

from Letters to Her

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stamina, prolongs my fate

I stumble to your monument, passing

the stoned keepers of these gates

suffering alone.

 

I will say I stood at the abyss of inspiration

and dove

to string two hearts for my saving

 

Cruising the respite of towns

oscillating waking dreams

 

I am a mule strung along

the invisible [of my] conscious self

 

but I think of you

biding time

expecting the weather to turn

and with it my language

 

I try everything

nothing works

 

            the mirror into the self

the Open door

 

I write a poem for the diaspora

consumed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

from the turn of a diaspora century!

 

To the melancholy of Anatolia

and her sisterly neighbors

I salute those

who serve their peasants well

and feed the martyrs cherry gold

 

            “But he affirms the piety of the ruler!”

 

Apothecary wisdom washes the night

I wander into the woods

nesting by a fire

 

to settle is to accept

with a smile it is luck

 

Some calling stutter

ushering sleep

 

the quiet road

disappears in spring

 

poetry, at my fingertips.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am a prisoner to you

but my prophets are pure

they know only war

and destruction

 

 

 

The BARA manifesto: social outrage in the political theatre; loss of self control

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Omaha, Perkins; poetics and style

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Horror and the Obscene; the role of obscenity in the ecosystem of BARA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ritual, Ceremonial Rites; Festival and other stories

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Horror plays a central role in Arbid’s collection of work, usually with the intention of delivering a grave warning, and as often to illustrate in grandiose terms the subjective experience of his characters, their world. As we know much of the work is drawn from his own life, his own experiences, so we can deduce the horrific, obscene elements of his work are drawn from his own feelings, his own sensitivities.

His novel speaks openly of a curse. When jokingly referring to the sovereign of their dismembered home, he writes,

 

He is of course the ruler of the entity. The beneficiary to the            curse. The head of an empire, without a turban to defy him.

 

He tells the story of a ruler, who,

 

On Sunday evenings, when the people of his city are well rested,     joins them for a walk across the urban plains of the old port town.

 

The story goes on to speak of the ruler’s fortunes, of what he has “controlled by means of coercion,” and what he has, “obtained through wit.” Conflicting stories- much like the historical myth of BARA- paint the port in conflicting ways. But, the reality is of a town, nonetheless, abandoned by cultural output and artistic production.

 

No plays because there are no more playwrights, and theatre          last seen in the province some generations ago.

 

In an earlier draft, he had numbered the time elapsed, but opted out of it in the final draft. Continuing, a port town where, “It is impossible to differentiate between the living and the dead.” Where, “it is unknown whether any living being exists at all.” The ceremonial relevance is clear. It is this very town, where, Festival takes place, every year, to mark the passing of another year without the illumination of the dreaded diaspora. Mircea Eliade, in his study Cosmos and History, writes on the ceremonial.

 

…the essential thing is that there is everywhere a conception of the end and the beginning of a temporal period, based on the observation of biocosmic rhythms and forming part of al arger system- the system of periodic purifications (cf. purges, fasting, confession of sins, etc.) and of the periodic regeneration of life…a periodic regeneration of time presupposes…a new Creation…a repetition of the cosmogonic act. And this conception of a periodic creation, i.e. of the cyclical regeneration of time, poses the problem of the abolition of “history”.

 

The essay continues,

 

…periodic ceremonies…can group under two main headings: (1) annual expulsion of demons, diseases, and sins; (2) rituals of the days preceding and following the New Year…the ceremony of expelling demons, diseases, and sins can be reduced to the following elements: fasting, ablutions, and purifications; extinguishing the fire and ritually rekindling it in a second part of the ceremonial; expulsion of demons by means of noises, cries, blows (indoors), followed by their pursuit through the village with uproar and hullabaloo; this expulsion can be practice under the form of the ritual sending away of an animal (type “scapegoat”) or of a man (type Mamurius Veteruius), regarded as the material vehicle through which the faults of the entire community are transported beyond the limits of the territory it inhabits (the scapegoat was driven “into the desert” by the Hebrews and the Babylonians). There are often ceremonial combats between two groups of actors, or collective orgies, or processions of masked men (representing the souls of the ancestors, the gods, and so forth). In many places the belief still survives that, at the time of those manifestations, the souls of the dead approach the houses of the living, who respectfully go out to meet them and lavish honors upon them for several days, after which they are led to the boundary of the village in procession or are driven from it.

  1. 53, The Myth of the Eternal Return

 

We can assimilate two instances of just such ceremonial rites in BARA. In the first instance, the myth continues to tell of a people who, “…settled their debts and fled…far away North (living now in a land swallowed recently by a volcano.” “In many ways,” the story continues, “the people who left under this pretense are thought to have walked to their death.”[21] The story continues,

 

The nature of the walk has always been contested. Many return to the idea of possession, reporting the strange suspicion that the deceitful force of a trickster had overcome them.

 

He continues, noting the physical aspects,

 

Tremors of the joints. The sensation of sudden pricks in the vertebrae. Yellow filament clouding of the retina. Tension in the hands and feet. Restricted breathing. Motor functions recover after the initial seven minutes.

 

The story speaks of a, “giant tomb that stands in the center of the city…in their [the Diaspora’s] memory.” To ward them off, speaking of a, “special day in the calendar year,” where, “the tomb is lit on fire, and scores of newborn babies, offered as sacrifices from local parents, are raised to the mantel.”

 

The children are dropped from the head of the tomb, as a sacrifice to the diaspora. The people sacrifice their progeny to prevent the diaspora from ever returning. The event marks a fictitious day in the future of the colony, where the diaspora has returned to lay claim to the   land. As a compromise, the citizens sacrifice their children, hoping to evade the diaspora’s intervention for another year.

 

Thus this extreme, and by modern standards, primitive act of violence, caused in the collective consciousness of the people, is seen as the marker of a beginning and an end, what Eliade calls “… a repetition of the cosmogonic act,” or, “a new Creation.”[22] He asserts, “the New Year is equivalent to the raising of the taboo on the new harvest,” meaning, “…the divisions of time are determined by the rituals that govern the renewal of alimentary reserves; that is, the rituals that guarantee the continuity of the life of the community in its entirety.”[23]

Can we discipline a reading of BARA without the event that takes place on Festival? The horror of the diaspora’s potential return is reflected merely in its association to the result of which it causes: being, the hurling of the town’s newborns from the giant mantel. The coinciding event in BARA that returns the reader to the experience of a ceremonial rite, a passage through time within the enacting of a ritual, is during the yearly storm that blows through the city limits.

 

 

 

 

Dream transmigration; dream language- a study of dream communication and consciousness; transmigration prevalent in the text of BARA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He closed his eyes and fell into dream, dreaming of boxes, hundreds, thousands, all kinds and colors and shapes, stretching as far as his eyes could reach, amassing the landscape of desert dunes, one by one, remaining unchanged, a performance he admired. He could not see himself amongst the boxes but after a while began to see others, first only a few, but then many, many others, trekking up and down the dunes, opening and closing boxes repetitively, obsessively, gazing into them as though they were hidden inside some desirable clues, so that no box was left unopened, the boxes having at once changed their composition, permanence once admirable now completely destroyed. he noticed one little box which remained unopened, and, as though he were directing the interests of the crowd, began to draw the curiosity of the many present. The mass watched in awe as the box, unmoved, stood completely still, and as the crowd drew closer, inch by inch, tentatively making their way toward the box, a select group of brav,e elderly men withdrew from the crowd, forming a barricade with their arms, marching with great character right onto the very spot where the box lay. The masses they had left behind, at the sight of the men forming a circle around the box and inspecting it with their eyes, fell into great cheer, begging them to return to safety, pleading to value their lives. None of the men, ignoring the ushering calls of the crowd, dared look directly into the box, standing more or less still themselves, lamenting a finer age, where men of their statue might have found the courage, or indeed, the tenacity, to peek into the box, kick it over, force it open with their hands. The crowd maintained their position for as long as he lay witness. His body jerked as he felt himself nearing the box himself, and suddenly he was awake, and everything around him felt coarse and brittle and dull of life.

 

In this passage, the character, having just returned home, has fallen asleep, confronting an abstract sequence of images in his dreams. Arbid may have intended for ambiguity, but the relationship between the dream- the character’s migration into a dream world- and the system of objects that govern his surroundings are commonly obvious. In the passage preceding the dream, the character stands in reverence- not as the dream evokes, with “everything around him…dull of life.”

 

He walked into the room- his room- flopped onto his bed. He        stared at the ceiling in awe. How mindless it is to be a ceiling, he           thought, thinking nothing but observing, being by having been put there…Like, a plant in the corner, dying when it does, probably of    thirst, or loss of light. People are strangely sad, for a brief moment, before throwing the plant away. The soil is wasted, and the pot     becomes something else, like a helmet or a box.

 

Having arrive at the image of a box.

 

Boxes are unique in the system of things…like spaces that do not   dream…or think of the past in nostalgic reverence.

 

Dream language and dream transmigration is where Arbid finds most suitable the space to illuminate transcendental messages and reflection of the interior self, either by gazing upon the world as by an observant, voyeuristic eye, which in real time cannot be done without subjective immersion in an envious Ego-whole, a pull away from the true totality of being, to just be, in the time and place that one is.

The two styles Arbid tended towards in the months following the publication of Eldorado, being poetic landscaping and dream montage. Caudwell says of dreams, in their difference from poetry, that, “Poetry is creative because it is directed feeling. In dream the associations are ‘free’- reality’s images are manipulated according to the genotype’s desires, just as iron filings over a magnet ‘freely’ arrange themselves along the lines of force.”[24] In this way, the subconscious writing credited to surrealism and the automatic writing that followed with the Beats, with the focus on free, rich and flowing writing drawing the writer away from a monochronistic, totalitarian, censored form of conscious production, aids the writer’s growing relationship to words, to have use for them, to see beyond their complexity and, “…couple together words which have no rational connection…no nexus through the world of external reality.”[25] Arbid’s deployment of dream language and dreams sequences, creating a montage of implicit characterization in order to portray the impression of the time, the hour of the emotion, the signifier to the signified being that is the creator, cause and cause-at, of his work, is enhanced by his metaphorical and otherly figurative use of the dream space in his work. As Caudwell distinguishes between the novel and poetry, that, “In novel-writing the words are arranged so that all other pieces of reality are excluded except the piece required,” and why, “…’jeweled’ style is a disadvantage to the no el because it distracts the eye from the things and people to the words.” The very words, incidentally, that a poetic novelist, using the abstract interior of poetry to dispel the space that governs a novel into a familiar, concrete form, uses to their advantage. Arbid uses dreams and dream sequences to migrate the reader form a world of rational forms to an abstract space of ideals- equalities that find their basic construct in the placement of their chores one after the other. While this theory maintains that the function and efficiency of his attempts is the result of his employing the technique to its intended value, it fails to account for his evolutionary output as a writer- his ability to see beyond the strivings of self to a space that he has yet to govern. A poet reigns their kingdom of words, as the painter oversees the multitude of spaces that have found their incarnations onto the canvas or not. Arbid’s abilities as a writer multiplied with time, and over the course of his journey we can see that dream language transposed itself onto his regular train of thought, so that his novelistic style infused with dreamlike waves, illuminating a structural dependency on melody, and not, rhythm, and releasing the speaker’s voice to the throes of endless chances, without the constraints of form. As the narrator says in the opening of Marker’s novel, The Forthright Spirit, “An accident is like a hypnotist: it puts you to sleep in order to do its tricks.”[26] So too with poetry. The words cast a spell in order to seduce the unconscious into attaining the same extraordinary state that poet has at one time experienced, in the flesh of language, the rhythm and metric form holding the sculpture together like the bones of a skeleton, the voice luring the guest in with the tricks of a siren, the singing of angels in a deep night of yearning soul. Arbid writes,

 

 

I dreamt the lion[27] was in our bedroom. Can you imagine it? He has the nerve to entrench his podium but he’s never stepped foot into my room. Nobody seemed to care. I’m used to it, collective nonchalance to the absurd. We emphasize normality. But I was hurt to find the lion in my bedroom, and my mother petting his mane. My father was acting with less interest, but I know him well, it was a ploy, a technique he learned through my reading. What I want to do next time if I             remember is introvert his part, parallel his acting with an expression of his introverted material. If he             appears composed, I want to find where it is stationed.

The apathy will destroy us.

He covets the memory, meditating on its role.

 

While the prose gathers here into one collected whole, the image does not necessarily constitute much further than a dream had but not buried. The character’s disenchantment with the image is the image. The lion in the bedroom  is the ordeal.

Does BARA, in its final form, read like a dream? One might add to the reading of BARA the reading of absent space, the narrative that is not there compiling together the narrative that is. Nonetheless, the novel reads like a dream, moving without definitive beginning or end, guided simply by a force resembling forces of the psyche that deliver dreams, without beginning or end, to definitive images. The following passage is taken from the drafts of BARA that were composed after Manhattan had already lost its form. It may not have the same trajectory of a dream, the same chaotic essence that unveils in dreamlike character, but as was Arbid’s intention at the time, to portray the impressions he had of space with the voices of the space, the passage illuminates a criteria of his writing that would be lost altogether form the final work, a strict, nonelusive prose style void of poetic license and abstraction, telling of a novel that is there and not the novel without.

 

I step out of the house sometime near dawn. The sun still making her way over the horizon. I her the caged hog singing in the distance. I pour fresh milk out for the pups, feed the older dogs their breakfast. One of the younger pups wipes his wet nose against my jeans. I walk back over         to the kitchen, to carry the waste out to the hogs. The basket smells the rotting apricots, the rotting leeches.

I take the dogs to the basin, past the apple orchards, the lemon trees, the fig trees. They smooth themselves into the water, I watch from up ahead. The morning now in full bloom. I cut a line of sunflower heads, tossing the infested out. The head cuts with a snap of the wrist. With    my sorry aim, I pick it up from the ground, bomb it down to the collecting box. I carry the box towards the house, leaving it in the kitchen. I wash off my arms and back, applying rosewater to a few bites on my body. No sign of the others yet, I carry on.

A car pulls up near the gate. I can’t see from where I’m standing but I hear him come to a stop. Footsteps lead around the corner, past the outdoor mess, up the steps and down again, past the wooded seating and around the bend to where I am, piling firewood for the coming days.

He walks in without speaking, walking directly to the coffee on the fire, pouring himself a cup, filling the top with a shot of whiskey. He spends some time reading from the paper, probably from the day before. After a while, he finishes his coffee, pouring himself more      whiskey. He fills a plate with mashed eggs, every so often dipping a torn piece of bread into the mixture, before adding an olive to pit in his mouth. The morning sun settles that the day is high. He chews away at his food, filing his mouth with bites out of the eggs and sips out of the whiskey. Maybe he needs it, to keep his mouth full, to keep him from squaring up to the moment, meeting the face of his anger. Finally, when he looks over at me, I sense the             resentment in his eyes.

“You planning on leaving soon,” he asks me.

I nod my head.

He has his final bite, leaving the kitchen, drawing away into the woods. I hear him pull out of the driveway, turn his tires on the gravel, shoot off onto the road. I take a shot myself, and walk out into the sun.

 

The story explains in a preface, “Our sleeping was pretty irregular, day and night, working when the weather fit but sleeping a lot of the time, so in that context, strange things come to pass…you see things moving the darkness…you hear voices in the woods, coming out of sleep, or drifting further away.” Such strange occurrences as mentioned in another story,

 

I would imagine myself in a frenzy chasing a figure between tightly knit alleys under the cover of moonlight, only to wake all of a       sudden and find myself in the thick of forest chasing only a shadow.

 

Dreams play an important role in the development of Arbid’s abstract model. He uses the possibility of dream sequences to comfort the reader’s expectation, to ease the reader into a passage that does not conform to the remainder of the text, as a means of fragmenting the narrative. The following passages present a distinct method of writing Arbid began to employ with the development of BARA after he left Beirut once and for all. In these passages we are eased through the narration by a tender voice that draws us in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Readings from BARA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

from Variable Seasons in the Port of Ports

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I spent two weeks in the room. Coming in, shipping out, losing track of time. That’s destiny. It was for me. Knowing the role and how to play it. Knowing what I came here to find. That’s the hard part. Knowing what’s waiting on the other side. From my window I could see the overlapping hills consigning me to the prison. There are no hills. The whole complex is underground. But you see what I mean? From my window I could breach into my lover’s lips and cull her heart with its veins. I saw the military parade on StalinAllee, the fertile dust of the Jordan Valley.

I don’t remember the first days but there was sun, and a gentle touch every now and again to tell me it would be all right, to feed me and bathe me, to force me to drink water from a tap, a funnel lodged into my throat. They wanted to give me something for the fever but I refused to open my mouth, they said, because it reminded me of the rain.

I had been told I would lose account of the following years and spend most of my time in a wandering dream, mixing with the others like foodstuff rotting on a corner street. Urchins. Outlaws. Desperados. And then suddenly you’re awake, and if there’s anything left of the life you lived, any signs of the fields you plowed, well, you’d be lucky to touch them again. I lost most of my weight. My vision, depleted.

I grew, enormous, subtle, and dead. The destiny I owe to walking blindly with my cane in my mouth. It’s a simple life, after that. You’re never in, never out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My first few days I was under a lot of medicine. I couldn’t keep my eyes open that long. I had trouble hearing out of my left ear. He was sitting to my left. His bed was just a few steps away. He was the lucky one, I guess, lying beside the window. there were four others in the room but they were asleep most of the time. I couldn’t hear anything and I kept my eyes shut. But that was just the first week. After that I started to recover some energy, and my body got used to the meds, to being there, to being surrounded. I was training my ear to hear again, trying my best to pay attention to everything around me, tapping inside the ear canal with a thin amber pin, something one of the witch doctors used and said would help. It didn’t do much but I needed a distraction, so it worked for that.

At the time I wasn’t on a regular sleep schedule. My pattern was off, I was sleeping and waking all the time, spending most of my time drifting between the two, in that sleepless void where you’re not really awake but you’re not asleep either, dreamy, surreal, physically immobile, like there’s a light mist clouding over your eyes, everything shaking between frames, like it takes a lot longer to blink your eyes, and if you open them too wide you’ll start up again, and if you let them rest you’ll fall asleep, but something’s sitting on your chest and you’re not able to.

Being the youngest one there I guess they felt sorry for me. My journey wasn’t supposed to go the way it did. I fell off course and I guess I almost died. In some ways I feel like I did. At the time, lying there on my beck, paralyzed at the knees, biting my tongue to the intermittent eruptions of noise penetrating my ears, I thought I really had died, and I was lying in some waiting room while they figured my papers out. It gives you time to think about what you’ve done, what you’ve accomplished. Most of us don’t accomplish shit so it gives us the time to regret, to remember. When I was on the drugs, lying there in the caretaker’s arms, begging for mercy, and he kept telling me, in his native voice, with his pained native eyes, welled behind an incredible frontal bone and nasal bone, so that I had to search his eyes out every time I opened mine, lying there, begging for mercy, he kept telling me that I was suffering for my soul, doing the work I had never done. The healers and guides were whispering what he was saying. They could’ve lied, I guess. He was probably telling me to pull myself together, to do it right, to be strong, to forget the suffering, to become the suffering. The more I fought the more I suffered. In theory, I died. I kept thinking, I remember, this is the hardest it’s going to get, and then it gets harder. I entered the prism of my thoughts, my thought-being. I remember thinking to myself, and I was thinking out loud because the healers were answering me, I remember choking on my vomit and begging for mercy, asking, if I let go of this, then who am I? I was hearing my voice like it wasn’t mine, for the first time, detaching from it. My body, steadily growing weaker. I could feel that I was shaking, that they were pulling my body together, trying to warm me, rubbing me with warm towels, dipping my feet in a warm bucket of water. They were telling me things but I couldn’t listen. At some point I remember seeing a long corridor of light, something I felt was beautiful, and I was trusting. And then, infinite darkness, and I was begging, screaming in the room to let them open my eyes, to open my eyes for me, to remove whatever sheet they had covered me with. I heard my voice, my voice that wasn’t mine, telling me that I think I need to suffer because without it I have to ask, who am I? Without death, I cannot live. The voice kept telling me, you’re trying to outsmart it, to demean it. And then, I disappeared.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The others were asleep most of the time. When I started to gain consciousness I would watch them, half awake half dreaming. I noticed him, lying in bed, and I guess he wasn’t so terribly ill because he was always reading something, and I remember noticing that, and realizing at the time that I was noticing something, that my mind was aware of something, that I was there, that I am. I remember celebrating, in my heart, because I could barely move my body, could barely signal with my eyes, and I remember celebrating, that I was aware, that I am here, that I am alive, thinking, even if it’s all a lie, and this room, this infirmary is my purgatorial void, at least I am aware.

He may have also been deaf, or mute, or both, because the caretakers never spoke to him. Nobody ever spoke to him. Every so often a caretaker would come to his bed and hand him a note. Once I was stable, sitting upright, staring into the massive corridor that lay behind our wall, imagining it to be an immense prairie field I could run through, with my arms reaching for the sky, my tongue stretched out tasting the misty air, I noticed that in the entire time I had been there he had no visitors, he was completely alone. Even the others, who spent the majority of their days, twenty three, sometimes twenty three and a half hours, sleeping, deep in an unshakable sleep, even they had visitors, coming by, older women, presumably mothers, younger children, probably their kids, probably the visitors were the reason they disappeared in the first place.

I never had visitors myself, so I wasn’t judging him or anything. I figured everyone I knew had gone off the rails or forgotten about me. If they were anything like me they wouldn’t have survived. If they were totally different they’d be enjoying themselves. But the others, the guys who were asleep most of the time, they were loved, and they were always visited by someone carrying flowers, biscuits, fresh fruits, leaving them at their bedside, waiting, ten, twenty minutes before realizing they weren’t going to open their eyes. At first they’d spend an hour, reading, laughing to themselves, pretending that in some helpless void they were connecting, communicating in another medium, a channel, that was a word I heard often. They would get up from their seats, the caretakers would walk over. They would happily say, I met him today, in a channel, he was so sweet and kind, he thanks you for everything you do. The caretakers would smile, and they would leave. But I’m pretty sure they never met in those channels. The boys were more dead than asleep, and when they’d open their eyes, and the caretakers would say in their sweet, soft, nurturing voices, So and so has come by today, to see you, they were here all afternoon, reading to you, and they left these, the patient would just stare at the caretakers like they were speaking a foreign language, stare at them with emptiness in their eyes, pleading to be returned back to sleep, staring out with an emptiness that could only mean they had no fucking clue where they were.

I remember that he looked like he had been there longer than anyone else, like he was there by his own volition. He seemed to have a rapport with the caretakers, they let him be. When some officers came in to check on our reports, taking down notes with an attitude that made it seem so precious, what they were doing, so relevant, they always ignored his bed, his body, lifeless but for his arms holding an old book up to his face, turning the pages every minute or so. He must have been a fast reader, or he didn’t read and just turned the pages when he got bored of staring at them. Maybe the book was in a language he didn’t know. The caretakers left him alone, clearing up the gifts from the others’ besides once they were rotten, or the flowers started to give off an awful smell, or the fruits were covered in mold. I remember realizing one day, watching him from the corner of my eye, my left eye, because I had a long scar running down the left side of my face, where I guess I had a bloodclot or something, and they had to cut it open and take something out, well, I was watching him, staring at him from the corner of my eye and I remember realizing, again, celebrating in my realization and in my being there, realizing that he didn’t seem afraid, that he looked confident, ready, prepared. Even, in his own oddly familiar way, he seemed happy, content, like he couldn’t have asked for more. I remember thinking, if it were me, and the only people who came to my bed were caretakers and officers, every once in a while, poking at me with these electrical sticks, injecting me with their vials and their fluids, feeding me the peasant remains of waste and shit, and I couldn’t hear a thing, or say a thing, or I had no reason to hear or say anything, or I had chosen never to speak again and never to acknowledge a sound I heard, I remember thinking, well, if it were me, and I never moved from my spot, like I had lost feeling in both of my legs, and probably the skin and the muscles were so dried I had become a part of the mattress, I had become a few feathers and steel, withering away like the last remains of autumn branches, well, I remembering thinking, before realizing I was in the same shoes as him, I remember thinking I would be horribly afraid, afraid of everything, shrieking every time they came near me, crying for help, trying desperately just to make some noise. And then I realized we were practically the same person, we were practically alike. Maybe it is me, I thought, maybe I’m staring at this man thinking I am here, lying here in my helpless position, without a thought in the world but the hazy vision of my lazy right eye. Maybe they’re all me, I started thinking. Maybe this room is a collection of my thoughts, of my characters, of my inventions. Maybe I did die that day, that night, that hour, in the arms of a man who should’ve healed my soul, who was supposed to help me, to cure me, to deliver me from my fears, my demons, the other side.

At that moment, suddenly, I started to see things in a different light, I started to remember a life I had lived, a life I left behind. I saw my sister’s face, I saw her calling out to me, from a front porch, my head peering out the window, from a few stories up, waving to her goodbye. I saw my feet, my legs, running, pushing against the grass, running for my life, footballs, footballs everywhere. The faces, the places, the rain. I felt like I could taste the desert rain, the sand solidifying beneath my feet, turning into a sludge. And suddenly, looking over at the man, unaware of my presence, uninterested in the remaining few passengers sharing his life, I felt a deep hatred for him, I felt bitterness, anger, resentment. I felt like he had crippled me to be there, like he had me in his grip, turning the pages at will, choosing what to do with my life. I felt like he was undecided, and so he left me there to experience the emptiness of a room crowded with strangers whose eyelids would never lift.

I wanted to taste, to feel, to run and to be loved. I wanted those things I was remembering I had. But for all my emotions, for all the ache in my heart, the pain in my stomach, the unendurable sight of the man I blamed for my torture, I could not fathom a sound, a whisper, a word. I could not even draw an expression, the simplest expression, on my face. The paralysis grows, deepens, widens until it has all your bones clenched in its grip, all your veins running through her walls, wormholes designed to make you dependent. And in the end, I realized, that for all my evolving senses, I looked as dead on the outside as I had in the beginning, my eyes could not withdraw from their destitute glare, my cheekbones were withering, losing their weight, losing the expression of my outer lips, as I tried, helplessly, to no avail, to smile.

Finally, I resigned, after days of unrest, urging my lips to widen, my tongue to curl and my throat to gargle, to make the faintest sound, I resigned, realizing I was losing to the expectation I could still be alive, in that way that we are living before we lose our life. I had lost everything, but the vessel holding the pieces together, holding desperately onto my life, my state of being. With my resignation, I shut off, turned cold in the world, the world I realized I shared with nobody else, and in that moment, looking over at the man, the beast I named my patron, my demon saint, I felt sorry for him, I felt something you might consider love, and when I felt it rise into my throat, I felt my mouth watering, my fingers sweat, I felt something deep within me swell, and I felt joy.

We were now at the beginning of spring, the first, long solar eclipse announcing imminent renewal, the energies shifting in the basic, dilapidated room. Outside, they would say, the earth was unraveling her fairest skin, the world blossoming, the gifts of terrestrial life in bloom. One of the guys who had been asleep for months, whose eyes were now little sockets, barely open, slices of an eye that had been there, was finally coming to, and they realized he had chewed away all of his teeth, chewed them until they were welled within his gums, or swallowed whole. After a few warm days, days I spent watching my friend from the corner of my eye, forgetting the few images I had begun to remember, losing them to the my sense of being, to being present in the moment, losing my thoughts, I saw the caretakers bring in a set of teeth, teeth that looked like they’d been stripped off a whale’s mouth, and they spoke among themselves, one of the teeth as sharp as the jaws of a shark, and I could see them struggle with the poor man, see them injecting him over and over again, to keep him lucid, so he would listen to commands, but to forgo the pain, to lose the pain, lose lose lose the pain so that pain is gone, drawn further and further and further into the distance, the creeping night sitting perfectly still, a few feet from the channeling whores.

After the operation they realized the teeth would not hold, his body was rejecting the invasion, his mouth had swollen so his lips and cheeks looked like enormous balls plastered against his mouth, were it not for the dark, rusting infection, the black, blue and blister red of his wounds I would have thought he had swallowed a basketball. He spent a week, without managing a word, without managing a sound, unable to speak, the dead of his eyes returning to his face, so he looked now, with a swollen mouth, swollen cheeks, blistered and cut open, every now and then his wounds pussing out yellow, green, crimson blood, like he was on the verge of death, like he would prefer it. One of the caretakers had had enough, decided it was enough of a sight to see, and they cut open his face, cut out the skin of his cheeks that had swollen to their enormous size, and in place of his teeth, of his old set of whale teeth, they put a fine row of needles, nails pinned, ironed into pointed little pens, and they dug them into his gums, fearing for the infection, they must have injected him over twenty, thirty times, and every five or ten minutes wiping his mouth with a handkerchief, drawing it away soaked in the acrid remains of a worsening infection. At the end of the day, at the end of the worst of days for the poor, poor man, one of the caretakers brought in a hose and sprayed at his face, spraying with real girth, so the area around his face, around his bed, was covered in rotten skin, mold, blood, infectious material, bacteria. Everything, diluted onto the walls. And then, as I awoke the following morning, it had all been cleaned, and the man had a smile on his face, and it looked like he had a keyboard of nails coming out of his gums and his bottom teeth had to be screwed into his face at an angle so they didn’t hold open his jaw, and they sprang out and under his upper line like a tractor’s front, and his upper teeth cut right in between.

All through the mess, all through the uproar and the clamor and the racing indecisiveness and the damage done to the room, all through the towering weeds bristling and racketing against the walls and the sight of a man with nails protruding from his teeth, all through the wincing and whining of the caretakers and the rumble of the spraying hose, my friend, my mentor, my companion continued reading, without batting an eye he went on reading, like he were waving over the shore on a hammock, on a calm spring morning, waving, waving.

He was like an elder statesmen. His presence comforted me once I realized he would be the last face I see. He looked beautiful to me, old and aged in a way I wanted to age but never would, like he had been somewhere and someone and people were trying their best not to forget him, to remember his name, to note down the birthdays missed and the celebrations they had. He was reading, always reading, holding the book with both of his thumbs. I realized I wasn’t going to be discharged, nobody had been discharged, the poor old souls were still asleep, the other man was making noise and building a racket and one day he disappeared, and I’m sure he wasn’t discharged, I’m sure he just vanished into thin air, forgotten, dismissed. I had an infection in my entire body, but it must’ve have been my imagination because I wasn’t being tended to, but I felt a rash, pimples and pimples growing and bursting their disgusting soot so that I felt damp and moist, wet from my ankles to the corner of my eyes, blisters that were growing to pop. I was ignored. I felt like every inch of my body grew a blister that would eventually cave to the pressure and explode, leaving behind a bloody mess and a crater where the blister had formed.

These were the nights of that dreadful spring. The most terrible nights of the year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the months passed I was trying my hardest to recover images from my youth, images of my life, of my existence, but nothing came to mind. I thought of that day, that day where I had seen some things, floating pictures I held onto with dear life until they vanished from my sight forever, I thought of that old day as the greatest day of my life, like I had finally come alive, like it was proof I was alive. I was trying my hardest to return to that day. Trying my hardest to return.

On a midsummer night everything finally changed. The air was pure, they had lifted the steel sheets that were clouding the windows, and for the first time I can remember I saw to the outside. I don’t know why they did it. Who knows. But I woke one morning with the faintest ray of light breaching onto my face, rising from the center of my chest to the foot of my nose. Finally, it reached my eyes, and I felt myself squinting for the first time in almost a year. That day, I felt a breeze pass through the room, carrying a message, carrying something for me. I felt the breeze brush against my face, bounce off the wall and return, returning the way she came, outside. I heard, in the distance, a flock of birds, braving the interest of hunters. Leaves, branches, rolling the smog. The longest night of the year.

It occurred to me I didn’t know where we were. I hadn’t thought of it, I hadn’t ever tried. What difference would it have made, me knowing? Something stirred in me, brewing, I could feel it, the difference I had been waiting for. It felt like I had finally opened my eyes.

That night, I found myself awake, my eyes drawn to the open window, the idea I was seeing bats and hawks passing our sight, the idea I saw them move with their elegant faces looking in, gazing at the disaster we had formed. I thought I was listening to owls outside, to the hyena’s cry in the mountains. I thought we might be over the first row of hills, I thought we might have risen, making our way up with the impending day. I felt like we were gazing over the horizon, rotating on our axis, so that the sea, dipping under a disappearing crest, was lost from my sight forever, and in the distance, as our vision tipped, turning over like a fighter jet gaining speed, changing direction to enter orbit, I saw the first few mountains leaning over the shore.

Something in me stirred, my spirit had been lifted from her paralyzing curse. With the impression of a gust of wind, I don’t know what brought me to my knees, but I rolled my legs, bending them, feeling my heels against the surface of the mattress, dropping them onto the floor, where the fallen blanket covers waited to host my feet, my soles cold to the material. I fell, crashing onto a line of tin plates, cans that held our refuse, our remains, cans that held our food, jugs of water, jugs of light. I looked around, from what I could see, nobody had their eyes on me, nobody could tell I was adrift, moving at my disabled speed. I realized I could crawl, like a snake, that I hadn’t been disabled, only mutilated by the deterioration of my spirit, my appearance, and my soul. What soul? I held onto a column, I let my head rest there, feeling the cold weight of my legs burning like they had been dipping into a fiery cauldron, I could feel them begging to be left alone. Why hadn’t they cut my legs off? Would it have been easier? Why hadn’t they taken my life? My sick, sorry life.

You don’t wake from a season’s slumber without wondering if its real. Had I been dreaming? Was I moving through the final shutters of an immeasurable dream, that had drifted into a vacuous hole, where time no longer reigned, leaving me helpless to the proverbial speed of purgatorial chores, waiting on my ticket, my name. Am I already there? Are you?

Turning my neck away from the column, looking over at a side of the room I had never seen, I witnessed, for the first time in a calendar year, the immaculate glow of moonlight. I was sure I could hear the noises I heard before I closed my eyes that night, in the arms of a spirit who had taken my life to hell. Maybe I had it planned all along. It had been so long.

Looking around at the state of things, a room I came to memorize, to expect, knowing when I opened my eyes, when I closed them, it would remain, as it were, the figments passing unnoticed, the details I could no longer explore, knowing the size they composed in a picture. But I saw everything from a different speed, a different angle. The sight of a set of jars drying on the window. The sight of a row of beds. Pliers, plugs. Cold feet. I started to crawl. With every motion of my elbows, my neck, my chin pressed against the ground, I could feel bones, joints, ligaments turning, cracking, measuring their weight and failing. And just like that, without interruption or a measured word of surprise, I felt a stinging pain in my right thigh. I could feel.

The darkest moment in the longest day of the calendar year. I heard the cries of a canine in the distance, a cry I took to be my own. A cry I hoped I could make, crawling my way to a peak, the horizon. I didn’t think she was there, the lone wolf, the hysterical hyena, but I heard her sing, I heard her pretty wails, and I imagined myself beside her, inside her, singing, exploring the liberty of my voice. And like that, I heard the hoarse tremble of a horn.

I held my breath, claiming each breath, feeling the rise from my lungs, feeling my lungs expand, recede, taking the air into my plexus and letting go. I felt small, and alive, feeling the pleasant air brushing against my cheeks, passing over me in the quiet room. I heard another horn. I thought, I’m hearing them.

As my ears shifted away from a distant imagination to the surrounding presence of actual, occupied space, I started to hear a clatter, a clatter rising from all ends of the room. Noise after noise, sharp and terrible, loud shrieks and hissing like the room flooded with crickets, mosquitos, hissing cockroaches crawling into my ears. I saw, dark shadows, figments, sleepers starting to rise. I felt the presence of moving figures, my eyes darting back and forth, my arms reaching out to touch the living things. I felt loud open mouths crying to be heard, I could see the shapes conforming, terrible faces opening their mouths as wide as they could, shrieking, bellowing to the sky, to the open door, to the cold, concrete floor, bellowing without noise, without air.

I saw a figure raise himself towards me. One of the sleepers, moved from his bed. I couldn’t tell if he was marching, running, or floating onto his way. He seemed locked in a single distance, no matter how much time passed he never seemed to slow but he never came or went, he stayed, unmoved, but I could tell that he was moving, his legs making way over the floor, his eyes remaining still in their position.

Sounds rising and falling, like nails on a chalkboard, like ice melting on a third degree burn. I turned one way, turned back again. suddenly, I felt a hand hold onto my face. I saw it rise from a distant darkness, and seep right into sight, right in front of me. the fingers were long and lean, peeled and bruised at the knuckles and side. The thumb was gone, a tidy curve where the nail should have been. The hand touched the side of my face. I felt nothing. I must have felt something but I felt the cold of my knees, my weight. I must have been afraid because the next thing I did was fall on my face, my jaw splattering, spreading her incumbent tools along the floor. I was shivering, thinking myself cold, shivering, trying to hold on.

The room was dark, the figures were all moving, at the same speed, the same rate, steadily in motion, they curled around the room like snakes pitching in the dark. I’m not sure how long I spent on the floor, gazing with a disjointed mouth, watching like I had been waiting to be so amazed. I felt in the distance for something to hold onto, finally, I found a beside railing. As I lay there, limp in the desert night, a hand dropped onto my shoulders. By some power I was urged to move, urged to rise up from my place. My feet were cold, I curled my toes, holding steady against the weight of another, lifting myself up. I saw him. I saw him. I had watched him for a whole season, right from where I had been lying. It was the first time, the only time, I looked into his eyes. He had his face turned to me the entire time and it was now, the only time, I really saw him. At first I thought I was staring into a ghost, the face of a dead man swallowing the contents of the room, but then I saw that his eyes were open. I could hear the others moving around the room, caving in to the midsummer swing. I think I might have heard a long, seductive purr before I heard anything else, and I noticed then his eyes were open. Have you ever looked in the eyes of a ghost before? Between us two, I couldn’t tell who was living and who was not.

He didn’t speak. I looked at his lips, down his chin onto his chest, where I noticed he had hair puffing out of his white, infirmary gown. I looked further, deep down his stomach, onto his thighs. I touched him. He didn’t move, he didn’t struggle. I don’t why but I put my hands against his chest, y palms onto his breast. I let them sit there, feeling the hairs against my skin. It made me feel, I don’t know, I felt safe, running my hands along his hairy chest. He felt lifeless, pulsating with a certain fear, hesitation, but still, lifeless, like all the life in his body was confined to his little thumbs, where he held his beautiful books all those days. I moved my hands toward his chin and onto his cheeks. All of the life had fled his body. Like he had dried up. Like a raisin. I don’t recall if I pulled his mouth open or if his jaw dropped slightly to the presence of my hands, gazing up at me, the ghost, fleeing the shadow world, I saw, deep and disorderly, into his gaping mouth. I saw his tongue, I saw his lips, I put my thumb onto one of his lips. I dropped my face nearer to his. One of the others had let out a howl, and the room was filled with a raucous echo. My hands were shaking, my lips quivering. I could feel the perspiration on my head, my hands, I could feel my eyes as I started to cry, for the first time in however long I had been there, I could feel wet tears streaming down my face. At the sound of another horn some of the others were letting out gut wrenching howls, screaming, writhing in pain, calling out with open mouths that emitted no sound. I felt like the only man in the desert wilderness, the only one who could hear their calls.

I kissed the man in my fingers. I looked into his eyes. I could feel his heart beat. I let my thumb rest onto his mouth. I stood there, motionless, waiting on some esoteric sensation to drive me away. My hand crept around his face, holding onto his ear. I grabbed both of his ears and I lifted him towards me. He didn’t fight, he eased his head into my hands. I held his stare, his deep and sorrowful stare. His mouth gaped open. His lips, trembling. He spoke.

“Are you afraid?”

His lips were shaking in my palms but he was not afraid. It was my hands shaking him. I fell onto his face, resting my forehead against his. I felt his hand reach up from the side of the bed and touch me. His hand crept its way to the side of my face. His other hand followed. I was crying. He held me by both of my ears. He let out a deep breath, he sighed. I heard him sigh, and then he moaned. I could feel his breathing into a light, light series of sighs and moans. I heard his lips separate. He took stronger hold of me. What happened after that I’m not really sure.

The darkness gave way to light. The screams had brought in the caretakers and the room was overrun by guards, brandishing their weapons, steel bats, rubber guns, I could hear the incessant beating. We never saw each other again. I’m sure only of one thing. Something I’ve had to deal with since that night, since coming alive under the cover of moonlight, since that fateful midsummer night chorus lifted me to my feet, lifted me from the bones. Something I’ve had to deal with, wandering the streets for my name.

He held me close and before the first strike against my back I heard something, I heard his lips separate and I heard him say what he had wanted to say. The room, terrorized like the trenches on the frontier, but I’m not lying, I heard what I heard that night. He gripped me into his arms and spoke. The last thing he ever said before the bat took into his face.

“Do you know what Bara is?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Surah Yasin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I enter a palace of darkness

All I ask is you meet me on the other side

Trying not to forget your voice

Know this, as I know the pains of my father

He sings to me, Surah Ya Sin

Together we are approaching death

Together, he sings

 

 

 

 

The story of Faroukh and the Cemetery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the earliest years of the port, the cemetery graves were dug with handheld tin shovels. During times of enduring conflict, certain supplies ran dry, and merchants who could afford to stall the trading of goods built a fortress with their supplies. Particularly withheld were the simple metals people most required.

But there were those who donated their goods with charity. Medicine men, apothecaries, doctors, students of healing. They irrigated their concoctions through the city wells. A people who believe that the remnant human forms lying in their graves deserve the pleasure of seduction, healing, soothed with the irrigated streams of potent mixtures. To smell the crescent of sage in the graveyard quarters, for the grieving, was a pleasant omen.

Poets were known to camp in the cemetery grounds, hoping to hear voices of the dead. In truth, what those who remained long enough really heard, able to withstand the terrors of imagination, were the softest whispers of their own souls, urging them to believe in magic. Most who heard these whispers fled the grounds, never to be seen again. But every generation produces a flock that is different from the rest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is a story he liked to tell of a poet he met in Istanbul, one afternoon, seated beside a few musicians playing for quarters on the busiest street in the city. The poet, an Iranian, who gave her name as Chimea, settled beside him and began speaking in a very open and friendly manner. She told him her life story. She had been a normal child until the age of nine, when, seated on a grave in the cemetery beside her home, a cat jumped on her knees and climbed into her stomach, forming a nest. A passerby from the cemetery, seeing the scene unfold as he made his way past her, stopped and spoke to the young Chimea. He told her that the cat was the reincarnated spirit of Faroukh, the famed, ill fated poet. That the cemetery Chimea was sitting on was itself Faroukh’s grave. And that the cat had chosen Chimea as the household of Faroukh’s soul.

As she aged, she finally met Faroukh’s son, who had been left heartbroken by his mother’s death, clinging to her memory as he would cling to his guitar, singing Beatles songs in her memory. When the two met, he wept in Chimea’s arms for several hours, speaking to her as though she were his mother. From that point on, Chimea has lived with the intention to fulfill Faroukh’s destiny, and liberate the people of her native country from the shackles of ignorance. However, one day, she decided she had enough, and decided to flee. That very night, she slept in the airport in Istanbul, wondering if she should enter the city. Meeting the poet boy the following day, as he listened to her with attentive eyes, large eyes she would describe in one of her poems as, “…the merciful kiss of a camel’s child…”, she decided it was her fate to seek refuge in Istanbul, to join in with the revolutionary diaspora. Seeking comfort with the poet she had just encountered, she recounted her troubles to him, explaining that she had very little money, and very little means. He told her he would take care of her, but she had to wait for him for a couple hours, because he had to meet someone, a woman he loved, a woman he had not spoken to in several days, whom he had to see. He told her his life had been thrown upside down, everything he understood destroyed, and that in the last few days he had extinguished a great, demonizing fire from his soul. Promising to return to her in a couple hours, if only she would wait, she relented, and disappeared from his sight. She was upset he was not alone, as her, and had the feeling of family and belonging in the incredible town. Not able to withhold himself form seeking the company of the woman he loved, whom he had, in truth, not seen in several days, since the night he had committed himself to destiny, declaring his incessant love for her, holding onto her hands, looking deep in her eyes, hoping to find a similar feeling. She had rejected his approach, and finding his home uninhabitable, an infestation that had brewed over the course of several months, he abandoned it altogether, fleeing to the streets. He had not seen her since. Having let the moment pass and calmed himself down, over the course of several days, days he spent walking aimlessly along Istanbul’s beautiful coast, singing out loud with himself, humming, reciting, little fragments of prayers he remembered from his youth, or whatever came to his mind. Chimea would not understand his reasons, disappearing from his life forever.

He had spent that day, as he spent the last several days, marching up and down Istiklal, standing to the side and taking in the sun, reading from a book of passages he carried in his pocket, reading as well, when he had more time, more patience, from a novel he had been recommended, Ali and Ramazan by the writer Perihan Mağde. All through his reading the novel, of two young orphan boys who fall in love, their lives taking desperate, terrible turns, their love holding their lives together. In some miraculous way the story would get worse and worse, but the love grew stronger and stronger, and in his own egotistical way he felt he was reading the story of his own love, the love he could not possess for himself, the love he could not own. But when Ramazan was thinking of Ali, losing him to the drugs, losing him to his sorrowful mind, he felt that he was thinking of her, and when Ali was thinking of Ramazan, worried about him growing cold at night, selling his body to the streets, fueling his own demise, he felt she was thinking of him, worried he might lose to the carnage he built around him. He felt that everything around them had been destroyed, and that everything destroyed had only heightened the meaning of their entanglement, their departure from Beirut, their evolving love. But she had resisted, and so it was.

 

 

 

Fictional Spaces

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The question we can ask ourselves is, why imagine a fictional place, and not pursue head on the same space that consumes the imagination of the writer? Why does BARA not rest, as in, resting in the ancestral birthplace for the passing of his soul, where he speaks of, a people cut off from history, a people scorned.

Arbid writes,

 

The apparatus that rules over you wants you to lose the incentive for revolt. They will stick their hands into your throat and tear out the fire. To trample on our will. The city seethes with revolution in the mind but there’s only the pale figment of action on the streets, people coerced to rage for the compliance of authoritarian will. Where is the real freedom? Puritanical savages disrupt our enmity. The urban living arrangement is a close combat situation. Imagine, a poisoned well succumbing our children to dysentery. Isn’t it the same with our compliance? The uneventful truth is that nobody cares. and it’s a shame, it’s a beautiful place.

 

The violence he speaks of had by then taken a devastating toll. It was a catastrophe. It is. There would be no refuge of peace in the entire region. But even within the text, where he calls for revolt, there is a deeper message, beyond the obvious, painstaking cries for free will, which are to be expected, and beyond the signs of resignation, there is also a semblance of acceptance, and more importantly, of faith.

 

BARA is a dream

the kind Rumi performs in orgiastic rite

Debussy moonlights in a chamber

I know where darkness resides

light sets free her will

 

How far are we from his will? He contends,

 

Maybe we are all dead souls

and this stage is our mantel

 

Before pleading,

 

Do you know why I am here?

 

The relative truth is that nobody, in terms of everybody, knows why he is there, or why he is at all. And if this is to be taken as truth, then nobody knows why anybody is there, or anywhere. Which is tot say, nobody knows a damn thing of nothing, nobody knows where we’re going. Still,

 

There is the interest of an audience

and a composer’s will

 

We, the living, are the audience. And the composer? A brief illumination of God, the creative force, the spiritual figure. How does Arbid match his spiritual evolution with the evolving spirit of the time? How does Arbid connect his own spiritual acceptance with the deterioration of society at large?

But this doesn’t answer the question, merely paints a picture of the writer in evolution, that is, ever changing, growing, to a manifest self twofold from whence he came, a danger to the passing projection of a past or present self, perpetually moving into the future. He has to answer the question for himself, has to retain a sense of the equation in all of his writing, for no reason but to be what he already has claimed he has become, the sage of his childhood dreams. In the face of armored tanks, fighter jets, drones, a crumbling social economy, the loss of spiritual self, what utility are words, his only virtue, and the wand by which he weaves his magic? Arbid was forced to reconcile the futility of language, of poetry, of art, in the face of such commanding insolence, as when Pablo Neruda, in his poem “I Explain a Few Things”, explains his transition from the lyrical to the heavy-handed:

 

You will ask: why doesn’t his poetry

speak to us of dreams, of leaves

of the great volcanoes of his native

land?

 

Come and see the blood in the streets,

come and see

the blood in the streets,

come and see the blood

in the streets![28]

 

If anything, Arbid’s reservations to employ the regional narrative into his work only served to heighten the need for such an inclusion. He was, in effect, only delaying the inevitable, serving as witness to the tragic quagmire that had engulfed his ancestral home. Finally, where we find both reason and emotion intact, where Arbid formulates with commendable consistency and tact the narrative impression of the quagmire, we find a stunning capacity to undermine the message while seeking to enhance it. Perhaps the most famous impression begins and ends with his portrayal of suicidal dogs, captured and implanted with explosives. The story is found in most of his later work, albeit with changes necessary to suit the greater text. The model we use is the last version of the story to appear. At two intersections in the novel, the story emerges, on both occasion telling of the same phenomenon.

 

The next morning, a visitor spoke about what he saw. As though he were among them. He tried not to look worried, sighing the score of a fairytale. What music! What fall! Steel knives, sewing voices. The anatomy might cause a moment’s cringe. He was beyond confident, redeeming an image of his youth, sworn loyalty sharpening the presence of the regime. An incision between the stifle and thigh. He cut a line of hair underneath the skin, carefully. He would have preferred to go straight through the rump but it might have shown. No timers. Randomness, luck. He snipped a bump of marrow at the hock, the size of a pin. He filled the vacuum with double tapered needles, laced with basic carcinogens. The general’s trick, a dose of the pox governed in the blankets. But it would occur, not in these conditions. He had to be careful not to infect his own tribe. Had he already infected them? He stopped, he wondered, what pain I sow. To incite shock onto the public. He knew, the first impulse would be very short, momentary shock, before rage and fear crept their tassels in. Finally, he was only really waiting for suspicion. With suspicion, he could expect reprisals. The desolation would spread. A port, already on her knees, sounding her last breath. Why did he want it? Settlers bottle their guilt in the nave. Sick, soiled skin. Lesions, the coat of arms dragging her weight over a turbulent line of bodies. It had all been a success. Markets. Funerals. Graduations. He told me, the best part was the growing rumors that some breeds were more likely to explode than others. Some went as far as to say the dogs were conspiring on their own. How uplifting! A difficult time for the innocent. Injuries, scrutinized. Blemishes, discovered with reprisal. Dogs, forced out of their homes. Herded into cages. Sheltering camps! Arbitrarily detained and executed. Indoctrinated shame. What had he done? Am I so capable? Dogs, learning of their status. He remembered, the ones who knew they were feared lost all humility. Mythical distress. Total chaos.

 

And again, the same scene taken from an earlier version. He had wanted to portray, with great difficulty, the rise in suicide bombers in Lebanon, and of course the enormous employment of suicide bombers in the regional and domestic wars. In those years, it had become the norm to hear of forty, fifty people killed in a mosque or market bombing, a wedding, or a funeral. The bombings spread to malls, schools, airports, cafes. From one end of the earth to the other. The carnage destroyed what little resilience Arbid had left, to ignore the situation at home while making his name abroad. Or, while back home, to ignore the situation developing on the street, and focus instead on his metaphysical drives, spiritual enlightenment, spiritual fulfillment, which ignores the realities on the ground.

 

 

 

 

The useful herd

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the time, the idea took a momentous turn at the sighting of some dogs, trading their urine. He told me, the easiest way for us to reach our targets is to deploy the explosives in the least suspected way. Living bodies. Nitroglycerine, something well in abundance, on account of losing touch with the outside world, a raucous waterfront holding visitors away. How does one procure the plugs? He told me, I had the idea of packing inside a fever, but a fever has loose ends, the bacteria spreads too quickly. And to pull the wire, it was not certain he could manage to do it alone and survive. Dogs are equipped with responsible timing, and loyalty. The orchestration was simple. He had heard a rumor, of wild packs of dogs so disturbed by their condition, they were lunging over the bridge, one by one, sometimes in pairs. Several dogs, surviving their fated leap, returned again to the precipice, and dove, clearing out into the sea without a trace. Dogs, falling from the sky. Painters, taking their canvases and setting themselves under the bridge, said it was best suited to see from underneath, given the circumstances under the monument, clouds of fog masking the outward sea, a dog’s leap conforming only a shadow, a brief illumination of life. How long does a dog sit in the air? He had an idea. Those tending towards reason concluded there had been nothing luring the dogs. He figured, nostalgia lures the depraved, for the outgrowth of history shared together. Why don’t dogs fly? He remembered, clear blue cirrus sky, a dog hungry is a dog starved. The wealthy cherish their meals, the poor, count them. As for the prey, well. The dogs were remembered differently. Mad stricken, fatigued with conviction. He was not ashamed to have used them, or to hunt several bodies once the tests were confirmed. It seemed, the further he drifted into the void, the clearer the picture became, but he was not yet sure he had the tools for killing at such an explosive speed. He had to get the readings right before taking it on the fly, loosening the guard, whatever. A cowboy sells his equipment used, stationed, where else, but the harbor. Is it clearing up? He spent his nights hauling in the dead. The first few nights he wasn’t present. He lost some of his things, hassled by some drifters. A sad taste in his mouth. The dirtiest place in the world. A cunt, held up in the air, burnt ivory cold with brimstone fishing wire, wings fallen out, clitoris torn, nothing left with to feel. And how often he felt it! A pair of roughskins drinking cherry gold out of a flask. He didn’t want to send off alarms, hiding in a peculiar gait. His hands were filled. Eyebrows would be raised. The quarter wears a loose mouth. Clean cut barrel, set for the drill. A pistol, hadn’t been held in years. He camped outside a fence, nesting in the cool. It had been busy. He had more on his plate than anticipated. Dogs travel in herds. Sometimes, solitary, pick of the bunch. He had to find something that would be easy to find again. Specific breeds do the job better. A line of shrub. The hunt. The dog stops, sniffing a waft of sand near an unsteady manhole, roaches flee into her face. The dog freezes. Sneezing, she launches forward. A nose descends into the hole. He fired off a round. Easy, snap in the dewlap between shoulder and withers. Two stumbles, the price. Sobs over croaking breaths, sad story. The bitch fell to the ground. Different breeds have different troubles. The northern mutts were better trained. An eye for the exotic. Straight for the kill. Some could even tell the difference between a stray victim and a symbolic tool. He wondered, if so many of our steps are fed, how do we relinquish money. He thought, I found her in a pool of blood, soaked fur red. A deep stare, he wanted to light a cigarette, guarding against the wind. Remembering he had nothing to smoke, he relented to the image of a windowsill, aiming for his next victim. He kicks his heel into the sand, feeding her as he leaves. The last sobs of a dying mutt. He told me, I snipped off one of her feet and snuck it into my bag. To spread his tastes, he hinged on the collar of a steel fence. Caution. He pulled back the hammer, a term he learned in the wasteland. Does it belong to you? A wet breed stepped into his sight. Gravel road’s gallop, prancing onto a patch of grass. The dogs stuttered, abdomen, hit. See, how capable a sprawl of blood. He lay there a while, watching the image deteriorate until it glowed, finally, keeping close eye onto his catch. He remembered, the bodies were burned in the past to conceal their identities, set in flames over night before retreating. To the best of anyone’s memory, it can be said, the idea to boobytrap dogs was not borne of any genius, but a memory of those animals, burning their comrades in the presence of the enemy.

 

The fighters he speaks of, burning their comrades in the impending presence of the enemy, is no other than the Al-Nusra Front, who Hezballah fighters at the time declared were the most vicious fighters they had faced, burning the bodies of their fallen soldiers in order to conceal their identities. He writes in another poem,

 

Arabs will have seized the monarchies and set their palaces ablaze.

 

Arbid indicts the public, to the indifference prevalent in those times.

 

There is a fellow population suffering. To have lived it, later           generations will assume it caused great conflict of the heart. But,            take my trials, they are too good for me. Remember, the videos      passed around. I am guilty. There is nothing left to say. White sheets compound the pavement. Chemicals in the territory. The revolution            is a farce.

 

He speaks of wastefulness, destitution,  great human loss and plunder, and his poetry rises to the cusp.

 

I lose your face for an instant

this devastates me

Syria is losing the war

 

He had no way to directly speak of the carnage. Neither employed nor putting himself to good use with his writing, he drafted letter after letter, none of them sent, to his friends and contemporaries, scattered over the world. Most letters guarded by a deep sense of optimism and reserve, in some he ventured far enough to the truth that he could not avoid speaking with disgust.

 

The land has been cut off from history. Time- for massacres to      mount. Efficiency- to wait and see what will happen. Meanwhile,       they are coming to you, a million flee their home and walk towards you…

 

What should interest readers of this grave passage is that it told of the massacre and mass exodus at Ayn al-Arab near the beginning of September in the summer of 2014, the same month the writer vanishes after the final illumination of BARA, what disciples will refer to as the miracle at Berlin. The following sentence,

 

The Kurd tells me his people are waiting for their chance.

 

A new character, whose presence is fueled by the recent revelation, but who disappears as quickly as he’s come. Continuing,

 

The border is overrun with refugees and rebels.

 

This last line will please readers of the Levant, who will recognize that their border was the one overrun that summer, and had been in a state of perpetual chaos for at least a few years. Over the course of eighteen months, following this passage, he continued to suggest at the suffering of his people, but with less reliance on particular names. In a poem entitled “Autumn says”, published in a  free press booklet on the outskirts of Berlin, in April of 2014, his first few weeks in the European capital, he writes of his growing frustration.

 

Zaatari is Jordan’s fifth largest city.

Cairo is in despair.

Women raped as symbols of liberty.

Gazans [will] fire rockets in vane.

 

Before suddenly, turning his voice sideways, directing his anger inwards, applying a sense of responsibility to himself, he seamlessly switches to the mystic incarnate prevalent in his later writings, where now it was only just beginning, his finding the prophetic interior he will enjoy for the next few editions of BARA, culminating in what he considered the final, total incarnation of his word onto paper, the closing chapter of BARA, the circle complete.

 

Faroukh comes to me through Chimea, says her ears have been cut             off by martyrs who want to hear the news.

 

What does Arbid want? We can refer to his own writing to answer that question.

 

I only mean to disarm power structures of reason

by imagining a soul

because that is where poverty is forbidden

and Rumi’s camel drinks from the palace fountain.

 

Of course, if we are to infuse the political landscape of the time- civil wars raging in Syria, Iraq, Yemen; turmoil and carnage in Libya, Egypt, Lebanon, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Mali, Somalia, Sudan; the continued occupation and massacre of the Palestinian people; rising fears in Tunisia; a fascist government in Israel squaring off with the fascist regime of Iran; the political turmoil of Bahrain violently squashed by neighboring countries. The extent of the violence and brutality is the dividing line, between his total emancipation from the attachments, the belongings, and his total immersion in the suffering of his native people.

The situation in Lebanon was steadily declining into a sea of carnage, developing a quagmire of its own. Since the upheaval of the Syrian withdrawal from all Lebanese territories- physical withdrawal- and the ongoing assassinations of political figures opposed to the ruling Syrian regime, the writer witnessed, in the brief period of his life living in Beirut- a period we can consider the hero’s return home before the development of his quest, as a necessary instigator to open the eyes of the hero- the devastating war with Israel, dozens of assassinations and resulting carnage, a brief civil war, the loss of civic authority, student clashes on university grounds, a massacre in a Palestinian camp, the emergence of suicide missions in the country, the rising divide between Sunnis and Shiites, the infiltration of Syrian rebel fighters sowing strife among the Lebanese, crossing the border with their weapons and hoping to confront the Shiite militia ruling Lebanon by its heavy handed force. The farce of Lebanese politics continued, having twice spent over a year without a president, waiting on other nations to make up their mind. Strikes on the streets, for government workers, teachers, sanitation employees, and for the families of those kidnapped by Syrian Islamist factions, some of them beheaded, all of them belonging to the security forces of the fractured country. Even the security forces themselves being divided and polarized on political grounds. Wanting a life free of attachment, he still could not watch the descent into living hell the region of his ancestral birth.

But how does one confront such madness in indirect, fictional or poetic terms? Maybe it was simply too much to handle, to manage. We can find that the language used to describe the situation, without naming the players directly, hoping to effuse the subtle mechanisms of speech so prevalent in the other stations, is one of a macabre, brutal nature, the language used to describe a surgical operation that descends into chaos, the sort of speech one reserves for the monomyth descent into hell.

 

The shield of your armory harbors

I am a lunatic and yours

 

Something not quite considered in mainstream discussion of BARA, is the relevant respect the writer may have had towards the ruling entity of Iran, the wilayat al-faqih, or, guardianship of the jurisprudent, an evident assimilation of Platonic virtues and code into the political sphere, applying the theoretical framework of the philosopher-king to the contemporary context of a theological jurist, a religious scholar.[29] This very guardianship had come to heads with its people, with the ruling order of the Western world, the occupying state of Israel, and the other authoritarian state ruled not by a guardianship of scholars but a monarchy of idol kings, Saudi Arabia. In an attempted riot against the Saudi monarchy, the writer would, in his state of political upheaval, which would in turn ease him away – at times with oppressive force- from his omniscient grasp of the ultimate condition, his passivity to idols and names, worship of the self and of the other, and he would be forced to reflect onto the current situation. A situation which worsened by the day, and we can find in his early poems, a similar attitude toward the monarchy that we later find in the first edition of BARA, the winter edition, where the monarchy itself loses its familiar name, where here it is applied furiously, and the insinuation is that of a time already past, whereas in the earlier poems he directed the voice towards the present order, hoping to elicit some sort of change, the later editions of BARA reveal a mysterious catastrophe to have disordered his ancestral homeland, cutting off communication from all corners of the globe, the several ruling tribes returning to their nomadic ways, a past that is no longer what it was.

 

How much longer can we be ashamed of our bodies?

We need a march down Riyadh naked.

 

Sex as a means of liberation appears extensively in his work. His claim that, “…Only sex can save the phantom existence of the Arabs…”, resonates clearly with much of his early and later work. In fact, a poem he dedicated to the cleric who, “…runs rampant on the stage petting his fetish scarf…”, he avoids the legitimation of respect so customarily afforded to men of his clerical position, writing to, “..a cleric who plays the monkey for the occasion…”,

 

Please, for my namesake and yours

For exaltation and the brushing of bkhour

Celebrate ‘till dawn the passing of our finest harvest

Drink the modern chalice of modern malaise

When the cleric sings softly in your ear

To undress and burden pleasure

Slap his charming eyes with your sex

Rest your wings against his lips

Let him taste the salts of freedom.

 

What he really intended to say is clear in a piece of existential prose- hardly fictional or otherwise, merely a splinter piece of thought and provocation that emerged so often in his earlier work; a testament to his reeling political passion and disgust with the status quo. Having no other form to turn to but the written word- not, for instance, having the means to carry a weapon of material sort, or to honor his thoughts in the public sphere- he writes,

 

Isn’t it shameful? How long have we refused the allure of truth? The chorus singing fraternity and liberty for all is dead, silenced by the wakening crowds. Romantics who once declared the equality of Man are widowed from their ideas, consuming what can be sought before we fall to our knees. And for what? A character serves the purpose of a scene, and so it is in our own lives. What do we afford our souls with the precious Friday kneel? There is no plane between heaven and hell but the union of sex. Interracial, intersexual, deviant, and obscure. Sex is the antithesis to death. And the orgasm is her earthly pleasure, a reward blessed upon those who heed her gifts. Without the myth of a parted sea, our women wail in ecstasy.

 

Writing more explicitly, some time later on,

 

Nudism will free the Arabs from their captors.

 

And again,

 

The Arabs are in a hole.

 

It was his belief that there, “…is no sweeping change to awaken to, the doors of perception well open…” He claimed, more than once, that it would all begin, “…in Tahrir Square and Martyr’s Square…and spread duly…”, but what would be the common aim? Bataille writes of Blake,

 

In Blake’s life the joy of the senses was a touchstone. Sensuality set him against the primacy of reason. He condemned the moral law in the name of sensuality. ‘As the caterpillar chooses the fairest leaves to lay her eggs on,’ he wrote, ‘so the priest lays his curse on the fairest joys.’ He resolutely called for sensual happiness, for the exuberance of the body. ‘The lust of the goat is the bounty of God,’ he said, and ‘The nakedness of woman is the work of God.’[30]

 

So in the writer’s work we find the same passion for an exuberance, for a visionary destruction of the cloak of cleanliness and tidiness[31].

 

Indulgence fuels enlightenment

Passions ignites the tenants of wisdom

Divinity descends in sensory collaboration

Unison equations of the Sexes.

 

He proclaims,

 

Release the captive hordes to their animal spirit.

Watch the monarchy fall to Dionysian children.

 

And sex emerges not only as a means of liberation, but as a source of preparation, a ritual to enter into the arms of the source, the union of solar and lunar energies, expressing the explosive force of duality reunited.

In The Lively Images, scholar Richard E. Hughes suggests that the inward journey, using the example of Marlow in Heart of Darkness, symbolizes the confrontation with the Dionysian spirit, the unconscious, and such a journey is, “…thus spatial( into the African interior), temporal (back to the origins of man), and psychic (to the roots of his own unconscious).”[32]

Hughes dedicates one of the four chapters to his study on Dionysus, “…the enigmatic god, the pisirit of a dual nature and of paradox.” He writes, of Dionysus, that, “He come sabruptly, and is opposed by the guardians of order.” His unexpected emergence, wildly opposed, is similar in a sense to the rebel duende, Lorca’s interior force. He continues,

 

He is frequently disguised so that he cannot be prepared for, his disguises varying form the terrible (panther, tiger, bull) to the seductive (he appeared at first to the daughters of Minyas as a young girl). Pandemonium, frequently music, trances and loss of self-identity characterize his revelries. He is associated with intoxication (the invention of wine) and with the underground (some legends emphasize this is naming Demeter or Persephone his mother, both of them subterranean dwellers; he is also allied to vegetation and the seasonal rhythm of the earth. There is an insistent connection with water (to escape Lycurgus he flees to the protection of the sea-goddess, and the sea becomes his ally in the episode with the pirates), and with women (he is tutored by nymphs, frequently disguised as a woman, and the maenads, crazed women, are his most frequent companions). Most important, and binding all the episodes, is the theme of madness: he is the crazed god, his followers are frenzied, he destroys his enemies with madness. An envelope of fury surrounds his story.[33]

 

Furthermore, Dionysus “is the unconscious itself. Narcissus is myth, the inviter to the unconscious; and Dionysus is what we meet if we accept Narcissus’ beckoning.”[34]

As, “the psyche is a complex, self-regulating organism, striving continually for a realization of its whole self,” and, “should any part be excluded, denied, ignored, then the primal drive to wholeness will assert itself. Should the conscious mind, for its own interests, attempt to regulate the instinctual forces to the dark chambers of forgetfulness, those instinctual forces will assert themselves, to redress the upset balance,” so we can visibly see how Arbid’s striving for a new political order in his work, alongside an evolution of both his abilities within his writing and the resulting emergence of spiritually inclined writing, coupled with the fact he addresses his own instinctual forces, his own duende, we can visibly understand how all is a matter of his own redressing the upset balance, striving then not only for a new political order for his contemporaries, but for a new political order in the mastering of himself. Whereas in the beginning of his journey, he wrote of his walking unknowingly, aimlessly, without end, without conception of purpose, by the end of his work he is assured of his purpose, he is aware, having confronted in the deep underground of the room, the convex projection of his soul. The following passages illuminate his progression from, first, aimless wandering, to nihilism, to the fury and chaos of an underworld structure, to acceptance, and finally, to illumination.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Selected readings from BARA

 

 

 

The Walk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He had an urge to step out of his house that morning. Early morning, before the others would rise. He’d been in a state of angst, and it felt good to be alone, to meet the chill breeze of the sea, the quiet fishermen taking in their thoughts, the coffee sellers planning generously for the day. The clarity of the environment was contradictory to the to the reality on the ground. Others spoke of it as well, others who had tried to escape into the wilderness but returned with their hopes dashed. Past life regression therapy, he heard stories from traveling fanatics who spoke of it as the only cure. One hand in this life, one of them had said, and another in the afterlife. In his youth, he had tried to communicate beyond this dimension, but always fell short of connecting to a medium or a source. Sometimes, disillusioned by his failures, he would smoke enough of his pipe to firmly believe his favorite radio hosts to be otherworldly messengers, using the sportswire or newswire as a cover. But as with most determinations in life, apathy snuck her fangs and removed him from his habits. Soon, he was weaving dreams on a stationary park, resting his legs and curling his head around an ancient tree trunk, reluctant to admit his declining faith, meeting the eyes of other drifters, possibly enlightened, with a dip of his own, curious not to offend, careful not to be too noticed. They might realize of him what is true of themselves, he always thought.

Suddenly, he felt his mood sour. Staring aimlessly at the open sky, he wondered if there had been a time in his little country’s past where an eagle might soar over the landscape, choosing to bite at the instant those gathered below took notice. A profound stench rose from the opposite end of the street, stretching to where he stood, upset at the smell. Drifting further into melancholy he stepped to the side, lying against a steel gate and some concrete blocks, smoking a cigarette he rolled with one hand at his side and the other pulling his scarf to his mouth.

He thought in that moment of his melancholic walks along the Beirut Cornish, wrestling with the waning enthusiasm of his being there, the neglect of an obvious female pursuit, the voice of Jim Morrison carrying him along, Cars Hiss by my Window and he could remember the very day he fell out of love with the city, the day the streets were blazing with pre pubescent ingrates brandishing their guns. Snipers on rooftops, intermittent skirmishes on the streets of West Beirut.

Upon moving to the city, it had been reeling with a sense of promise, a sense of hope. Imminent change. Imminence. He vowed, during his first foray into the political mess, staging a friendly boycott of the student elections in his university, never to abandon the nation of his roots. At the time, he felt Beirut still possessed a soul. Unlike his, it could absorb the weight of catastrophe, and remain standing. Though he never knew the town the way elders speak of it in its prime, its golden age, before the decapitation of its heart, everywhere he would go he always felt a sense of longing for the ruined little port town. And when he pictured himself traveling across the horn of Africa, selling bundles of dates and olives he had collected off Bedouins and farmers in his travels westward, finally living a life of solitude, connected to the soil, always moving, always on the go, he imagined the poor settlers he would encounter to look into his face and ask his opinion on their predicament. It is fine here, he would say, it is always fine. Where are you from, they would ask. A port, three revolutions away. What is it like there, one of them would ask. Now, he would say, it is destroyed.

An older man would intervene, collecting spit in his mouth and dismantling it. He is from the port of ports, the graceful eye of the Levant, the shores of Bacchus. In my day, he would add, it was the most glorious port, filled with monument standing since antiquity, the most elegant, beautiful women you have ever seen. From the heights of the Cedar mountains, you could smell jasmine, lavender, descend from the skies, burning hashish swell the evening air, tasting zaatar on your spoiled tongue from the hands of an elderly mother, the wife of a village sage, who could recite to you verses of Greek poets, ulemma mystics, and the decadent couplets of Baudelaire, all in one breath. The his voice would drop, suffering what all men suffer when faced with regret, adding over the aged croaking of his voice, But it is true what he says, now, it is destroyed.

They would settle their accounts and leave, disappearing into a thick gaseous smog, desert winds blazing, glancing over their shoulders to the young traveler left alone, standing on the flatland with signs of loneliness in his eyes. How would contend later with what he’d heard, yet again, from a man who saw what he would never see, a land of beauty and liberty.

On his walk Eastward he would recount the stories he’d heard, dreaming fantasies of another time in his mind. In this way, he could anticipate a different space, arriving with the temper of another age, fixing his form to the modern day. But each step of his boots against the sweltering, mismanaged gravel road, oiling the soles of his shoes in darkness, would slow the pace of his fantasy, irking him on his travel home. Soon, he would hear the rapid fire agitation of assault rifles and mortars, cluster bombs painting a familiar summer sky on the horizon, clouds of smoke rising over banana fields and orange groves, jets dispatched over the pine forests in the East and the Cedars in the North, pummeling towers, schools, bridges, leaving a heap of rubble in their passing wake. The sight of firing squads, executions on sectarian grounds. Intricate assassinations and eruptions of violence. Still, he had hope. Until, it was gone.

He felt guilty, for losing the only weapon he had. It wasn’t just hope in his hometown, it was everywhere, but here felt different. Here he had had hope. Elsewhere, where he had no hope now, he may never have had it, but here it had deceived him. He felt betrayed.

As a child, as the world economy fell to pieces, and wars sprouted across the Fertile Crescent, North Africa, and Eastern Asia, sending large swathes of refugees across borders, nations forced to absorb the burden of neighborly wars, and still distant neighbors refusing entry to a growing mass of displaced peoples. He had watched, from the celebratory streets, from television screens flashing their addictive neon lights, the ending of two occupations, five years apart. The enemy withdrawal from the south, the tyrant’s withdrawal from the north. Still people complained, where was the cleansing of Zionist terrorists from the Golan, from Shebaa, from the metaphysical space that rules the country. How long would we wait to clear the mosques of Jerusalem from the filth of an occupying force? How long must the parliament in Martyr’s Square stand as a beacon of foreign espionage, black operations, in the region? Early liberators wore sectarian emblems on their sleeves, chanting in unison slogans of patriotism but with the fanfare of radical ideology. The Party of God shone her glory to the world, and Arabs the world over took pride in her success. To free Arab land from the enemy’s grip, that was a victory no standing army had achieved. But soon, the clash of sectarian titles stormed the ancient cities of Damascus and Aleppo, merging with a deepening quagmire in Iraq, and the recent victory soured into a devastating quagmire of its own. Years later, where he stood now, every foreign face had become an enemy, every neighbor had become a threat.

The memory of his youth sprang to his mind. Marching through the waterfront to protest a string of assassinations. Months after he first arrived, he would hide himself in his room, with a group of trusted friends, for two, sometimes three days, while the violence spread outside, raging and claiming the reality on the ground, and they would loosen the mood with bottles and bottles of wine, whiskey, crates of beer, joint after joint, some high grade weed he would pay extra for, ordering more than they would ever need, and the infamous Lebanese hash that he so coveted, from the valleys, from the Christian lowlands, from the slums of West Beirut. He tried everything, and everything worked. Cough syrup, during some of the curfews. Tabs of LSD during a lull in the fighting. Most of all, they enjoyed the heavy handed pills sweeping through the underground. By the time he had finished his first eyar of studies, he had become a symbol of political antagonism, courting only the dregs, the washed up, those who would not raise their voice for politics. Once, in his first few weeks in Beirut, he had been invited to partake in a weekly poker match between friends, friends of his older brother, friends of friends. No sooner had they divided the chips, drawn the cards, than a fight broke out between two of the players. Within minutes, the table had been turned, a gun was pulled to one of the player’s heads, and he realized the magnitude of the situation. They were not just politically inclined, politically charged, politically curious. His contemporaries were political militants, and they did not view their militancy through an intellectual framework, which he might understand, enjoying long debates on the utility of warfare, for the economy especially, the utility of torture, secret police, dirty tactics. He was not an idealist, but this was real. At the end of that night, sitting around a dining table, several of the guests now drunk, the two who had fought earlier having made up, enjoying the last remains of a spliff, he decided he did not want to be like them. He didn’t want to be like them, he wanted to be better. He wanted to raise the stakes of militancy. He wanted to build a name.

He walked now along the deserted harbor between two bridges, delegating two ends of the same tribe. He thought of the girls he shared his days with, who he remembered vividly on such walks. He lit a cigarette and greeted the fishermen, absorbed in the quiet of their craft. He took interest in the image of families crowding along the shore, just below the abandoned amusement park, where he’d fallen in love as a child. He continued walking, reaching the white sands at the southern tip of the peninsula. There lay a few groups down by the water taking in the sun. He remembered nabbing crabs off the sand blocks to toss wildly into the air in fits of joy, trying his best to impress her. Reaching the renovated shoreline, newly abandoned resorts, quieter now in the twilight of autumn, he watched schoolchildren huddled beneath the waterfalls, lying under the Mediterranean sun waiting on the waves. The waves that do not disappoint. The sea that is my home.

He listened to the silence of his mind, allowing the breeze to settle in. There had been many nights, many days, where he wandered without end, thinking of an earlier time, a different time. He would often wonder if it all really happened, or if he managed to believe the journeys of his dreams. The music is in my veins, he wrote one night, while she lay in bed beside him. He watched her that night, amazed, wondering, had he sought her out or had she? Did she really exist? Did he? At times, they felt so abnormally compatible it would feel as though they were distinguished from the rest. Others would applaud them but they ought ot have pitied them, knowing it would not last. Not here, he thought, nothing lasts.

The flash of a photographer’s camera startled him. His face grim, he felt in that moment swaying between the protagonist and antagonist of his own life’s film. He could not tell in that moment whether the crowd of strangers, who had taken no interest in him, had inconspicuously formed an audience. He felt paranoid, all of a sudden, feeling incontrovertibly alone. Something in a moment’s force must have triggered his pandering to feelings of nostalgia, he thought.

He rushed through the city in an anxious panic towards the museum. Cinema Paradiso was playing at the film center. He rushed a smoke outside and went inside to buy a ticket. He wondered how much time he had before the film would begin, asking, and was told it would begin in twenty minutes. He was not carrying a watch or a phone.

He went back outside to catch some fresh air. Cool winds easing the day’s burn off his face. The delicacy of an autumn evening, he thought, so that in that moment he did feel comfort, and felt his peculiar otherness rise from the shadows of subordination. His senses heightened and his mind lifted past his thoughts to emptiness. He concluded in that brief moment of tranquility that the following day would be one of grave consequence.

 

 

 

from Eldorado; the nihilist pig

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first hit came from behind. I fell to the ground. Kicks to the head knocked me unconscious. I was left lying on the ground.

Someone must have taken pity on me, because I felt two arms dragging me, taking me to my door, my voice growling over the spit in my mouth. I could hear myself yelling, but I didn’t feel it. My arm was bleeding where I had been slashed by a sickle. My head, swollen, repeated blows driving to the bone. whoever took me home left me outside my building. I was alone.

When I came to it was morning. I had been lying there all night, and as people shuffled past, to work, to their business, back from their night out, nobody dared to kick at my heels, to help me. I found my way up the stairs, into my room. No idea what happened, no recollection, but the faint idea it all started when I arrived, and sometime later I flicked a cigarette at the wrong car.

My temple had been attacked, invaded, security system breached. I lay there a result of weakness. If I wasn’t drunk, I thought, I would’ve cut their throats, all nine of them, hung them with the Syrian flag and a poster of their tyrant burning wrapped around them. I hated them, all of them. I could feel them lingering outside. Beirut didn’t need any more. Roaches, fucking roaches.

 

The next couple weeks were spent in my room, writing. Nobody came by for a visit. I had finally become the recluse I always thought I would be. I couldn’t write, couldn’t make sense between the words and the emotions. Everything turns into an abstraction. The conflict of space, the notion of moving within the space. Drinking like it was my reward. Taking my drawer full of pills. Uppers. Mainly uppers. Adrenaline shots. Adrenaline biscuits. Adrenaline juice. Two pills five times a day. Forty five minutes before the meal. Two other pills, the blue pill, twice a day. To sleep, I take the killer pills. The nightly pills.

You can get whatever pill you want without a prescription. The pharmacists in Beirut know the secret stash of everyone on their block. If you’re honest and tell them you want to take downers so you can forget all the shit in your life, they give you a handful and tell you to feel free to come back. It’s that kind of place. People pity the pitiful and mourn with them.

I found my way to a prescription of Tramal. Loads of it. I realized none of the pharmacies were marking the prescription when I handed it to them. I took it to over forty shops, they all handed me a pack of thirty. I was taking two, three a day. It made me nauseous at first but I could get by with some whiskey. Tobacco seemed to hurt my throat, but the joints made it feel good, special. Sometimes I took too much and fell asleep with my eyes open, laying there for hours, drooling from the corner of my mouth, counting the hours. To stir things up I bought a lot of coke and spent the nights drinking whiskey and listening to the blues. Trying to write. Trying to connect. Nothing happens and you wake up and do it again.

I had a girlfriend volunteering dance lessons after school on 234th street in the Bronx. Those were the days. When I went with her to work, traveling two hundred streets uptown just to make her think that I cared, I’d drop her off at the gates, wave to the kids and head over to one of my friend’s places, score some smoke and fuck until the afternoon was hot. I would shower, fuck her once, twice in the ass if she let me, come into her mouth, come inside her ass. High as can be I would find my way back to the school to meet her with the kids, wave to them with my dead glazed eyes. For some reason the walk from one place to the next, high and pushing past carpet lines of bush, people, bridges and steel, I always felt like I was somewhere else, like I wasn’t in New York, like I was sitting on the floor in my grandmother’s apartment, listening to her stories about my ancestors, her childhood, the things that got away. She drank two sips of cough syrup every night, to fall asleep. I guess she was my model.

The thing I miss most from those days is the bookstores. Walking past the different windows, the different smells that follow you outside. I remember the stained glass windows with the dandy literature and the radical Black Panthers hanging from the ceiling, or the small wooden oak desk that greeted you inside the used bookstores, the smell of old pages, wet wood, stained floor, past rain. Looking through the playwriting section and finding a surprise stack of one act plays written by the scholar on Bataille. Or having the nerve to grab the large ladder and bringing it over to the section you want, climbing the thing and finding hidden in the back commentary on your favorite poets, The Artist’s Journey into the Interior, The Lively Image, this was a poet. Beautiful dreams, beautiful people. Strangers that spend too much time in between the shelves. I remember a lot of drunks in the bookstores.

The problem with different cities is the pain they inevitably cause the people who want to leave but don’t know. Most of it comes down to sex. I could never fuck who I wanted in Beirut, and in New York, I never felt like fucking but I did. I felt like I had to. But the pussy is dirty. The pussy is dry, shit stains clamping up the space. Nobody, and I mean nobody, takes care of their pussy like the Lebanese. It’s a fact. The only problem is, they take Lebanese dicks, which is a problem. Nobody deserves the experience of forming intimate relations with an Arab man.

I could never fuck the immigrants in Beirut and those were the girls I wanted. Pretty Ethiopian girls who knew how to dance. It would ruin me and my family. Ruin everything I owned. In America, fuck whoever you want, just make sure you wrap it up. Plain and simple differences to a dishonest world.

The ghetto has no veneer. There are ways a slum can’t lie on its destitution. The story is right there, plain to see. Some cities don’t look themselves in the mirror long enough to know what the problem is. Fucking a Jewish princess on 65th and Madison is like standing at the gates of Babylon and staring in. She knows she can own anything, but she won’t, because she’s too nervous to possess more than her attachments, more than what she inherited. Fear.

Damaged, everyone I know. Like the rumors of a village whose sons are lost at war, daughters raped by marauding mercenary fighters, who return to meet the soldiers with tales of their cowardly women, and in turn tell the women of their cowardly sons, who never raised their heads but begged at the feet of the soldiers.

 

After a few weeks of being alone, I found my old friend waiting at the door. He walked in before me, pushing open the door.

“How are things with you?”

He stared at me in disbelief.

“You look like real shit man.”

“What do you want me to do?”

“You’re becoming the place.”

He sat down on a couch, cut open with cigarette holes and a large fluff of cotton I pull when I’m mad. Pulling out a smoke, he spoke again.

“Didn’t you want something when you came back? I mean, if you don’t start now, then when? You need to do what you came here to do man.”

“Well, working just doesn’t cross my mind right now.”

“Everyone knows your back. Show your face. It’ll be good for you.”

“If they know I’m back I might as well leave. Fuck them and this fucking place.”

“People just want to see you, see how you’ve been. You had friends here when you left.”

“I wouldn’t call them friends.”

“Well, you look like shit man, with or without any friends.”

Some time passes in an empty vacuum. The words are gone. The lies are gone. There is only the wisdom of lived thoughts and expression.

“What happened between you?”

“I’m sure you’ve heard a side of the story.”

“Nothing I can believe, knowing you.”

“I don’t know.”

“You were different then man. You were full of life. Made me excited to be with you guys, to meet you guys. You destroyed yourself man. Don’t even blame Beirut. It’s you. I don’t see anything that was there anymore man, and it hurts me. You’ve lost something, and you need to get it back. You had a mystery to you. Charm in your eyes. She thought you had it too. She told me. She said you were a mystery. But you thought the mystery died, so you left. And then you stopped believing, because its easy like that, we’ve all done it. But you know what, she told me she never forgot the way you looked at her. She said that to me. But you’re too busy beating yourself up over a fucking rejection here and there. Get over yourself. Pull yourself together.”

“You weren’t there man. You don’t know the choices I was left with.”

“We’ve all had to serve man. You’re lying to yourself.”

He finished his cigarette and left. He reminded me on his way out we were brothers and we’d take care of each other. I told him I didn’t have much to offer and he told me he still believed I did, still believed I had something beautiful inside waiting to be said. In that moment I had no feeling one way or the other.

He left. I cried. I felt myself nearing an end but not one I had chosen, but one that fit me, just right. These terrible things man, meeting the end we design.

 

 

 

 

The Sahel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I sway to a Sahel masterpiece. The alcohol dried from my veins. Am I closer to freedom? Longing for the days that pass themselves. The Jew finds me searching, the producer will extract his latest hit. He talks like he knows exactly what’s going to happen, and when he asks me what I think of the stage, I nod and tell him I’m yet to meet it. He laughs. I’m not laughing.

I pass Jewels on the street. Worn away in his own filth. Using, losing, abusing. His eyes catch mine glaring at him. I halt beside his feet, mangled in dirt, unprotected, diseased. I stand above him, towering. He lifts his neck to acknowledge me. I see death inching nearer in his eyes. Is it really you? the boy who taught me patience and adrenaline under the bridge. He says nothing, his lips thickened to a layer of crust. He tries to reach out to me, hoping to elude his desperation, my fear. I realize, I am ashamed, and I want him to feel shame as well. I remember the days we shared our lice, giving them names and attributes. The human experience! Have you surrendered old friend? Is this how you greet me near the end?

I turn from him and walk away. In my unconscious I hear him call desperately to me. His voice eases off like the rattling panes of a highway expanse. I wonder if he cries. I imagine he has nothing left for tears, the habit is all that keeps him alive. When we were once soldiers and kings. Now he is dead. To the expanding universe, a joke. I hear the curious crowd sneering. Come see, they say, the death of the wasteful prophets. Before death we had wisdom. After, we retain nothing. Achieving what is only imagined. I have not seen those deserving more.

Death is everywhere. For the willing, for the unaware. The cleansing of our age. I know Lorenzo is in the hospital, for good, resting there until the pass. It’s only a matter of time. Still, I am afraid to cry. Even those too grand to die. Even those too grand to die.

I wonder about your death. If you and I will die as equals. Lorenzo clutches his stories, storing them away where he’ll find them in the afterlife. They think it’s absurd, but it’s there, waiting. All I can think about is the sad fact I’ll never see you again. To waste away without you noticing. He says he knows what’s on the other side, and if he’s wrong, well, he’s been homeless his whole life, he’ll find a good place to rest. When I leave, he is asleep.

He didn’t ask about his son, about Panama and if she’s past the cure. He slept. Today, I say, is a day for mourning. Realizing we’ve lost everything and everyone. I’m unsure whether I’m the cause of my devastation. But there’s no real way to bypass the mood. Everything in our hearts is gone.

It’s a day like today where the fallen leaves choreograph the rhythm of my emotion that I find myself wandering without end, expecting nothing but the calming silence of urban noise. I walk, holding my luxuries in two palms. Disciplining myself. To march undeterred. To waltz. The signature of freedom is an unobstructed stroll.

I make my way towards the water. I hear a flute sing across the Atlantic. I rest my finger in my mouth to taste the scent of my origins. A large void filled with whispers and wails. Tribesmen gathering to undress their clothes. I rest, naked, in a valley nestled between two towering dunes. The camel herders race beside me. I lunge on a camel and ride, beating into an encampment not far from where we met, watching in the distance tribes settling near an oasis. The eldest of them watches me pass. He brushes his teeth. I engage the man in discussion, worried that he’ll ask me my name. He doesn’t dare to ask, knowing that I have none.

At the height of a dune a wild woman washes herself in prayer. I rise to approach her, forced ahead by  an unabating desire to ferment my seed under her fabric. But the sand gives beneath my feet. I’m unable to climb so I rest, enamored, knowing the angel will not notice the stranger.

A mother herds her children below, hailing them in for supper. I smell the rising fumes of an evening fire. The sun delivering her last, consequential gifts. Particle air dissolves on my face. I wipe my eyes. The woman atop the dune is gone.

I ease away from the camp. Dusk in the desert is fierce. The flight of a gazelle leads me to you, where I stand now, wishing. You come and go. When you vanish I wander, when you appear I sustain, collecting the decay of your absence.

I knock on the Jew’s door. She answers wearing her mother’s robe. I look at her, hoping to exude my presence. I’ve been remembering things. Can I sleep next to you? She lets me in. I take off my clothes, placing them to the side. She holds me, resting her head on my shoulder, her arms strapped across my chest. The smell of her form lifts me. Have you written? I have, that’s why I’m here. I lie down.

She slides on top of me. I hold her against my body. She escorts me inside her. Slowly, she rides. I let have control, she wants it. I watch her eyes, stuttering with pleasure. I feel the erratic tapping of her fingers, keeping time on my neck. When I close my eyes I find you. I want to scour the earth in pursuit of you. She kisses me with an expressive tongue. She bites my chin, holding her grasp in my hair. Tightens, loosens. The intensifying moans. The crescendo of enjoyment. Orgasm.

I close my eyes, thinking of you. First I draw, then I imagine. Following, the world falls to pieces. When it chooses to rebuild it chisels a likeliness to —, a being not yet described. That is why find ourselves impatient in questioning, and I find myself in search of you. I will never know —. But I have known you.

The Jew sleeps, tightly pressed against my chest, the waves of my breathing easing her to sleep. She’s light. Her shadow whistles in the autumn air, impressing the bells on the windowsill. Whenever I close my eyes, you’re there. The night passes dreadfully slow. I count sheep smoking cigarettes and joints, to no avail. I remember the times I watched you sleep, gracefully designed patterns of breathing and sighs. In my mind I kiss you. In my mind you are alive.

I find the Emperor on the road. Beside him is the old man cane master and Black Adam. Black Adam sings one of his beautiful bird chimes in quarter beats. He wears a crucifix with a Native American Jesus. The Emperor tells me to go to Detroit. Get out of here, he says, you can even get a house there. What you do is professional, he says.

I roll a smoke and take a backseat. Black Adam asks if I want to read something. I want to, but what, from where? The urging mire in my lungs. Sing us a song, the Black Adam says.

I leap up a few steps to look down on them.

Regard me kind gentlemen of the urban procedure! This will only take a moment of your precious time. I want to tell you the honest truth, my friend. This what we call life is not the result of some joke. Together we embark on the latest, fabled chapters. I won’t have you assume you know my circumstance, my past- the whole thing is a story. I can only tell you what I know, and what I know is what I’ve seen and experienced. I will relay this but you will not repeat a word.

            My heart is not a motive. I am ruled by the prospect of anarchy. Let me tell you, when I sense things are settling, I disrupt them. This is my nature. Are you surprised? Otherwise, how else would I be here? I am like a wandering form of persecution. I want to enlist but it will not happen. But I am free, you understand. I can have anything, instead I have as little as I do. In truth, it is because I fear possessing. I fear what I might lose. but you, my friend, do not. Perhaps, you will gift me, and share with me your secret. I may seem foreign to you, but I sleep in your basement, and in your bed. And when I speak your language you understand. Will I ever become you? We will see…

            A summer storm enrolls uninvited. The mood changes. Black Adam rushes off to find brotherhood under the decks. Old man cane master dawdles away in his steady stride, the contour of his upper lip standing ground, collecting wells of water under the rain. The Emperor takes his shorts off and asks me to go on. What more do I have to say, without the accompaniment of a band? But a scent draws me away to a memory. I fade from 4th street, finding that holy crevice in my mind. A monument I erected to my youth. I watch as cars pass along the highway. We sit by the sea, crossing our legs in the direction of the mountains. Didn’t we bury innocence on Mount Sannine? Or by the shallow rocks of Naqqoura?

She finds me off Rue du Pasteur smoking spliffs in the parking lot. I jump into the car. We burn through the space with speed. I ask her to pull over, needing to piss. We decide to desecrate the monument symbolizing our independence. She asks me to go first. We urinate on a statue marking Alexander the Great’s passage through the country. We urinate on the plaque that suggests we are free.

I kiss her. I tell her if she disappears I will scourge the earth in pursuit of her. She doesn’t take me seriously, drifting away form my sight, leaving me with the hope of an uplifted skirt.

In the morning the street is overrun by militants, pre-pubescent slaves carrying Ak-47s and RPGs. I laugh from the window, counting the juice cartons they carry in their hands. She rolls a spliff, attaching a paper flag of our nation off the tip of the joint. We burn the spliff in silence, passing it around like an ill fated gift. To the sound of bats and crickets and intermittent shells. Candlelight and stale coffee. I stare across the room, plotting my eyes against hers. She has to leave to the border in the morning.

We wait for dawn without saying a word. I walk her to the university grounds, where a bus waits to evacuate her kind. I walk back home, surrounded by militants drinking their juice, smoking their cigarettes, tanning under the sun. There isn’t a sound in the air, the fighting in the capital is over. The battle will move to the mountains. So will we. We pack our things and leave.

I look back across the water, where I know my heart has already sailed in pursuit of love and home not damaged. We park outside the city lines. Smoke fills the air above my home. A black clouds settles over the city, hovering like a sacred shroud of Beirut. We pass the spliff along. I take a solitary walk to the end of the pier. I cry. I never see her again.

The weeks pass in seclusion. I read The Plague and think of you. I imagine you’ve found another way home. The only thread of life is the marking on my arm. I stare over the hills of Kfardebian. Summer looks soon to arrive, dry winds coming in off the horizon. I wonder if my front door is locked, if it matters. The others play Frisbee on an open plain, counting their blessings and their wrongs. Where are the others? The perks of war, solitude. I miss the West Beirut grind, the cellar and open binge, telling stories of a forgotten past. Soon I return home. Everything is changed.

 

 

 

 

The Fountain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I wash my hands beside a fountain. A man stands beside me grumbling and spitting tales under his breath. The myths permeate his mind. Voices in the distance and our immediate past. He knows this, better than you or I. I leave and watch him follow my footsteps, drawing himself towards the fountain. He washes his face and then his parts, applying the water tenderly against his ailing skin. He is diseased, that much is obvious. His body is losing, his mind, squandered, and if he admits he has no soul left he will find himself dead in the alone. Tell me you never want this for me. Tell me I deserve dignity, home. Take me with you when you go, to the slaughterhouse rooftops, the pier off the lighthouse, the steps at my grandmother’s home. I will feed you honey and dates I collect from a camel’s womb. Are you listening? Let’s circle the tribes with the whirling dervish who caught our souls dancing! The wise man says, “I am superior and alive in thinking of you,” while the sage says, “Home is in my hands.” I clench my hands together to hold you in my palms. To keep you there, where you are safe, and a stranger’s harm won’t near you.

Night falls. The floor of rats pray by my fingers tracing the jungle of our disguise. The streets bare naked in anarchy. Sniffing fume proposals from an authoritarian nightmare. Will we meet again? If you sense desperation in my voice it is only because today I remember the woman who burnt herself alive before us all and we did nothing but scold ourselves in her memory. The bums fall over begging for change, and a second chance, for legacy. I point to the fountain two levels away on the ground. The eyes tell me they want mine, from my hands. I give them my hands, to feel them. The youngest tells me to go on home, the time is almost over. “I’m waiting for permission.” “From what,” he asks, “…to have a home is to really have one.”

Warnings from the Hassidic tides- the full moon is arriving. Waxing and waning of an inner turmoil. Archetypes and comforting signs. The chance to exhibition a monologue is given to me. What will I read? Has it been commissioned? I hear the bells ring the city’s charm. I remember the instruments off my uncle’s good arm. The cigarette plastered to my grandmother’s lips, reading a kind joke. I trace figures of the prophet and my sister in an embrace. My father’s moustache, my lover’s hands. I wander the vacuum of memory, sit on the edge of the park grass. A resting place. To die without form. To incarnate into energy. As I leave an old man asks to take a photograph of his face and hands, ruined in the biting twilight. He points at a stack of cameras on the ground. “Is one of them yours?” He shrugs. I step over the punk with his head in the gutter. His wounds fit firmly in his skin. I hide the urge to laugh. A hooker turns without her shoes. She counts riches with the wetness of her cunt. “How much longer do I have?” She orgasms.

The bells ring universal alms. The sick bastard is gone, off somewhere, losing his fight to the disease, offering his tongue to the minors who walk in. The fools eat my nails when I lunge them at their eyes. I  yearn for the taste of melancholy. The summer sheds her precious filament skies. Spring won’t set in next year I can feel it. I am the poet I never dreamed. I sleep with the little mystics in the courtyard, overlooking the water from the hospital garden. I wonder if the image of death is blatantly bound to the image of a garden, hounded by scriptures that pervade the chimes. The word sits in a figurehead’s drawer. Installations lit on fire by the river. The contents of mind disinfecting. “The part that hurts the most was sorting who to pay for burial.” I sleep with my neighbor because he’s gone blind. I drown in your aimless reaches. The flood restores my agency.

 

 

 

 

The Illumination of BARA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I walk across the water barefoot. Imprints plastered on the wall. An erotic gesture by the painter, the piling of needles masking the illusion of form. I bite the shell of a snail, pulse into her skin, for you.

“Have you met the mystics?”

“I’ve been watching you.”

            The clans, cyphers in abnormal robes.

As he rose to leave, he wounded a stationary guard, elbowing him in the gut. Leaving the gallery, I noticed her across the street, watching me.

“Have you made your amends?”

“You should be afraid.”

Hesitant to continue, detained in a state of ambiguity, he felt himself rowing circles.

The creature chosen to depict the painting is muted and lifeless.

He reaches the entrance when a voice steps in his way.

“Will you stay in the city?”

He knew he was being watched.

            A shipment arrives off the port. Officers patrol the borders.

            Did I ever tell you of the time I watched a child dancing barefoot from an adjacent window?

The moment passes in silence.

He says nothing, continues walking.

Passing the ghosts.

I push through the crowd. The theater, in chains.

“What were your intentions?”

            “Tell me about my peers.”

He sighs, digressing through latitudes of space. Turning  back to his mortar on the horizon. His eyes centered on the diluted canvas. A hint of soot painted onto his face. He watches over the silence near the dome. Later, when the sun took her turn to recede, he napped for a while, lying naked against the pavement. A prelude, seasonal passing of pilgrimage. They had thought it was similar to those earlier betrayals of revolt. Seers caught in rapture. Fault to those who believed change was imminent, hoping to salvage a republic never existed but in the poetry of their nostalgic minds.

“The port is empty.”

“Would you pass under the bridge?”

He turns generously, completing an orbit in my eyes. The stranger drifting from hindsight. Brittle instruments buried at the bend, where they had been left for him to notice. The lute, escorting his burden.

It’s the ones you know will leave you take a beating from.

Natives lose the dance. I nap on a bench. A light drizzle falls.

“Has anything changed?”

“The room has been like this for years.”

An eroding writer’s desk. The signs of an empty stomach.

“You left, because of what happened.”

He remembered, when he had returned, she had already left. He had forgotten what had been said, trying as best he could not to mention the dream.

            The accomplice calls. Night buses carry the willing over the mountains, the patients drifting into a hollow sleep. He tried for a forward step, something to intimate his progress. Backwards along the streets. Past the abandoned temples. The empty parks. An alley line of mudhouses near the water.

The window opens. I remember my first steps in an estranged past. Bodies carved open, nailed onto the walls. A place to disappear. The hall is empty.

A careful figure approaches, clothed in a layer of blankets. He said he would be off, that he had somewhere else to go.

“Are you a man of virtue?”

He enters the establishment from the rear, climbing a wire gate. The figure rests against a doorframe. A key from the nightstand locks the door. Stiff hands withdraw the blinds.

“I have gifts.”

Burning incense. He removed himself into her mouth.

The innocent, under his feet. The voices, over the threshold.

“Have you seen them want?”

“They are always wanting.”

The fringes of existence.

“You are a teacher.”

“I suffer.”

He stops, lunging to hold a drifter by the arm, but the image escapes him, the faint outline of a passer easing away. The faces disappearing into the empty halls. The patchwork etched on wood. He wants to show you the room.

He predicted, footsteps gracing the water.

I walk onto the bridge. The end blinded in surgical mist. He wondered, is it true about the pamphlets, reaching into his pockets, letting his hand sit there some time.

The seagulls cry. The crows taunt.

“How many waters have we passed?”

Caves dug beneath the façade of an overlying boardwalk. Watered stone. Lighthouse, in the distance. You pass under the tiled roof. The smell of freshly baked bread. He hung his legs over the tarnished rails, his feet drenched in the open air. The voice of our companion, spoken over the rust of passing smoke into his lungs. The stare of the shaman’s warning. The eradication of the natives.

            I act alone.

He had remained curious, holding his eyes on his lower left arm, resting in the pocket of his shirt. He pulled his hands from the jacket, stacks of papers bound together finally revealed.

He hands me the book.

He accepted the book into his hands, one arm busy with the exchange. Heaviness, having born it down all these years.

I open the notebook. It is empty.

Time’s virtual halt, it was not until he rose to address the mirage that he spoke again, having experience enough of the medicine to know he had moved on.

The journey is relentless. The ranks of revolt. The crumbs of a dream.

“Do you want that?”

People gather in the square.

The imaginary, in motion. The blessed, where they were left. Whirling orbits.

He decided it would be best to trade places.

The shape of the keys. The reflection of the light.

I want to paint the corners of your lips, but it has been too long.

He had trouble identifying with images he did not witness first hand. How could he dialect into verse things outside the program of his eyes? He wanted to leave the room, but he knew he would be followed some moments later. He reached into his pouch, searching for an apothecary’s jewel to distil into his drink.

A stack of broken shelves. Canned foodstuffs. Cats bathed in a litter. He nudges past a curtain, shying away into the dark.

I enter a supply room, filled with ideas unopened. A trail of light leads his eyes to a window, draped over the opening of a wooden door. He studies the room.

Candles laid flat on the windowsill. Lying on the floor, waiting for you. Playing the fool. Molesting the pupil.

He nods his head, ignoring the qualification emerging that he had let slip his mind. Does he suffer his own designs? Revelation is a dying sport. He had witnessed the unnatural sacrifice their young, grown cold where other hearts would bend. He had become an inconsequential sovereign to his mind. The windows, present to strange mysteries. On the fringes of poverty he felt disowned. Walking further to the constructs of his memory. Nostalgic to the generation of his father. His eyes grave, he turned towards the mirror left enchanting the room.

“In my life, certain cities reached such heights the mere mention of their name could lift a populace.”

            He told me, Certain cities I watched fall.

I sit in wonder at the faces, passing along the screens without the aid of remorse.

            He turned to the stance he had taken before, preparing his rite for the mystics.

The corridor is known to be long. He never turned around, disappearing into the distance. The vein of distaste in his mouth. He notices commotion at the entrance.

“Remember when you wrote me, you were on the cusp of revelation?”

He tilted his words, to spare his being mediocre, but more, honored to pass the walls discreetly, under the microscope of war. Distractions, from the room that is a mirror, the walk that does not move.

By becoming BARA, BARA is nothing

Centered where everything is nothing, he felt nothing combine to resemble an absolutist whole.

“When I speak, whole murders of crows bow to my voice.”

He saw the turn where the ferries would harbor.

Later, when we love, take as long as you need to kiss me, I will make it last.

Contemporaries flee to tend disorder. Horns sound the morning sun. I remove you from my thoughts, play a song in dedication.

Free passage. The overcoat of terror. Is there an innocent part of me still?

His aged hand leading the way, he leads me through the rooms. A guide sits still at the foot of the mountain. He waves me away. The face arrives, resemblance of you. She walks into the ornament room. Wiping her feet at the fountain. He could outrun the beast, but he must have known the terrain, realizing a serious fall might leave him blinded. An elderly arrived at his side, carrying a paddle. He takes the paddle into his hands, setting it against the woodwork of the boat, taking his seat on the rear. He unfastens his shoes, removes his coat. He twitches his toes, easing them into the sand. The elderly speaks coarsely in his native tongue. Directing words at an emptiness.

“There will be a storm tonight. I shouldn’t want you out there alone.”

            Winter fire. The pupil’s cabin. Wounded in the woods.

He lay there, immersed in the earth. Beside his body, a fire refused to light. It had been lit sometime before. Someone had been there. Something. He departed his body, viewing it as an extraordinary vessel distant from his arms. The surrounding wilderness, and the fire. As he departed his solitary form, rising in alternate conception, he enjoyed hovering over the vessel, seeing from above the matter he had consumed. He remembered, I drifted further and further away from the subject. He continued to rise, seeing with great precision, an expansion manifest around his departed form. His figment on the expanding zenith.

A call echoes for the stranger. He turned to me on his way, and then he was gone.

“The clouds are gathering.”

Unmoved, gathering his footprints. The feeling had passed. He did not turn towards the pier, well and away at sea.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 touches

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The voice of a director seeps into the light

towards cleansing, the finger flute rings

I am at the camp, in mourning

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He takes a look at the surroundings, drawing in his breath. She stands in an adjacent window, underwatched. He senses her, while she waits for him. Am I really there? I tell the best of them we are treasure, conforming to sip our lies. He chose to be the one who ends things. The ascetics passing through captivity.

It was said, then, that he’d had no guilt to contend with, but would he, if he’d ordained torture in some other life, if he’d been destructive.

Evading the melody of war

marching home

the architect is an artist, he thought

look, what pain he sows

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I visit my brother’s keeper

we are a leap from my kiss

 

 

 

 

the hand with the Gifts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In The Sacrifice, the moment preceding the group’s arrival at the encampment, where the character is to meet the militant crowd of the director, and the moment following his denunciation by the juggler as a mystic, the protagonist finds himself on the edge of a cliff, with the gypsy by his side. As they engage in an act of love, the narrative finds its balance, and we are escorted from the realm of mystery into the folds of narrative, and direction. He writes,

 

At the first sight of dawn we come upon a valley. I’ve heard of it in dreams, in waking lectures, in the poetry of our ancestors, haven’t you? I hear winter rains flood the periphery of the settlement, leaving the centerpiece dry, for students of artistry and theology, locals native to the area, to cleanse themselves in a surrounding body of water, a lake that circles their homes. I hear the shamanic guides of the Americas and Germania send their honorary disciples to erect temples             beneath the ground, within the soil, to protect them against siege, or seizure by an aggressive state, republican apparatus, void of soul. Have I used the word before? I mean it differently, having left the inner city, immersing myself in the gifts of the natural world. My heart still wanders in search of a home, but my feet are firmly planted against the offered grains. I hope it can still be true, your heart races when you hear me, my mind waivers in the cold.

We park the caravan on the edge of a cliff. I sit on the cusp of the highland, pooled in overlying grass, layering my feet in the mud. The gypsy sits beside me, playing with her hair with one hand, whispering to herself from a book of passages. She looks over at me, noticing my curious           mind. She draws closer, taking a seat by my legs, resting at my feet, where she bites me, and I lean in closer for a kiss. She returns to her poetry, and I wander, watching children in the distance freeing in the empty fields, picking sunflowers and lilies, dancing gaily under the assailing sun.

 

The scene continues, entering a state of dreamlike traveling, an expedition into the usual diffused state of memory and sensory perception.

 

I think of our southern passages in the summer, the accident we had near birth, the old capital of your father’s resting place, thyme and sesame in my eyes. Counting time with my fingers against the earth, against the gypsy’s hair, earlobes, hands. I trace figures of our prophet, betrayed near the peninsula dwelling, embracing you in love, touching my father’s moustache, kissing my sister’s hands, yours. Do you ask precaution, as I wander the vacuum of memory, hoping to find a resting place. Look how sweet the songbird sings, soaring our trespassing with delight. Rejoice in the forms, death without transformation but incarnation into energy. I know that, going elsewhere, and this is where we’ve come, finding ourselves entrenched into the desert, tempted between a valley and the stone held temples of our youth. The gypsy holds my hand, lifts herself to within my hold, resting against my body, her weight soothing onto mine. I am alive, pleased, astonished. The wind clears against my face, we kiss, I laugh, she digs deep into my eyes, forming a vision with the subtle clenching of her teeth, licking of her lips. Are we at the intention? I know better than to ask. She wraps her arms around my neck.

 

As the moment of ritual arrives the protagonist is gripped with a sense of hesitation, falling victim to the conduits of memory.

 

The midsummer sun only rising, the smell of pine trees breathing my lungs, the wetness of the morning grass cleaving into stains, I have nothing to ask or answer, fresh off the boat, riding into spring, a winter I’ve never seen never becomes me, or does it, do we whistle away the summer with jasmine in our hair? I return her stare with my own, return her touch with a gentle nudge of my forehead against her. I am the sum of all these parts. I have something to confess.

 

The confession never arrives, the moment interrupted by the others of the caravan. But they disappear, in a moment’s flash, taking with them the hesitation of his words, and his movement.

 

I take off her outer blouse, a thin scarving wool. She holds me, rests her head on my shoulder. I feel the outlines of her back, the feeling of her body easing into mine. She rests her head on my chest, we          fall against the grass, her eyes glow beneath the sunlight, a sacred dance of pity wolves, I smell her, it lifts the surrounding acres.

I lie down, she slides on top of me. I hold her against my body, letting our breathing synchronize to one. She escorts me inside of her, slowly, and she rides. I let her have control. Have it, I say. I let her, watching her eyes stuttering with pleasure, her moans growing with erratic force, she pounds a fist onto the grass, lightly, clenching both of her hands.

 

A character who is too often forced into the channels of his thoughts tries his best to relinquish, to surrender to the given moment, and yet, even within the force of ritual he cannot, and returns – as we see in the continuation of the passage- to the memory of another, a symbol, perhaps, or a lost love. A figment of the imagination that returns to him again and again, in variations of the variable story. Where has she gone? Who is she? The clues are there, within the words, and without, somewhere between the lines of his drawing and the escaped virtue of empty space. The canvas reflects her image, as we shall see.

 

When I close my eyes I find you. I want to scour the earth in pursuit of you. The gypsy kisses me violently. She bites my chin, holds her grasp in my hair, begging for control. She tightens, she loosens, her moan intensifies, her stuttering cries, I anticipate the crescendo of her enjoyment, she orgasms, I listen, she builds, I flee. Feeling her jitters, I close my eyes thinking of you. First I draw, then I imagine. Following, the world falls to pieces. When it chooses to rebuild itself, it chisels a likeliness to a being not yet described. That is why we find ourselves impatient in questioning, and I find myself in search of you. I will never know the being, but I have known you.

She sleeps, tightly pressed against my chest. When I close my eyes you are still there, always. I remember watching you sleep, gracing patterns of breathing and sighs. In my mind I kiss           you. In my mind you are alive.

 

An interesting albeit highly speculative reading of this poem reveals a character who appears simultaneously, similarly with these images of suppressed sexuality, suppressed nature of self, and the conscious subjugation and oppression of woman- a woman who, in her palms, he reads the testimony of the future.

 

I sat on the ground with my palms open offered to her as she eased their tension with the gifts, telling me stories of Germany’s enchanted forest swirling in magic. As I sat before her and her eyes twinkled recollecting Ayahuasca ceremonies in the south of Germany, the tradition of her ancestral letters, I thought of the gulf growing between me and my people.

 

The woman with the gifts appears consistently throughout the entire evolution of his work, beginning with this brief statement. She harbors within her presence – and whenever she appears it is definitively of these various subjects- the conflicted nature of our hero.[35] For one, it is clear that she appears to have within her grasp the ultimate fruits of self awareness- a self that stands outside the practice of political time. In another illumination of her being, the protagonist is seen in an editing room, editing the last remaining reels of an experimental film, an essay designed to project the traumatic sequences of contemporary political life in the Arab world. He is seen pacing the room, reading out loud from a book. The woman is there, following him with her eyes. He looks at her and stops before picking back up the book. Finally, he falls to the floor, sitting in front of her, with his palms held out, for support- a recurring theme in the beginning stages of their interaction, alluding to her symbolic nature as a healing figure, possibly the only healer we find in the entirety of his collected work.

 

He sits on the floor. I feel capable of terrible things, he says. I’m not, but there’s too much of their anger inside of me. You come from a good place, he says. I’m tainted. I’m not compelled toward beautiful things. I’m obsessed by tragedy.

She holds his face. You’re beautiful, she says. She kisses his forehead, his nose, his lips. I’m here because I want to be here.

Later their bodies are entangled in the act of love. Here we are safe, she says.

 

If we look further into the writer’s work, we find that she appears at various intervals as a sign of hope, a healing hand, a giver of light.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Foreword

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is an irrefutable condition among prominent, immersive writers, who live in a state of omnipresent dread, for the inevitability of ending. The concept derives is illuminated in the closing remarks of Calvino’s novel, whereby the narrator claims, in the final pattern of writing, that, “The ultimate meaning to which all stories refer has two faces: the continuity of life, the inevitability of death.”

I discovered the archives of The Seahorse Press  in a little antiquariat on Proskauer Strasse, in the long and dreadful winter of 2015, year of the sheep. Actually, by all accounts, it was a mild winter. It must have snowed no more than three times. On one occasion, I was watching some cheesy American films at a friend’s house near Samariterstrasse, finishing as much wine as we could before our girlfriends wrapped up their night out. At some point he offered me some Ketamine and I obliged, having only done it once or twice, while still a student in Beirut. I did a lot of drugs in those days, and it surprises me to this day that I never heard of Dani Arbid. I heard of the Reservation. A mythical place. A meeting point for every mischievous soul between Jerusalem and Damascus. His house was in many ways an institution. But anyway, I took my share of the K and within minutes I was relaxed into an elongated stretch, and however much time passed can only be measured by the culmination of our film. I finally had enough nerve to turn around, reaching for my wine glass, resting on the windowsill. As I turned my shoulders, arching my back, my eyes were drawn to the havoc developing outside. A real storm took shape, and within minutes the entire metropolitan area of Berlin was covered in a blanket of white. That was the only snow I experienced that winter. And so it was mild, very mild, but it was grey, and disturbing, and dreadful on the soul. times were changing, times were developing in the strangest ways. A paradigm shift, and all around me, the circuit of death glowing with acute brightness. Maybe we sacrificed some of our greatest shepherds, and some of the flock, for the sake of survival. Maybe they sacrificed themselves, entertaining their own delusions of apocalypse. We buried some beautiful souls that winter, that much is sure. Daria, who stepped in the path of a passing train. Had she found a portal? Was she given a sign? I don’t have the answers, the questions that linger from those days are the questions I continue to ask myself. And Scott, diagnosed with cancer, informing me on the night of Daria’s memorial, before he took center stage and played the drums, initiating a shamanic ritual for the peaceful public. How much of our souls were lost? How much has been saved? I discovered the archives of The Seahorse Press, and in many ways, it’s the day that saved my life. The owner of the bookstore, Andreas, a middle aged man with a handsome smile, who reminded me of a bar owner in Beirut albeit without the alcohol addiction and the stained, charred teeth, invited me to stay for dinner, and though I was grateful for the invitation, I was captivated by something I had found, and wanted to return home immediately to go through it, to preserve the infatuation, I guess.

On the cover of the magazine, the only issue to date, is just the emblem of the print, a tiny seahorse, and beneath the seahorse, the four letters that came to change my life. B A R A. Bara. BARA. BARA. Opening the magazine, I found that it was just a series of essays on a novel I had never heard of. An essay on the relationship between BARA and the poetics of ecstasy. An essay that explores and illuminates the grave importance of Lorca’s duende on the process of manifesting Arbid’s BARA. another essay that relates an essay on Whitman’s aesthetics to the form of Arbid’s literature. A few essays that capture the explicit political manifesto inherent to Arbid’s creative oeuvre, namely, his rejectionist policies towards neo-imperialist politics, his innate disillusionment and consequential humiliation of contemporary Arab monarchies, his striving for a new political home. Essays that illustrate the characterization of BARA, the magnitude to which BARA ought to be preserved not as a novel as such but as a series of paintings, a dissertation, through literary, linguistic forms, on the very nature of literature, on the possibilities of literature. All of the essays, at first glance and after further reading, are of a very capable caliber. You can imagine my excitement, discovering the one book of criticism on a mysterious novel out of my hometown. BARA. I started saying the name out loud, annunciating the letters, letting each letter drip and rest on the tip of my tongue. Ba-a-ra. Ba-ra. Bara.

I don’t want to waste your time. You can imagine my excitement and my displeasure. The essays were of considerable interest to me, comparative literature drawing parallels between Lorca and this mysterious character Arbid, who I should have known. Essays that touched upon the work of Joseph Campbell and Mircea Eliade, two scholars whose work for Princeton University Press’ Bollingen Series was of great interest to me during my cosmos period of university, when I was taking a lot of LSD and mushrooms, preferring the acid to the city and reserving mushrooms for the mountains, and we had been surrounded by such expansive ignorance that my only hobby at the time was to imbibe myself with whiskey, gin, any kind of powerful spirit, smoke the red, the blond, the gold and the brown hashish of Lebanon’s famed valley, and read scholarly investigations on Man and his Universe. The work of Carl Jung, the work of Ezra Pound. Georges Bataille and William Blake. It’s true, I read mostly male authors, but that’s really a problem of the industry, not of my own taste. Most women write from the vantage point of a victim, and when an individual asserts their inferiority by exemplifying its attributes, well, they perpetuate and in man ways come to symbolize the problem, thereby doing a great disservice to progression. Societies of the West and those Oriental, primitive states whose societies have been annexed and impoverished, transformed into a sad, disgraceful mimicries of Western states, are not as evolved as they may seem, or as they claim to be. I have been lucky in my life to study under professors who admit the faults of their own intellect, and by doing so, illuminate the faults of their own kind. So to say that Arbid’s writing is any more or less sentimental, political, or dramatic may be true, but to say that the surface under investigation is of any one quality is a deterministic virtue of Orientalism, and I reject that method entirely. The work that will determine the course of our literary endeavors over the next century, a century that will probably witness the great and horrible demise of the United States of America, not as a military power, because before it falls deeper into the shadows of its own colossal image it will ravage the earth with indiscriminate bloodshed, will represent a new language, a new aesthetics, that incorporates without neglecting or attempting to define the lost heritage of global cultures who have been usurped by the modern era and its agents, who fashion the world into a one dimensional, unidirectional pyramid of privileges and qualities, with the economic elite of the United States, Great Britain, France and Germany idling away at the helm, diffusing the great significance of the world in their gastrointestinal tracts like triple Michelin star, state dinners.  What you should remember while reading this work is this: the novel under question has never been seen by anyone but the writer himself, and several in his inner circle, who refuse to indulge in my conquest of BARA and its lost, forgotten heritage. Much like the cultures of his upbringing, and mine. Much like a large portion of the world, whose cultural artifacts have been stripped and resurfaced in museums across the Western world. Was it his intention to bring this novel into being? Probably. I’m not sure.

A critic writing in The Seahorse Press, who spent several season tracking the mystery of Arbid’s identity, from the conception of Eldorado in the hands of several publishers in New York City sometime in the summer of 2013, to the disappearance and resurfacing of numerous draft versions of BARA after that, claims that the writer must have suffered, “…from an incessant and tenuous need to surface the narrative in every breath, a struggling relationship with his characters and with himself, characterized by his personal dependency on psychoactive drugs, and the indecision that arises from aggressive reliance on matters and modes of inspiration, revelatory states, psycho-obsessive behavior, continuously fluctuating and oscillating between the two wildest variation ranges possible, from absolute and total depression to cataclysmic ecstasy.”

Ecstasy. Delusion. Obsession. These are the weightless forms that grapple the artist and drive them to ascend the mountain or to descend into a pit of despair, a wallowing circle of forms reflecting the ultimate failure they have endured. Whatever it was that drove Arbid to perform his mission in the way that he did, we can surmise that behind the veneer of language and intention there is always the lone, filament figure of a man striving for his best. He will never know what he has accomplished. As the story goes, he left manuscript after manuscript with trusted friends, and disappeared, and the last time was finally the last.

As is the norm with legends, there are stories of him having been arrested, abducted, or seduced by clandestine security officers, sometimes in the more standard appearance of undercover police, while other legends deduce that he was lured by a wave of sirens who came to his door, taking him away. There is one myth in particular that I like to believe, that encapsulates the story in its retelling. So the myth goes, when they found him, he had been spinning in circles in the center of the room, an empty room, empty of furniture, empty of light, save for the fire incinerating hundreds, thousands of pages in the center of the room, and his naked, emaciated figure chanting,

 

I have no attachments, I am an object

            I have no attachments, I am an object

 

Was he afraid of his own powers? Did he believe in the magic his words possessed? The belief is that he was well aware, if not acutely in control, of his condition. Few poets pass the threshold. Few mystics return.

 

(include quote by either Poetics or Campbell of mystics who disappear into the void once       they reach illumination)

 

In the neighborhood in which he was found, a dark, dilapidated enclave of antifascist Berlin, they never knew him by his real name, or any given name, just as the one who buried a butterfly, and to the elders, the one who did the same.[36]

Who is this man, whose path became my own, whose shadow lingers over my restless life like an angel guiding the blind? I discovered the root of his quest in one essay, in one story, in one  passage, and with the blink of an eye it was all lost, finding myself engaging another theory, another relative trend, another track. Writers leave behind a physical, tangible mess greater than their vessel, that wastes away into an unrecognizable figment of what it once held, whereas the pages, the words, the intention, amasses a life of its own, growing, growing, until it storms across deserts of the world like a water phoenix risen from the depths.

In truth, the task of formulating a significant oeuvre to accommodate the legacy of BARA into the contemporary English literary canon has proven too great a task for me and me alone. There are many who say freely that literature is dead. That the world is in a state of chaos, and speaking for the Arab world, that it is destroyed. In Arbid’s work, the main character will always pass a crowd of Bedouins sitting in one place, observing this strange figure entering their pasture. They will ask him, Where are you from, to which he almost always replies, The port of ports, bowing his head, It is destroyed. These are the darkest ages of our people, my people. And yet, it is an even greater curse, to write in a language that abhors what they call sentimental writing. How can we address the massacres that are mounting every day? I refer to the opening remarks of Arbid’s first and most touching work, Eldorado, where he says, “I never believed much in poetry.” I never have. It doesn’t raise the unity of a nation’s name. It does not address the issues pressing a culture of people. But what it promises it can achieve. It can raise the spirit beyond its own perceived limitations.

I’ve spent my life searching for saviors for the people in this world whose needs are not addressed. As I’ve aged, I’ve recognized that in my fragile, paralyzed mind I’ve been searching for ghosts. It hurts, and to this day, when a voice enters the room, I listen. I wanted a book to speak of the suffering of an entire people. At one time in our pathetic lives, those were the intentions of poets. But they are gone, and those of us left to muddle in the dumps are mute and blind. I don’t know the face of the injury to portray it. The book promises a selection of resistance, that much I know, something that surfaces in the strangest, most difficult of hours. And maybe these are not the last tirades of a decrepit prophet. Maybe, this is only the beginning.

I publish here the accounts that only detail our attempt to publish BARA. As was said of the Holy Qur’an when translated from its sacred language, this will only provide the meaning of the text and not the text itself. The essays you find here, the collected poetry and prose, severed from the ash remains of the original manuscript, are intended to paint the portrait of an individual, a generation, a time. To use the German word, the zeitgeist of the hour. In doing so, by virtue of these texts having been composed in a time of great unrest, I hope to illuminate the faces of an age I am yet to understand. An age whose end I dread and fear.

You start to read some writers, and after a while you lose track of what really sticks and what you think can sell. I’ve always thought it strange, really, that in the vocation of a writer- an athlete critic of a social time- the figure eventually attains a certain esteem over their peers, evolving into an entity of their own, a personality. A writer truly serving the public is inevitably destroyed, loathed, captured from the safety of their nest and executed in the public square. Maybe we can take our lessons from the young poet himself. If we read with enough urgency perhaps we will find ourselves excluded from the treachery of the time and liberated, freed. He sought his freedom. Did he attain it?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A story lived twice never ends the same.

Patience bites into a winter cabin.

I am (not) in that city.

 

Home

is where the plenty make their living

Home

is where they survive

 

The story is in the soil.

 

“We’re nearly there.”

“Have you never seen the port of ports?”

“I’ve sniffed her glue.”

 

I see the hunchback listen

the caged bird sing

I am an endless thing

 

 

 

Notes on the Evolution of Dani Arbid’s BARA– working status; evolving intentions; progressive DNA; theories on identity; process of compiling a Collected Works; evolution of narrative perspective, characters, spaces over time

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whereas most writers pursue the publication of their collected works by sampling, reordering, reworking in order to accumulate from all of their finished and unfinished work, Arbid expressly denied himself that luxury, choosing instead to make it his life mission to publish the equivalent of a Collected Works, Selected Works, or Selected Poems, by, detail by detail, voice by voice, letter by letter, from the moment of completing an initial draft of such a piece, undertaking the grueling process of integrating the work into one body of work, which he would consistently mold and remold, aim and disfigure, to finally arrive at some end designated as a tentatively publishable state, before deviating and finally falling into the uninhabitable abyss- a gorge where nothing survives but the name and intention of a life that was at some time there.

The variations of BARA which appear, beginning with the circulation of Eldorado in 2013, later deconstructed into three singular parts, and given alongside a supplement entitled Tessellation- a selection of prose poems and inspiration to accompany the novel- where from the three singular parts merged together, in the winter of 2014 we begin to see the first incarnation of BARA. The term BARA had already appeared the summer earlier, when the book Eldorado was already in twelve and later thirty-six original copies spread around the world, but Arbid had yet to merge all the literature into one. The winter must have been prolific, as we see, from the first incarnation of BARA– appearing with newly developed characters like the Senator, the Radical and their traveling theatre company for the first time, introducing such constitutional elements such as the Diaspora, Festival, etc.- written between October of that year and December- a warm autumn it must have been- to the revolution of the first text into another BARA, post autumn, which arrived into the hands of two editors in early February, but was immediately pushed out of service by the introduction of a further edition and reworking of BARA in March, under the new title, BARA; or, variable seasons in the Port of Ports. All the names from Eldorado assumed their respective functional delineation, and until this time the boundaries of the world remained intact- but with the distribution of the March edition of BARA, the world had set itself on fire, introverted, disobeyed and finally colluded in congesting into one reasonably convoluted and directionless libretto, revealing a new set of norms, tones, ideals, proficiency of writing, characterization, and mythical beginning- a new, formless act of Creation. A Genesis unrelated to Eldorado, for the very first time, shedding the paternal weight of its genetic coding, of its past. the next versions to appear are further into the exegesis of the March edition, all of them dropping their hints and clues not in Beirut, or New York, or Istanbul, but in Berlin. Three versions later, a wasteland of discarded material- the apathy to discard subjects and nouns is outrageous- and we find BARA 2.0, a late September, early autumn edition, published simultaneously in Berlin and in Beirut, again, in the hands of a select few, probably with the intention of editing and advising the writer before releasing the novel en masse.

The many manifestations of BARA reveal, at least, that the writer of the pages had in his mind to attain a certain level of proficiency in writing before it could be considered complete. The writer’s journey is always difficult in that it appears endless until such a time where a light of hope seems to shimmer from the horizon, whereupon meeting the light the suggestion of hope disappears from the writer’s touch forever. In this essay I will suggest several things I take to be as truths, if only to write the definitive commentary or criticism on BARA, and to close the chapter marked by indecision and mystery that is the literary legacy of BARA. I will use as proofs the variable texts available to me, and will form assumptions based on my reading of these texts outside of their contexts, having studied at lengths the variable mechanism of change within the context of the story. BARA was given to me as a gift, by someone I cherish very much and who had, at some time in my life, complemented my being with endless expressions of love. As life has it, we are no longer in touch, and the chapter I consider the chapter where she exists in my life is also the chapter I have come to obsess over BARA. Obsess why? Most everything we accomplish in the modern world can be characterized by two variable faces, two truths I take as self evident, being- that the accomplishment is used to accrue monetary interest, and second, that we make hero and legend of the most basic, elementary grip on success, power, genius, skill. It is my belief that genius exists on its own, visiting the victim of her touch not at random, because every layman is not a genius, per se, but at the divine will of the universe. The public is the offender of genius, but that is beyond the point.

I have gathered my information fairly. And as the writer of that great collection says, “I am not the writer of these pages.”

 

 

Variable changes over time- the fate of space, character and subject in the evolution of a seminal work

 

 

Not specific to characters, the wholesale changes Arbid employed could also be found in his use of tenses, his use of space, and his deployment of ideology. For instance, when the Old Timer[37] from Eldorado developed into the Native[38], and the park at Sara Roosevelt in the Lower East Side transferred into the Native’s park, the story altered from an omniscient third person narrative perspective with brief interruptions of first person into a highly energetic and forward first person narrative, which, as Arbid describes several times in his work, had much to do with his relocating from the melancholic nostalgia of Istanbul and the surrounding territories of Anatolia, where he was weaned into spending long, momentous afternoons in reflection, idling away over beers and cigarettes by the harbor, watching the fishermen and sailors in their habitat, moving to the emphatic tantrum that is New York City. Later, drawing on verses compiled by yet another poet of an earlier diaspora, those of Federico Garcia Lorca in his seminal A Poet in New York, Arbid opted out of addressing his own identity within the piece except for mere mention and game, a playfulness he would later employ to great effect, before detracting from its use altogether.

A passage from the working draft of Manhattan, which, incidentally, being the edition that introduced the conception of BARA as the ecosystem to encompass his variable worlds, passing through stages of death unto rebirth, from the fatalistic and disillusioned Eldorado onto a layering minefield of expression- notably, the first edition to lavishly include poetry to expressly deny character development, to accentuate the cyclical nature of the text in order to portray the cyclical, nauseating nature of the writing- Manhattan remained an untitled edition through its conception onto its transformation into BARA, which had the lasting advantage of carrying all its lost component parts under the umbrella of one, supposedly enchanting, name.

In Manhattan we are introduced to several key ingredients appearing for the first time, while still some leftover from Eldorado remain intact, albeit with a growth of presentability- a stark change in nature and name, but not virtue– a calming of the reflective entrenchment into the deep abyss of self exploration into the immaculate Now. The presentation is immediate, and the difference is plain for the eyes to see.[39] Read, when Eldorado, after the initial prologue with the mentor, passing away to sea, who encompasses an eleven page chapter of his own, the one said to herald the call to adventure[40], begins, finally, drawing away from exposition, the language remains reflective, sparse, and distant.

 

He had reached a point of severity– indifference. He had felt it come before but as it did in those times it was often met with rebuttal- change, of some sort, that he would accept its coming and go on. He had often wished that he would be drawn in a wave of passion to some cause that might ignite in him the unquenchable desire to live. But as he grew older and came to know himself above all other things, from which point he could perceive all other things, he had to reconcile with the fact there existed nothing of any such kind to which he felt driven to serve, indebted to live, privileged to participate. He had known life well and it summed up his grievances that he should end it on his terms. Even the excitement of an unnerving death lurking around the corner has waned, he reasoned. What might have been different will never be known, he thought, so that I act based on what I know.[41][i]

p.12, Eldorado

 

Whereas in Manhattan, the similar moment that initiates the journey, blows like a seven gauge horn.

 

I came here with intent. With the idea we could become what we always dreamed. It’s gone now. I hand it over to you, in a packed case of my waste. And where is everything I’ve ever loved? Squandered to indulge a sick fascination with myself. I sit at the bottom, but I am not alone. Waiting my turn, watching while the   fire runs out, and I’m opening my hands in begging prayer to enter the guesthouse of fame. Fending needles hidden under the crest of an earth packed ant hill. The bargain is the endgame- heroics, the pedestal of fame, fortune, the oscillating American Dream to the rhythm of a scavenged fan working dimly in the corner. The mice have reproduced there are five of them now, audacious and unflinching, moving in full confidence. Light of the day or the stomp of my foot only aggrieves the situation. I realize I have not sat under an olive tree in years, have not smelled jasmine or lavender uprooted on my lips. I smell the fumes of piss and pussy and the cold shuddering smell of unpacked fish. The man I barely know dies on his morning bench, until he      farts and yells and gargles violently in his mouth, spewing and choking before returning to sleep. A lost disciple vomits on the floor, and his friends call him over between laughs and cries. They can sleep now, the parks are open. The booze will wait and will always be there, when they rise at noon. So will the eyes of the pretty girl having her morning coffee, armed with judgment and fear. Her legs will be there too. There my eyes rest, guiltlessly pleasured to exist.[42]

 

Both narrators appear to be far from home, but while the narrator of Eldorado withdraws into the past, the narrator of Manhattan presents an immediate presence, a distillation of the past and the future. The language is far more desperate and abusive, fearful and at once secure. These are the first images intended to paint the portrait of the speaker, and draw the reader in to the speaker’s world. [ii]

We may also investigate the characters whose existence proved in one sense damaging to the intentions of the writer, or, otherwise, whose presence fueled the narrative in an inappropriate way, directing his thinking to limits, and, in order to escape from the holes he- like all writers- inevitably draws, forced him to deviate against his own will from the initial catalyst of the novel, however fragmented this catalyst remains. An essence is thought to have remained, and in the order of things he completed, not in the variable distances he had come from an ending, a beginning, a middle context, a string of some sort, the thread, he continued to navigate away from the catalyst, the mirror, the motif.

For instance, in the very initial ordering of circumstances which he later described as a novel, and afterwards, a novel in the making, and then, a novel at its end, before finally, the reinvention of the novel, before, deviating from his tired will of finishing what he started, opening the puzzle up to its head again and starting over, calmly but with the urgency to liberate the text from its complicated shells.[43]

Some phrases, important enough it seems to maintain their integrity, remained throughout the entire process of writing, albeit changing their position, placement, within the text. Such as,

 

Some power caused him to write

I do not believe that I am able yet to affirm anything; nor is            such consequence result.

He heard the humming roar of a ship’s horn         announcing.

Beside me are the vanguards of Renaissance,

surrounding, the calamity of Islam. Do I feel Gratitude? An            element of wind hissing on dawn’s highway. The excursion          permits solitude.

He remained biased to the belief at the end of the road      lay Eldorado; home. Objects of string are elastic, he thought.        What I need is elasticity.

The road cut sharply, he plunged beyond the        precipice, her image flashed its sulking snakebite, he             remembered the infinite turns he hadn’t taken

escaping devour’s end.

 

In many ways, the very same verse can be applied differently to initiate a different response. One of the most important paragraphs Arbid refused to cut from the evolving narrative reads as follows.

 

The next morning sang the wail of a new beginning it rang ashes    in the rain. The dust of their lives had come to formation          concluding the hands of Time. The road ended in embrace of        something beautiful and it surprised them all. You would have            wept at the sight, he would say. The jester must have been watching, lurking as he does.

 

Other notable scenes distanced themselves from particular edits before finally disappearing altogether, as the Apothecary’s riveting and tortured monologues[iii] from The Port of Ports, that first appeared in print in two different circulations in Beirut, where, presumably, Arbid was living at the time.

The Apothecary in specific must have proved too obvious a distraction, finding himself surplus to requirements at the initiation  of the following state of writing, as, in prints ruminating somewhere in the murky, decadent, infection distilled history of the Berlin literary underground, a cesspool hostile to foreigners, all but disappeared, the character does not exist. Not only do the characters disappear entirely, but every element that suggests of their existence, where they had been fixtures in their own right, is cut to the absence of being, disappearing completely form the contours of the narrative, even the peripheral, conjugation of being. Such is the novel’s complete disintegration, rethinking, and revolution, that the very tone, setting, sequence of events- which one might dare call the plot– and montage, sequence of shuffling through the wormhole of the writing, are all existentially reworked, from the core to their personal reconception. In fact, in one critical assessment of the novel, returning to the indifferent scene of Beirut, the critic calls the obscure writer, “sadistic,” continuing, “…no artist of any sort…of any moral quality…would discard so mercilessly and without caution the very characters and elements which had until then provided the entirety of their life’s work…as he reveals himself to be- careful to point out that the writer must have been a man, or at least, heterosexually inclined in the male persona, as no compassionate being could emulate his sordid actions.”

Perhaps no character has suffered the wrath of the writer’s casual indifference to their metaphysical existence, than two characters from Eldorado, who frame- at least to the writer’s intentions- his personality- redeemable only to those deviant cultures who suspend their moral aptitude to the enjoyment of fearless masculinity on show- than the characters of Her and the Witch, both of whom, in their respective distances, steadily disappeared from the story- of note, that the importance of the character may have remained in the personification of ideals, which the writer discovers in later versions, in his second stint in Beirut, where tone came to encompass character, and the writing introduces an unchecked impressionism. The question remains, of course, impressions to what, as the literature becomes ever more distant, the narrative ever more obtuse and obscure, and all hints to previous editions or singular manifestations of traditional models of the novel disappeared. Of course, the ill fated character of Her, so crucial to the entire framing of the first novel, Eldorado, may have transcended the boundaries of human wholeness and through modes of personality and aura transference, etched herself in the formation of some other entity, or, the entire reworking order of BARA. It is conceivable that HER can be found within the context of BARA, and in the very name there can be said an alluding sculpture significant to her form. Such was the weight of her contribution to the original piece, that the only dedication to be found for Eldorado reads as follows.

 

This book is for Her. The world is ours.

 

Considering that characters of such importance, when discarded, can, in their own subjective weight, come to embody a deity- divinity that enraptures and enchants the coming edition, a transference of metaphysical norms from one concrete being to one or many entities, in much the same way ideas and objects can transmutate in poetry, as Asselineau writes of Whitman’s art, “Habitually, the mind of the poet diffuses its own divinity over the void of the external world…His sensibility and, all the more, his sensuality often modify the image of things which he gives to us.” In concrete terms, “…grass is not that inert substance which a child carries to him in his fist, but the ‘flag of [his] disposition, out of hopeful green stuff woven’.” The same can be said of character transmutation into object or ideal, as the character weaves their way into the configuration of the world, thereby dictating, by the distillation of elemental qualities from their stuff woven, into the new, ungoverned system, an ecosystem of things that are made of one generosity, in illo tempore, the primordial gift, ab origine, of another time. The transmutation of significant means can be considered a new act of Creation, a return to the order of cosmic birth. Through these various representations, idyllic streams of narrow thoughtfulness, governing the ecosystem of Creation with qualities derived from a primal source- and, interestingly enough, a mother, maternal, Oedipal source- “One is witness to a mysterious transmutation of the real in which his imagination also intervenes.” As Asselineau says of Whitman, “[He] is not content with what he has before his eyes; he wants to evoke, to imply as it were, all the rest of the world, the infinity of space and the ‘amplitude of time’.” But to what extent, if the qualities of the Creator are diffused into the new world, are the remaining parts bidding their active lives honoring the symbolic gesture of the source? And within the framework of this paradigm, how does the writer, entrepreneur in evolving the relationship between source and inevitable creation, approach the symbol of creation without naming it, as in, to believe, and frequently, to insist, that by naming something one is summoning it to death. Posing the problem in the writing of Whitman, Asselineau poses the question, “How can one resolve this insoluble problem,” before answering, “[he understood] that in order to evoke ‘transcendent’ reality he had to be ‘indirect and not direct or descriptive or epic’.”  Believing that, “…a poem must be a beginning and not an end and it belongs to the reader to take up the poet’s suggestions and to finish it,” through the evolution of BARA, from cosmic birth under the guise of Pluto to the severed and chiseled sculpture that remains, Arbid managed to differentiate between that which is visible and that which remains invisible. In the very first poem to announce the descending virtues of BARA onto the reader’s terrestrial plane, he writes,

 

Because of BARA, you are free

Go to the streets, ask for anything, it will be given to you.

Say that you are BARA

The harm may touch the surface but can be ignored

BARA is not synthetic nor organic

BARA is the meeting point

            BARA has no symbol

BARA has no text or leadership

BARA did not write this statement

BARA agrees and disagrees at once

BARA is what you want it to be

BARA has no possessions[iv]

BARA is your possession.

 

In this way, as with Asselineau’s assessment of Whitman, so too can be say, when speaking of Arbid’s turbulent book, “…Sometimes he places himself on the plane of the senses and describes the visible in simple and direct terms; sometimes, as a mystic, he transcends physical appearances and tries to suggest the invisible.” Asselineau goes on to quote Whitman, as he says, “I help myself to material and immaterial…” Arbid gathers his essential items into the form of BARA, and in the platonic sense BARA can only be that which it must inherently be, named thus by what it is, and can in conception reflect the nature of its purpose by virtue of its form, and vice verse.[44]

 

 

 

 

the land of lost thyme

 

 

 

 

 

Born somewhere in the land of lost thyme

I dream of the port of ports every night

You never there but we are

Haggling under vanquished daylight

Alleys disguised interlocking hills

Cheap thrills we smoke in streams of perfume

Houses that shade arabesque stone

Did you hear of the artisans who used their carpets as firewood shavings?

In my dreams we circle the city for a film of despair

Boyhood hero merchants selling their smiles

Is this the town you dreamt in your youth?

We, who have fallen into naked sleep.

 

He dreams of lakes and forests that aren’t real

Parks that house the towering gnomes

The idle brave enough to withstand the environment

I offer parcels of joy, they respond with boredom

 

“Is this the way to the water?”

“The water is dry.”

 

I saw you yesterday

plotting your entrance form outside the garden

You were thinking of coming in

What were you looking for?

 

I sell the basics to those who share

Was mother right, to beg our disappearance when the ports were open?

The acrobat lifts his torso, plants his feet

The room changes to his designation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I dream of the port of ports!

She isn’t really there but the core of us are!

 

He asked me, burning his palms upon the fire

“Do you see over the bridge?”

“I see over the precipice.”

The street named after a tyrant’s goldmine

We let the lion out of his cage

And look what’s happened.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The BARA Manifesto as it appears in full

 

 

  Do you know what BARA is?

BARA is your identity spelled backwards.

BARA has no soul, only memory.

You are the soul of BARA.

You can dig BARA in the desert, or eat BARA with a spoon

This way BARA will become you, and you can do anything to        BARA.

But if you spell BARA the wrong way, you will spell a murderer, a             wretch, a lazy fickle louse.

I am a louse, but ignore it, because now I will recount to you the     prophecy of BARA.

But before I forget, remember that BARA is your identity spelled backwards.

Your identity is not human,

BARA is.

Enough with manifestos that have nothing new to say except what this one says which is that nothing is new only technology advances and gives the impression something is new.

What we know of the world is that space is designed by highly systemized geometric patterns and physical reactions and to some this is the aesthetic nature of being. While some may attempt to represent the unrepresentable in art others find it futile and bend their knees to pray. There can be conceived a dance of mystics that involves the touching of grace at the behest of art. That is why everything I say is dedicated to people who died without cause to their breath This is a eulogy.

BARA eulogizes its polar opposite.

There would be no BARA if it were not for the complete   dysfunction of its polar opposite.

The binary of BARA is its polar opposite that predates even BARA.

Let us bask in the beauty of BARA when she is unkept, unworn,     struggling.

Let us compose for BARA a feast ad infinitum.

Let us forgo the Ego for the sake of BARA.

Let us put BARA in schools, cars, airplanes, hotels, mines, rigs,      malls, bars, temples, rooms.

Let us pray to BARA in scientific and spiritual and aesthetic means.

Let us play BARA on phones, radios, discos, funerals, weddings,    graduations, initiations.

Let us now state the obvious.

BARA is enlightenment.

BARA is a way of life.

BARA is a joke between friends.

BARA is local wine and house brew.

The way to achieve BARA is through ART.

ART that impresses when it provokes, enlightens when it charms.

ART that says everything and nothing at once.

To be BARA one must pay NO TAXES.

BARA does not pay taxes to authoritarian regimes and oligarchies.

BARA disputes the rule of collective governance.

BARA refuses taxes to regimes who engender discrimination.

BARA refuses taxes to police system of arbitrary ambivalence to     freedom.

BARA believes everyone is equal until they choose not to be.

BARA is a future monopoly by the citizenry.

BARA is now alive and so is eternal.

BARA desecrates the monarchy’s throne.

BARA permeates the collective unconscious.

BARA holds the ears of government.

BARA PAYS NO TAXES.

BARA is life.

BARA cannot be bought or sold.

BARA cannot be exhibited or institutionalized.

BARA is always the opposite of nothing.

BARA changes history.

BARA is Humanity.

BARA is not exclusive.

BARA is new.

BARA is not new.

BARA does not recognize divinity except in the agreement of Myth.

BARA ignores democracy as though it were a dream.

BARA believes that artists and citizens are now free if they choose to          be.

BARA believes all conscious individuals can claim their own         destiny.

BARA knows fulfillment comes from a life of service and generosity.

BARA knows this is displayed within the Soul.

Because of BARA, you are free.

Go to the streets, ask for anything, it will be given to you.

Say that you are BARA.

Harm does not exist, only appears, but can be ignored.

BARA is not synthetic or organic.

BARA is the meeting point.

Bara has no symbol.

BARA has no text or leader.

BARA did not write this statement.

BARA agrees with everything and nothing at once.

BARA is what you want it to be.

BARA has no possessions.

BARA is your possession.

BARA does not speak language.

BARA is language.

By being BARA, one is communicating.

BARA only communicates BARA to BARA.

BARA is intuition.

BARA is awareness.

BARA is creativity.

BARA is an island and a sea.

BARA is Jupiter and the Sun.

BARA is light.

BARA is electricity.

BARA is not modern or anti modern or pre modern or postmodern.

BARA knows the Olympians and the Gods.

BARA sits beneath the human.

BARA dissolves Currency.

BARA is outside Time.

BARA is ad infinitum

BARA is the only thing that is nothing.

To dispel the sanctity of myths one must return to the catalyst for the creation of the very first myths. As communities of people organically forged over time, certain attitudes towards the surrounding world necessitated that the object experience of a group define the subjective understanding of an individual. The mechanism by which myths were dispelled are thought to be original methods of storytelling, often in the form of a long form orally narrated tale, bridging the natural with the supernatural, introducing value systems, systems of conflict, and the divine. Certain drawings are also considered of the earliest forms of mythical creation. In a more abstract form to the modern trend, grand structures and architectural achievements, monuments dedicated to the immortals, to the sovereigns of early civilizations, represent a collective instrument of mythical creation, often coinciding with the discovery of an exterior threat or- a more prominent form of inspiration- revelation.

Myths are often appropriated by political affiliations to garner support for a cause. The myth of national identity is one forged at differing times when the result of Time has wearied the homogeneity of a populous or allowed for the emergence of portions of the population in rejection to a codified, orthodox set of values and way of life.

When one myth is destroyed, a number of myths offer themselves to be appropriated and swayed into collective sentiment. It is often misunderstood when examining collective action that collective mobilization acts in the creation of myth. Generally, collective mobilization is only possible with an already established set of myths. Certain anomalies within the political structure of society are able to forge their own version of history, but coupled with subjective political values, the creation of yet another set of myths is inevitable. The only real means of discounting myth without birthing more is abandoning the need to identify with anything but one’s immediate surroundings. Though this may be possible in either the most primitive being or the most enlightened, it is unlikely that a subjective being is able to forgo all means of identification. As a result, one must be wary of the creation of myth, their existing power, how this applies to modern power structures, and what validity exists for the discounting of certain myth. In truth, one will only discount one set of myth for another. To exist in a vacuum void of myth, one is instructed to consider the utility in existing.

An appeal to collaboration is an inclusionary attempt at unity. To denote a given history of a collective, certain stories are shared that illustrate the causality of experience alongside the similarity of chemical composition. Though indigenous populations remain, it is mainly modern nations of people who characterize their subjective experience through the appropriation or withdrawal of ancient myth from the archive of modern identification.

A sensory moment fusing potential with energy. It is studied or impulse. Myth grants pervert authority to the status of an object, living or dead. An object of imagination is a rudimentary creation. The most basic image is the image of one’s death. An elementary image announces death, an advanced image surrenders to it. Within these two extremes, experimentation holds due amnesty.

Myth precedes conflict.

Myth harnesses willpower.

Myth serves intent.

Myth is synonymous with participation.

Myth involves rules and discipline.

Myth reconfigures society.

Myth suspends independence.

Myth acquires fertility.

When Myth is dismissed, certain other Myths arise.

Cooperation is a myth.

Language is a myth.

Utopia is a myth.

Loyalty is a myth.

Violence redeems loss,

Success pardons sin,

Love squanders integrity.

Patience requires psychic barriers to myth,

The machine instills excellence in its believers.

The classical theater inscribes texture when it should manifest it.

The holy of an unpredictable stage.

Art that is not bound to the harnessing of currency is sophisticated.

The myth is the strongest episode, when it pays, it loses status.

I leave, to the shallows outside.

Nearby, scores of women wailing.

Hosting a refugee ensemble and her benefits!

To wake with the rumbling of a crane towering over you.

Fine, I’ll tell you how I found independence.

I determine life to be lived on principle.

I condemn arbitrary violence, for now.

I repeal the binds of inequality by material gains represented in the material world.

I bind myself to natural laws.

What will become of me will.

BARA is life.

I am BARA.

Say, take me to BARA, you are there.

Say, BARA, come to me, you are BARA.

Say, BARA, BARA.

The reason I am here is because nobody has ever come.

It is everything and nothing at once.

It is BARA.

This is a song about BARA.

BARA has no name.

BARA is BARA.

This is a poem about BARA.

BARA is poem

Poem is extreme affair of the mind.

BARA is the mind, poem is extreme affair of the soul.

BARA is the soul, poem is extreme affair of the body.

BARA is the body.

When BARA is, everything is.

When BARA is not, it never is.

Why ask BARA a question?

To know there is no answer.

Why is there no answer?

Because BARA is nothing.

But alas, what is BARA?

BARA is interruption, repetition, scheme, pleasure, desolation,     Persia, moment, infinity.

BARA is not, while everything is BARA.

BARA wants BARA when BARA is not able to be BARA because            BARA is unseen or unheard.

Say BARA, request me, BARA is service.

Say BARA, molest me, BARA is service.

Say BARA, infest me, BARA is service.

BARA is only and is only not.

 

 

 

 

Thoughts on an American future

It was clear the novel was never meant to be touched by the public. Not by the writer’s disinterest, because for someone who wrote so fiercely, he must have wished it on the public eye, but for its poor manners and distaste, for its surface ideology, for its combative nature. Modern literature is full of appeasement. Readers want to be trolled onto a spectacle, hurled through the grapevines of a journey that incarcerates the meaninglessness of their own lives into hurried subjects and verse and disobeys the gravitational structure of its living force, rebuilding in their eyes a vision of themselves as being renewed, come to pass of some monumental experience, transcendental force. Readers want to be uplifted, coerced into thinking they have themselves committed the journey, have risen above the tides and the great Oriental punishments of a deviant God figure. The modern American, especially, reviews himself as an embodiment of the hero, as he is so determinedly portrayed on regurgitated cinema and television screens, in subway and airport bestseller novels, in the folk generation mind of popular myth. But for every hero propelled to the stature of the Olympians, there are angular forces whose roles maintain the gravitational structure of the hero body. One of them is of the gods, and another is of the great devil spirit. But among those most often neglected and forgotten is the great, dwarf slave figure, who urges his life forward at the expense of his own health. He owns no property, he has no deep and mythical wish, and his journey is that of a stock figure, whose role is to take recurrent beatings and assaults from the hero figure, in order to propel the latter to their great heights, leaving the former where he was and where he remains, a dwarf in the capacity of nothing. With nothing to own, and nothing of his own to pursue, the slave figure fulfills his role to perfection, without the slightest hiccup of resignation, or worse, rebellion, enacting some Sisyphean triumph. The slave figure is the mud and dirt the hero trounces upon his sacred walk. He is the retired ash of a wet crimson fire, that burns in the wake of the hero’s epic run.

In Arbid’s terms, the slave figure is his hero, because he is that figure himself. Having to comprehend his own culture through the classification and administration of the hero figure, Arbid slips into the comforting dress of the slave and parachutes gladly into the butchered workshop of his Oriental home. Writing from the perspective of those who do not own the means to their intelligence, or the education to their own pasts, Arbid directs a grave and somber message to his indifferent captors. But he is never really able to make much of a point, or gravitate towards anything more than a light, technical jab, a surface insult at best. He tries to use irony and wit as he wills, but he tends to lose his most prized possession when he calcifies his words and delivers them in such tone. He is more effective, and fierce, when he speaks directly to the destruction of his oppressor, and not to the oppressor’s repulsive qualities, however much of them there are.

For instance, the most powerful line in all of Arbid’s work comes in one of his longer poems, where he writes, with intended brutality, hoping to strike terror in the hearts of his readers,

 

We will trample Plymouth’s progeny.

 

America was the great monster of the novel, the mechanism of great force lying under the surface. In an age where America was even referred to as the Great Satan, Arbid relentlessly permeated his work with criticisms of America, at times playing with subtlety and tact, but for the most part, going straight for the kill, approaching the monster, “like he has two heads, and both of my hands can squeeze them.”

 

 

 

from Eldorado; …ramifications of rejoice [in America]…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first time we hear of America in Arbid’s work, it is the catalyst for his journey in Eldorado.

 

I walked out with my coffee and started wondering where the fuck I’d be going. I could ride out West, I thought. I could leave America. I should leave America.

He felt suddenly then he had to leave America. In having to leave New York he had to leave the States. He did not want to ride West in a romantic impersonation of Kerouac and Co. and he felt wherever he went he had to write something. As a student he’d lost a love for writing because he had to do it excessively regardless of inspiration and in those days he needed the impulse of inspiration. But he’d always felt a keenness to write and felt now that he might, if he would choose correctly, and put himself where it mattered most, he would be able to write.

 

On the significance of a night spent outside a club, an early scene that plays towards the themes of Eldorado, Arbid writes of the Old Timer and his main character spending the night together in words, enjoying the company.

 

Old Timer began making like he was ready to leave. He’d unplugged his guitar from his tape player amp, the most beautiful, wonderfully inspiring makeshift anything I’d ever seen. I’d only known the man a half hour but I knew I loved him. I held immense love for this man, who felt the pressures of the world and could feel our spirits waning to the lull of a victim age. He gathered the instruments of need like a hysteric hoarder preparing for the apocalypse. Yelling about the space age, the space wars, and the food we eat out of our hands. A man who has seen the marauding tantrums of a punk and dissident age spiral into the frenzy of contemporary compliance. He forgave me for the deaths of all those marines, whose souls were washed away on our shore, not so long ago. The big native man playing a busted guitar out of a tape cassette amp for the promise of a few dollars. Lessons of empathy, lessons of rage. He was losing his belief as quickly as I was and even if we never saw each other again we’d probably lose it around the same time.

“Hey man. You off?”

“Yeah brother. I’m out for the night.”

He finishes loading his gear, the little shining box sitting desert white like the surface of the moon.

“Good talking to you man. Always good to have someone around who listens. Young kids don’t seem to have respect for the things I have to say. Not that I’m a man of much respect but I know a thing or two and I appreciate you hearing me. Seriously. One love brother.”

We pound, shake hands, I hug him and can’t find the words to express my thanks. Whoever I had come with I already lost. They spent the night inside the confines of a social jar hiding from the faces of their own steam, and I felt grateful to have listened to whatever he had to tell me. He seemed sad in a way, dispelling his sad truths onto a face my age, and I could read it in his eyes. Like he felt obliged somehow to deceive me into believing he had hope of some kind and that I could find some of my own.

I tried to reassure him by staying quiet, respecting everything he says, and I hope that he believed me. In the deep stretch of urban night, stumbling upon a consciousness to be shared by strangers from either pothole of the world, the important thing is for both victims to accept the other is there in a genuine sense and appreciate that. As he    left he reminded me of the oddities and irregularities talk shows on the radio every night, sometime at four in the morning, an hour of cosmic transformation.

I watched him leave and felt somewhere in my heart that’d be the last honest man I’d meet in America. It’s a fool’s sad, leaving song,           I thought, the race to destroy footprints we make in the sand. Dead minds in a dead vehicle cube. I felt choked by my vessel, choked by my clothes. What’s real is the doubt, I hear the taunting chorus say, and your necks too far down your chest to know it.

 

In an unnecessarily long, uncalculated and drifting chapter of Eldorado, the character is woken by a feverish dream he has, and, realizing that it’s only a few minutes after ten, puts on his clothes and takes a walk to one of his favored bars. He finds an old friend there, who together always happen expend a bottle of whiskey over a deep, nostalgic conversation. This is where Arbid illuminates in a very direct, straightforward way his many ideas of what America is, and how it cannot be considered or spoken of as one entity, being a giant, a force of many things. The friend who he finds at the bar is quite obviously a spokesman to initiate and allow the character to illuminate these things. Also, it should be noted, the friend is an American himself, and while the character is lost in a circling train ride that hasn’t uprooted him from his place, the American is actually in a foreign country, in a foreign land, where he doesn’t speak the language, and what we come to understand of the situation is that Arbid fuses the realness of their discussion with the magical touch of their occupying two separate planes of existence, an overt reference in the meantime to Arbid’s protagonist’s suppression by America and the American’s supremacy by virtue of his being an American.

 

 

 

 

 

Ramifications in Rejoice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“…What are the ramifications of rejoicing in America?”

He asked me something I hadn’t considered before, at least in that way, the difference between reflection and rejoice, and the mechanism of pride or revulsion with which we all in today’s world approach the giant tumor.

“I want to get back to that,” he said, “what you were saying about America’s outward projection and inward projection, the dichotomy, and what America gives the world, beyond the obviously political, but the idea of America, or even, the idea of an America, so I ask you, I want to ask you, is the fall of America, the inevitable fall of America, is it a crisis of hope?”

“I don’t know,” I said, “I don’t know. I can’t say for certain what these other powers could offer.”

“Exactly,” he said, and he took a long belching sip of his drink and continued. “And we can take it back to earlier, what we were saying about the relationship between Catholicism and Islam, the fight and the need to ask those big questions that the faithful need answered, or at least, that they need occupied somehow in a place of understanding, or trust, or just plain fucking hope. It’s a good feeling man, nothing can compare to that. You have to understand where I’m coming from here. I grew up a strict Catholic, I was part of a community, I had my answers crossed. And you know what man, nothing can ever come close to that, to that feeling, and I have to say, I hate to use the cliché, but the feeling of belonging to something strict and beautiful and greater than yourself, that gives you all those answers, gives you hope, tells you your place in the world, and that feeling of being part of the community, I hate to use the cliché, but it’s better than sex, and its worth all the sacrifices, and you forgive the giant the minor mistakes because the mammoth gift is so sacred and inexpressible, so human and so cosmic at once.”

 

 

A few moments pass and we take a few sips of our drinks. I haven’t come close yet to his level because he must have already been here hours. But sometimes you wake from a fever dream and step both feet fast into the mud. Something like the night howls of a hungry charlatan on a lit boulevard street. It’s predictable and it keeps coming.

“Hold on,” I finally said. “You’ve got all sorts of communities in the secular world, all kind of belonging. Even the mere fact of asking the big questions and saying I don’t know, I don’t have any clue one bit what the hell the whole thing is about. I can’t define the causes of being here, the point of it all, the creator of my wilderness and whether it’s a big bundle of gas expanding or receding both ways it will inevitably collapse at the sun’s nova.”

I felt like we were two characters out of a cheap travel novel, two foreign journalists in a strange land, drinking to the musings of our thoughts against the backdrop of some Oriental sky. Except in my fascination with the moment I realized I didn’t know exactly where he was, or where I was, but that I had been walking in circles the past few nights, and in my trepidation I had wanted to leave but couldn’t, and I’m a long way from home. And probably, I took this on account of the great sorrowful bags under his eyes, he was a long way from home as well.

“What are you saying?”

“We have these things, these properties that we cannot expel from our existence. Love, for instance. Take love. Why is there love in the world? From a survivalist’s perspective, probably it nurtures the soul and nurtures the heart, and keeps the body warm, and protects the unit from extinction, from intrusion, and provides security because there’s an element of responsibility, or something like that.”

“So? Love is the last thing we understand. Especially the two fucks of us. Look around you. This isn’t the turn of century Paris my friend. The only other nymphs in here are mother roaches burying their young in the seams of our pants.”

“Ideology. Fighting for the system, fighting without. War of the classes, war of the gods. There’s an elemental drive that propels our collective experience forward. And this is outside the ramifications of heaven and hell. I don’t think you have to differentiate between that community you had and the community you have now. You’re an artist, a filmmaker. A guerilla filmmaker. You have vision, and passion, and it doesn’t matter where you come from or where you’re going, but anywhere you end up you can embed yourself with filmmakers like yourself who speak your language, and you can call it home.”

“I’m not saying I don’t love my community. I’m not saying I don’t feel where I am is how it should be, because I was there and I left it, because on an intellectual level, on a psychic level, I don’t agree with it, I just don’t find it reasonable, and it couldn’t contain me, it had no source for me after a certain point. But to be back there in the community and still believe, I’d give anything for that, that’s all I saying. I love you, I love my friends, I have love for artists everywhere, trying to make it, pushing through the chaos, pushing through hell, but it’s just not the same, trust me, it just isn’t, you can never be as solid and content as those moments when you knew the answer to these existential questions in the presence of your peers. It’s like we validated the whole experience. We were absolved together, and we fell together again, and we rose together again. And in the beginning, that’s how I understood the power of love, the real meaning of love in the Catholic sense, if you really look into it.”

“What are you saying? So what are the beginnings of love?”

“The power of the union between man and woman. When they come together, in the act of love, the ultimate act, is that together, they recognize, they can create life, they can create life man, that is the extent of your love, that is the extent of possibility each time you are together, in the existential sense, in the sacred sense, in love, you can create another life, and that is our precious gift.”

 

We sat back for a minute, retreating, preparing for where to go next.

“You were a late virgin, weren’t you?”

He laughed.

“I was. I’m not ashamed. I waited. It took time. When it came it came.”

 

Moments later he had gone to the bathroom and I was trailing off, penciling the lines of a napkin with my pen. Thinking this thing or that, thinking another thing. What is the beginning of love? What is the gift? I wasn’t a late virgin. I went to bed too early. It wasn’t romantic. I fucked a girl and it lasted eight seconds, if that. It wasn’t her first time and she did most of the work. It went like that the first two or three times until I got the groove. I was young, she was older. I had just gotten into a fight, in front of her. Actually I had asked her to pick the fight so I could trash the guy on the street. I destroyed him. I took her back to my place. We fucked. Was it the beginning of love? Was it the gift?

 

When he returned with more drinks I was laughing at imitations of the past looping in my mind. Vague repetitions like deserted flower bouquets piling the side of an abandoned highway road, bouquet after bouquet lying in the weight of drought and boredom.

“So what does all this have to do with us, here now, discussing hope, and America, the monstrosity, the entity, the ideal?”

“The ideal. Because those people who are under the spell of a religion, they are choosing to be guided,” he said, and he spoke calmly now, so that I recognized in his voice friendship and honesty, and that he had come a long way, halfway across the world, several times and back, stints here and there, lost amongst the battalion of traveling strangers, seeking the solace of an elusive home. The promise of Eldorado. Would it ever be found? Would either of us manage to manifest a pretense of the ideal, in our own time, with our own weight, plying against the earth with our knees thick deep in the mud. Were we destined to roam, mad, endless, exploring the depths and spreads of the earth and ourselves. And he continued. “They need the hope man, they need guide. We all need the guide. I need the guide and so do you. Don’t think yourself so advanced, and don’t expect so much from yourself. I know you’re strong and resolute, and you keep pushing and plowing through like a bat out of hell. But there comes a point where you’re gonna stop and ask for something, for a sign, maybe even for forgiveness, and maybe in that point you’re fucking lost, and you’re weak, and you’re down, and you’re farther from the gates than you’ve ever been, and nothing looks or smells a rat’s ass like home, and if you don’t hear someone calling you back, if you don’t feel the weighted touch on your shoulder, it’ll drive you mad, and you’ll end up with your face in the gutter, your knees in an opera of broken glass. You understand what I’m saying,” he asked, and he smiled, again easing away from the tension developing in his voice, smiling, continuing, “It’s not so bad to trust someone else to deal with the metaphysics, to share with you the gift of light and impression and healing, while you focus on your day to day, on your next meal, and where to take your next shit. And like the church, like my old community, people want to know where to go to find the answer they need, for the questions they’re too small to solve, and nothing is left unanswered, when you look square in the eyes of a pious man, a religious man, a deeply religious man who isn’t a modern man, who isn’t a deeply cynical man, nothing is too small or vague to be understood, and everything can appear as it was, as it was told to our ancestors and told before them. It’s a blessing. It’s freedom to accept things the way they are to accept what can be changed. It keeps you in the now. It’s everything.”

 

He thought of what he’d just heart and in his own sad way of being that cynical modern man couldn’t help retorting with a sense of agitation, thinking of what had been said and why he’d said it.

“It’s fatalism, friend, it’s all that is. And it’s bowing to the mastermind of your subjugation. Kneeling before him in total and utter submission, not as your guide, but as your captive master. You are delusional if you think the hope bestowed on a community by the piety of a man is an act of love, as some honest and pure offering that aids in the experience of those starving or excelling at the act of life.

“It’s hope, and it’s a gift. You’re young now, and you think you’re well informed, because you have ideas, and wit, but you’re fearful, just like everyone else, and when the snake bites you, you’ll come crying back for the sacred touch.”

“You know, to have a real hope it has to come from within, and not from these emblems, these idols. when it comes from inside you, and you have this moment of recognition where you realize your life is in your hands, your belief is in your hands, your entire spiritual personality is in your hands, then nobody can take that away from you. They cannot even by force. Because if its otherwise, if you elicit your spiritual elementals on the machine, you’re operating on their terms, and that’s when you’re susceptible to fear, and hatred, and animosity, and cruelty, and us versus them, and this is ours and that is theirs. That’s when the horrors of the American public’s acceptance makes sense. The public’s blind faith. And that’s when the Israeli’s indifference, their refusal to take responsibility, makes sense. And the Arabs bicker among themselves, hoping for something to change, while they destroy every nook and crevice they still can. And the excuses keep mounting. And everything becomes an act of god or the will of god, and everything that happens is in god’s name. That, when things happen, it is the will of god, and when a little girl is raped and her mother has acid thrown in her face, it is the will of god, and when kids get shot at a primary school, it is the will of god, and the towers fall, and it is god’s will, and the village that had been home to them for years is bulldozed and settlers build on the land, and it is the will of god. That’s not god, it’s a direct substitute for reason, for culpability. That community, that hope, is the device of my submission.

“The world is a terrible place.”

“Terrible things happen.”

“That doesn’t alter the state of things when it is in harmony, when things are in balance.”

“That’s a privileged opinion. A privileged opinion modeled after a fresh graduate with a trust fund and a girlfriend who teaches yoga.”

“I’ve done my time.”

“Your time is going.”

We fall silent. Somehow in the midst of our talking the drinks are done. My hands are loose and shaking in the air, my elbows rubbing against the surface of the table, my neck swaying to be caught between the two outlandish hands. Finally, I speak after a calming silence.

“But you know what, I agree with you, about needing a guide, about gunning for it in that image, and yes, the fall of America, which you say is inevitable, which I agree, it is a crisis of hope, the same crisis of hope that would emerge if a church community were suddenly stripped of their faith.[45] That is what America is. It is an entity that is not known or discovered, in an abstract form, it only builds, expands and grows, and people all over the world make of it whatever they want, it has no bounds or conditions, no compass or material form. It promises nothing but possibility. Roll of the dice. Luck of the draw. Either this or that. You win or you lose. Everyone wants America. Everyone wants America on their side. Everyone thinks, if America is on our side, everything will be alright.

“It’s true. It’s fucking crazy but it’s true.”

“Don’t a hard on.”

“I’m just saying. You’re right. Everyone wants America.”

“It’s the three year horse you put your bets on. You pump her with drugs while all the other horses eat shit and paper and lose their hooves while they run. and it wins, shoots straight to the finish line in record speed, and everyone complains but everyone’s lining up for to chew a piece of the charity pie. And then all the horses take the drugs, and she eats cherries and cereal and handmade seeds, and it wins, clean, straight to the finish line, there’s nothing else to say for it, she’s a monster. She is a character. America is a character. An idea. And yes, when American turns on itself, which it will do, in a hundred years, it is a crisis of hope. The reason America exists as it is, is because nobody knows what it really is, and if Americans knew what was required of their nation to posses the power it does, they would lose the appetite to live. Right now, it’s like Plato’s idiot in the cave, who sees the shadows as men, and doesn’t see the light of origin. So long as the veneer exists, the crisis is tamed, Americans sing their raucous songs, the fighter jets makes their appearance, and people the world over tell their children to go there, leave here and go there, to America, there it is better, there it is safe. There, you will make something of yourself. But you and I man, we left, and what we’re still chasing, I still don’t know, but for some reason, we want to escape America, because we know its too big, and it’s         everywhere, and we want to find a corner of the earth it hasn’t touched, and that’s impossible, isn’t it?”

 

Again, the two sat back.

“I’m sorry man. I’m ranting. I’m drunk.”

“No man, you’re not ranting. I’m drunk as well. I hear what you’re saying. Home is a funny thing.”

“Yes it is. Yes it fucking is.”

“Every time I’m back in America I feel like I have to reconcile with it. Like it’s a problem and I have to face up to it now. Isn’t that strange?”

“It is strange, it is very strange, what happens every time someone sensitive to thought returns home.”

“It must be like that for you in Beirut as well,” he suggested.

 

He didn’t answer, sitting back and running his fingers over his drink, thinking what it meant, the tug of war of belonging, the being here but wanting to be there. The smell of home, the inevitability of a spiral staircase and the aroma of a familial home, the ingredients of the day searing through the fabrics. He thought of these things, home things, like the taste of the air after a three day flood, the smell of a stranger’s perfume first thing in the morning. Painstaking symbols in the image of her, in the image of his mother, in the image of comfort and home and the pleasures in being what it might mean to be there and not here, or here never there, or maybe there later or here never again, and why here, why here in the first place, why here of all places when being here meant not being there, and knowing that, what it meant, what it might mean in the end, what could one make of possibility, serendipity, chance? It’s a small world and you fall off both sides. Yes, home is a strange place, he thought, and he tried to remember a time he let the drinking do the thinking for him. Still he said nothing, so he looked up at his friend and asked for a light.

 

He thought of another friend, a young girl he had known in Beirut first and then later in New York, when they’d been younger and only asked the questions they could ask by having been halfway across the world and seen the other side, and wondering, always wondering, what is that feeling of obligation, and to what are we supposedly loyal. And he’d asked her that, and asked her if she ever thought of Beirut, their Beirut, the city that charmed their souls until they felt too big for its wings. She said, “In all honesty, I tend not to think of it much, and it’s weird, because I still have so many friends there, and so many elements of my life, and when I do think of it, I think of it as a place halted in time, unmoved, unchanged. I think about it like something that no longer exists,” she’d said, “like something that used to be a long time ago.” And later he’d asked her if she felt a sense of duty towards the place, like something ought to be done and she had to do it, and she’d said it made her feel sad, and dumb, because she did feel responsible, feeling some duty or obligation, like Beirut had been a friend she left behind, and it felt stupid, because Beirut had given her very little in such a long time, and New York had given her everything.

And what is everything, and everything is simply the feeling that anything is possible, and that is America, and she had felt it, and it accepted her, and when he’d asked her if she felt a sense of betrayal, on her part, towards Beirut, she said yes, she felt she’d betrayed Beirut, but only because it wanted her to, it wanted better for her. It had to be done, she said, because she wanted to exist, she wanted to learn new things everyday and be pushed by strangers to excel, to feel lost and home at the same time, to feel alone and part of a mass simultaneously. She wanted the liberty of belief, the promises of reward for hard work and patience and passion and not the animal frenzy of indifference and reckless indulgence. These things America offered, even if she took things harshly in return, these things she needed, and these things Beirut had no time for and instead focused more on time, what to do with time, how to spend it, how to burn it, burn burn burn until the whole fucking shitstorm is gone, mystifying time, deceiving time, hiding from it in a grandfather cave, wallowing in a culture of self pity.

America had loved her, for a while, until it asked her to leave. He didn’t know where she’d gone but he knew she had left. Maybe she had returned. He hoped in that moment for her sake she had, if she’d wanted to, but he felt he knew her well, though they’d been estranged for years, and she likely made a name for herself in some other corner of the world, as she could anywhere else, anywhere she could be and learn and not be stuck in time, indebted to time, deviating from the will to life, the will to truly live. She’d been so good at being, always in the present, a beautiful smile composed on her beautiful face. He wished her well, as he had the time he’d seen her, some years before, in an embrace of love and safety. They stood on his roof and burnt the promise of a spliff under an autumn night, as was their custom when they’d first come together in love, and they spoke of Beirut and how far away it felt, of the drinking he’d done and how leaving had saved him, and how she’d come to realize she could live a life of passion and obsession in wonder and beauty if she could just stay away from, as far away, from home. Later they’d gone to bed together and he could remember even then how he felt, kissing her body, holding her stiff against him, easing her to let go, let go in his arms, confide in him her presence, her being, to where nothing mattered but then, the circling feeling of the room, the weight of her muscles squaring into his hands. He’d woken up and she was gone. They’d never spoken again. She’d told him she loved him and he felt the same. She’d thanked him for being there, when they both needed to be, simply there, just being. He held onto her all through the night. When he’d woken and she had left, he smiled, and looked upward at the ceiling, thought of the first time he had the courage to kiss her and how long it took, seated in front of her for hours just racing through the words, finding anything to say and just nervous, more nervous than he’d ever been, and how beautiful it was how far they’d come and he laughed and laughed and laughed.

He never saw her again and wondered what might have happened between them had he stuck around. But he never stuck around. Even now, with his starry eyed friend, he was sitting with a man who kept running, searching, and he felt he’d be running again. If she had asked him to stay, if any of them had asked him to stay, if especially her, always her, thinking of her, had asked him to stay, he’d surely have stayed. As certain as anything he’d have stayed. But he was never asked to stay and somehow felt that gave him reason to run, to keep going, hunting, being and scavenging places and faces on behalf of them all, names and the magic of a fresh stranger’s voice pregnant in the night, and the knowledge imparted by a guitar bum or a bus driver or a cooking fiend under a desolate bridge. Somehow he felt they wanted him to run, for all of them, they wanted it. So he would do it. Again, he would run.

“I’m thinking of leaving,” he said, looking at his friend, withdrawing into a cloud of softness.

“Whereto,” he asked?

“Don’t know. No idea yet. But I don’t know man. I don’t know how to be here anymore, you know, and what being is. I don’t know how to do it in peace and that’s all I want.”

“I’m thinking of making a home here.”

“Yeah?”

“It’s not so bad here man. We can do things out here. We can make shit happen, whatever it is. Whatever medium you want you go ahead and choose, just do it. You can do it out here. I don’t see the point in running unless you’re running for an excuse, to keep as you are, from choosing what the hell you’re going to do with your life.”

 

 

 

 

 

Readings of the Dionysian myth in BARA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Within several hours of his diagnosis, and the story fits perfectly with the legend of his having been a patient in a house for those facing terminal illness, the infection grew onto his face. He was under the impression he had been molested in another room, a variation of his conscious dimension. The only method available at the time, consisted of a soluble lipid mixture, known as worms. The worms were known to target the infiltration of a parasite, extending from an interior cancerous buildup, or an infiltration from an exterior source, probably, a visitor of another matrix. The worms were piled into an aquarium to concoct a remedy for his condition. It had been expected that he would be concerned, worried over his worsening condition. An early assessment proved that the incisions made from an exterior infection were giving way to scabs, where the larvae of a familiar parasite would grow. But those whose task it was to administer some remedy were also ill at the hands of superstition, and the markings on his body did great damage to his reputation. He seemed, in their eyes, under the spell of some curse.

 

Of course, there is always the possibility that the visitors to the room remain too long. The air frees the body, at first. It is comfortable inside. Outside, the hassle of citizenship, and borders. What for? Why, most visitors ask themselves, should I return outside, and suffer? The port is empty. The rooms are clean. One can travel far in the rooms, and meanwhile, they are fed well. Honey and gold, warm bread, date pudding, olives picked freshly from a nearby farm. The whole feeling is of the simplicity of a dream.

 

An ironic stage of separation, disassociation, for the visitors, is of finding the gate, and realizing, that one is not confined to the room, like it is usually imagined, taken for granted, as existential fact, during the course of a trip. But there is a very thin thread that separates those permeating the lengths of the room and those whose hesitation, what some might call the survival instinct– though survival of what is also in question, as what limits the trajectory into the cosmic order of the room’s visionary state is the limiting protectorate of the Ego- draws them back.

In Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Marlowe writes of Kurtz, both of them having experienced a similar descent or passageway into the interior of their psyche, that it was Kurtz who had travelled further, going so far as to surpass into, “the final stage of madness and confrontation with the ultimate deep.” Marlowe says, “Kurtz had made that last stride, he had stepped over the edge, while I had been permitted to draw back my hesitating foot.” For those who do not commit entirety, subjecting their subjectivity to the full possibilities of rapture within the subconscious psychic realm, it is never known how far, or how close, they have come towards that maddening state, the upheaval.

This upheaval, the force that impales and causes great disorder, is regarded as the Dionysian force, of Dionysus. In The Lively Image, Hughes writes in his study on Dionysus, that he is the “enigmatic god, the spirit of a dual nature and of paradox.”

 

He comes abruptly, and is opposed by the guardians of order…frequently disguised so that he cannot be prepared for, his disguises varying from the terrible to the seductive. Pandemonium, frequently music, trances and loss of self-identity characterize his revelries. He is associated with intoxication and with the underground…subterranean dwellers…allied to vegetation and the seasonal rhythm of the earth…an insistent connection with water…with women (he is tutored by nymphs, frequently disguised as a woman, and the maenads, crazed women, are his most frequent companions). Most important, and binding all the episodes, is the theme of madness: he is the crazed god, his followers are frenzied, he destroys his enemies with madness. An envelope of fury surrounds his story…he is the unconscious itself. Narcissus is myth, the inviter to the unconscious; and Dionysus is what we meet if we accept Narcissus’ beckoning.

 

The Dionysian force, the duende force. Hughes elaborates,

 

To the rational and conscious mind the collective unconscious is incredible, frightening; it is radical, capable of altering the more staid world of consciousness, so much so that “consciousness struggles in a regular panic against being swallowed up in the primitivity and unconsciousness of sheer instinctuality.” While it is destructive of serenity and order, it is also creative, indeed the source of the creative impulse…identical with instinctual energy…denies individuation and lures us to a nonpersonalized state of being…is an extension of man beyond himself, a death of personal being and a rebirth in a new dimension. If inhibited or denied, the instinctual energy of the unconscious will yet break forth, violently if too strongly repressed.

 

As “the psyche is a complex, self-regulating organism, striving continually for a realization of its whole self,” and as, “Dionysus is associated with the deepest psychic levels (Demeter, Persephone), with the nonpersonalized state (Lethe), opposed by established systems of governance (Lycurgus, Pentheus), particularly violent when unheeded (daughters of Minyas), disruptive of serenity and yet creative (unwelcome in Damascus and yet the gift-bearer and builder, always accompanied by the emblems of the unconscious (the maenads) and symbolizing radically altered consciousness (he is the twice-born),” so then, “Should any art be excluded, denied, ignored, then the primal drive to wholeness will assert itself. Should the conscious mind, for its own interests, attempt to relegate the instinctual forces to the dark chambers of forgetfulness, those instinctual forces will assert themselves, to redress the upset balance.”

There is evidence to suggest that BARA as a textual source of reading is an upset balance and constantly striving for wholeness, a text that reasserts itself continuously, jostling between a state of Ego-chaos and a state of cosmic tranquility. Furthermore, within BARA we can find evidence of the world itself existing within this paradigmatic confrontation, whereby the roots of the world are in a constant state of confrontation with themselves, the rules of the world rarely ever clear, the findings of our subjective narration consistently at odds with the expectations set out beforehand. And finally, the clearest of all subjective confrontations owing their tutelage to the Dionysian force, is the upheaval of the writer himself, Arbid dedicating the work to his state of ecstatic upheavals, and basing the entire work on a journey through the abandoned port (read the womb of Narcissus, the unfulfilled desire to return to the sacred garden, the feeling of exile and loss of innocence of the primordial self, the celestial self destroyed), the thread that allows for the safe passage of both our narrator, and as we know the novel was written in subjective experience of the novel, the writer himself, being similar to the thread of Theseus, being the return to a beginning, a constant self-referential calibration, where the writer reminds himself of what he is presently doing, in order to survive.

Can we find a desire in the early stages of BARA to refuse the call to adventure?

 

 

 

 

 

Poetry: for the calamity!

 

The calamity

of my suffering

He had

belief

in the unwavering process of being

and not

 

playing

the fool

at an empty funeral

passing forgiveness

on a sea of purged souls

 

For the mere sake of ambience

an ensemble of empty words

 

Here, together, we can claim

our rites

biting into the walls

knowing no strength greater than ours

knowing no power is held completely over an entity

unless the purveyor were able

to extract bone marrow with a dip of his finger

into the skin

 

Noise,

to mute an absent audience

I must have been dreaming of your fingers

marauding over the keyboard

at certain times, gasping for air

dreaming little insects burying their young

the furniture in the room, destroyed

 

warned,

by addicts of supersonic sound

to listen to the space that isn’t played

to infer the noise that is not made

 

I think,

we would be better

to hear

our own dark will

 

*

 

where genius begins

playing for the notes

that cannot be played

 

wanting

something light

for the epilogue

 

without the brief interlude

of shyness

so common to the parts

 

he determined not to shrug his shoulders and walk away

instead

remain transfixed on his mission

 

ashamed

careful

to divert the immensity

of an imagination

released from the caves

 

A mutiny steers

away from the channel

deep into the psychic barriers

of Man

 

“Where are we going?”

relying on instinct

to navigate the wayward vessel

charging into the depths

 

Participants under the influence of psychoactive drugs. Receptors in the body counteract a natural reliance on inhibitors. Veterans modify the result through meditation. A technique spreading amongst the educated classes, specifies a form of breathing known as holotropic, to connect to the subconscious and extract an archive of repressed information. Concrete imagery fused with sensory objects of abstraction.

 

*

 

A channel

into the third matrix

the trauma

of the birth canal

the plutonic sword!

 

having endured

a portion of the original trauma

we can remain quiet

complaining about a pain

in the upper right thigh

rising to the groin

 

 

 

 

Poetry: Leaving the port

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

leaving the port

 

 

 

The silence

of

the first morning

smoking

our joints

on the balcony

waiting

for dawn

to pass

 

the possibility

I am here

I was there

 

guttural

songs

the distant rumble

the violent hum

 

bumblebees

scallywags

jokers

frogs

 

kites

that fly

under a turbid

sun

waiting

for the wind

to harness

the clouds

 

after

so many years

after

so many thoughts

the climb

the hold

the petal rum

 

the first sign of chaos

I am home

 

whisked

into the erupting madness

stolen

from the adjoining room

 

where is my reluctance?

vessels

bound tightly

to the surrounding damage

 

I am light

renewed

able

to walk the grounds

of past

with a distinct feeling

of accomplishment

 

what have I accomplished?

 

I mourn you

I love

I fuck the wildebeest in her prairie

to the imagined voice

of you

 

I have

at least

return alive

in that feeling

of being honest

surreal

at bay

 

soul

and mind

intact

 

 

praying

to the onlookers

by the waterside

passing judgment

to forget

 

common eyes

hold barracks

of ammunition

 

soon

my ease

will be forgotten

 

I never thought

of her

but know

in my neglect

she will arrive

asking

why it takes

so long

to become something

in that way

that things become

 

even solitude

knows the flame

is extinguished

before the end

 

swallowed whole

by the literati

circles

of aging trust

in the machination

of soul

 

where is the heartbeat?

friends

peers

who fashion themselves

on the struggler’s side

abandon

inevitably

 

the nearest hint

we have

to survival

comes

in a strange

child’s

laugh

 

cuddling

my desperate soul

dispossessed

of feeling

 

indicted

blemished

with potential

destroyed

 

“There are parts of it I like.”

I often hear

as though they

have accomplished

so much

themselves

 

the fool asks,

“What have you done?”

the sage sits

in wonder

 

I am the biggest fool

begging

for the breed

of social

emancipation

 

the sun

still shows her face

and the moon

still dances

 

spring

on her way

in time

for the feast of chance

 

I brush my teeth

with whiskey

it has to be done

 

I have

the intention

to portray it

“Shit,”

he says,

“is fucked.”

 

and somehow

still

with the current mess

the stories linger

in abstentia

 

and I

the fraught poet

outside of the house

 

where is the truth we were promised?

 

children mourning in the quarter bay

faggots cuckolding at sunset

 

outside

to the smell of strife

burning the last touches

of a dated spliff

hung to the flag

of our fallen empire

 

clothed in black

mourning

the coming day

 

spring

means the winter

was not in vain

 

I hear

my baby

call my name

but it

was just

a game I’d been playing

 

standing

at the water’s foot

 

Beirut is a grandmother’s footsteps

 

maybe

she is a marriage

conjoined genders

into one

 

the frontier trail ride westward

part of the reason

I couldn’t make it on

the platonic laws in motion

something sold to going west

new dawn new beginnings

promise of another charter

circle of a better day

 

if you go as far west

as the sun takes you

you end up

where you started

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

unnamed I

 

 

 

I disguise

my unworthiness

with style

 

Lorenzo

the Panamanian

finds me

distraught

 

he is distraught

not me

the weakest flower in the bunch

I am belligerent

counting

the frail ticks

of a ticking clock

“The man across the hall is dead.”

“Must’ve been a week he sat there dead, dying.”

 

I still think

I’m going home

“Go see your son,”

I tell him

 

Maybe the winter

is on her way

hanging her head

over the clouds

 

everyone I know

is brooding

barely midsummer

suffering the odds

 

Make it worth

my while

these final days

in the embrace

of whirling forms

 

I close my eyes

resort

to the image of you

by an erupting fountain

enclosed

in my arms

the lens

of our choice

 

I realize

I have been cruel

pushing Lorenzo

to the brink

 

the pages

will be different

years from now

if they survive

 

like

painters of the highest standard

Zen masters of craft and will

the obedience to patience

I admire

 

I would give anything to paint

defining the line

between reality

and obstruction

 

because people are literate

and

can read

they feel worthy

of judgment

 

would they judge

themselves

so blatantly?

 

feasting

on the red horned mouth

fries and flies at the flea market

 

I had music

but she is gone

 

my posse

dwindling

 

we had strength

in numbers

 

weak

beyond our tears

 

the producers want a play

of a cunt in past century novels

 

I steal champagne from their cold dead hands

“You never drive me to Montmartre!”

I carry a broken heart

mocked age and virtue

“You would do well in the theatre arts.”

 

They want

an Arab

of my nature

 

someone

who has read

Darwish

and can hold

two cocks

in one sitting

 

“Have you read Adonis?”

“Bits and pieces.”

“And Gibran?”

“He was a schemist.”

 

I can direct a circus

more than write

but writing

gives me pleasure

and a later

wake up call

 

falling in love

with a girl

just because

she has terminal cancer

 

“Why are you so hedonistic?”

I married a well rounded Jew

lamenting the age

where poets lived

off the company of others

and the good graces of Syrah wine

 

I am from the port of ports!

merchants

known to the world

cut off from history

we are travelled men

 

“You sell your soul,”

he tells me.

“I sell my soul!”

I declare it

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poetry: The Sacrifice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

untitled

 

 

 

I take a photograph of an old man

the inspiration is absent

but he accepts to have his photo taken

 

I spend the morning overlooking the bridge

sensitive to the sound of her crows caw

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

untitled two

 

 

 

These are not my first nights.

I am from elsewhere,

but I was born here

you know the difference.

 

You recognize that in my voice I have an insurmountable feeling of responsibility to the mess.

I am entitled my indiscretions.

 

I lose your face for an instant,

this devastates me,

because I need you,

I am so needy.

 

The war is over,

lost,

but there are no wars to remember,

so why are they still suffering?

That is what we think,

but we are constrained by intellect,

and it is hard enough to convince these animals their worth,

let alone the value.

 

Wouldn’t it seem to be so much easier to forgive,

and carry on without the malice,

the heartbreak?

 

Sure,

to a citizen,

who understands his tools.

But this land is cut off from history.

the massacres are mounting.

What alarms me most is the efficiency they posses

in waiting,

to,

as they put it,

see what will happen.

Nothing happens,

meanwhile,

they are coming to you,

fleeing their homes and entering ours.

 

Walk

pilgrimage

tragedy

 

The largest city of a distant neighbor,

an encampment settled over our hills,

overrun,

oozing

the pious

driven to caves

executed

for their piety

 

 

who rules our despotic settlement?

I am not yet told,

I have not yet noticed.

What I wait for is a sign,

an impeachment.

Some sort of public declaration that the ministry is now in our hands,

or something of the sort.

 

A mystic,

I name the Persian.

She says her ears have been chopped by martyrs

who replace their own to hear the news.

But I’m yet to meet the Persian

the reason I am here

 

in line with an unfoiled plan

plans not yet foiled

rarely go motion

 

Please,

forgive my leaving suddenly when you wanted me at your door.

I have always been afraid of commitment

especially the type

that entitles me to joy.

 

read it in my words,

I am depressive

weak

a shadow

I can’t be sure I see

stealing only pigments

of the entire picture

 

the untouchables

reading prophecies of guilt

bred at the womb and beard

it’s true

we’ll never meet again

 

the playing symphony

leans in from the sky

a cockroach

tickles the outskirts of my elbow,

I am a night’s swoon away from dying.

A night’s moon and a damaged bitch in my hands.

She speaks,

but she hides the delicacy of her home in the beauty of her mind.

I notice because I am noticeable,

she hums

folklore

magic magic magic

sell me the perfume

the abandoned

 

artistry

the memory

of her derailment

lies in the sympathy

provided her by others

fascinated by the mark of suffering

 

I offer a tip she refuses to accept

from my hands, nothing is acceptable

knowing this, why does she relent?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

untitled 3

 

 

 

“I’m at the end of my game”

the blurred sequence

a journey to the secret gifts of freedom

the blurred sequence

“everything blurs”

he takes the drink

solitary

a bartender’s eyes

kinder than when he first met him

promising that he knows the right place

that he knows where they are headed

Everything is blurred.

“I am on a journey.”

to freedom!

those not coming back

never left

 

does he know how long I’ve been here?

being of the times?

to study the people

and their worth

who-

jump out of the bushes with arched daggers

they eat only at night

when the sun is down

collecting their vegetables for the evening

 

vegetables diseased

fruits dried

it’s not right

that they exist among the living

and they collect enough vegetables

for the evening

and they thrive

 

I’ve brought us

to the pit

where is the justice

have them walk the plank

 

He stands before her headstone

everything photographed

nothing lived

 

 

Another night that comes to us,

crowds gather and disperse

shepherded by the algorhythm of the time

the age of Man will be remembered as

the age of Organization

is that success

modernity!

enjoying the feast

“have another drink”

the man trust my face

I should trust his body

for the taste of pleasure

he knows where we should go

to the mystery

the last little stronghold on earth

some streets down

curled at the end of a cobblestone corridor.

 

He closes shop and I write you

but when I begin I notice

my tongue is tied to my heart

my chest pounding in fear

you ask me why but never

what I really wanted

why I come

every night

to the same dead bar

on the same sorry island

holding my eyes to the same dead eyes

beaten to the curve of the same dead skull

this,

the woman who inspires me

imagine how I am

 

how can I say things to you without whispering them in your ear

I proposed tonight

to a friend

who visits to get fucked on his terms

to renew the stage

build the opera house

his reaction-

a disgusting cough

“the tools we had…

were martyred”

marching

with cancer

 

Culpability

was an early interest

holding officials

accountable

but for all my actions

I accomplished nothing

and worse

I know with me the stage dies

the cause for being here

will be worthless

 

the meaning

to the words

a purpose

to be wished well

celebrated

at death

 

to persist

away from the claims

of persecution

 

freedom is for the wise

but they are dispossessed of it

 

the tragedy

of an entire generation

neglecting

to retaliate

he told me,

I expected their surrender

but not

their surprise

 

we were untouchable

and we surprised the establishment

 

I am prepared for anything

I prepare for the worst

 

I close my eyes.

I find the image of a lake from our youth

frozen over,

and standing there,

beaming like a hoisted swan,

stands the actor I am looking for,

the maverick,

the demand.

 

He was afraid to approach her

avoiding the color

of her neck

“where is the crowd?”

I find your voice a temple

my heart

a grave to sleep

“is that how you remember me?”

because I know you think I’ve stopped thinking

of our past

there is no song to accompany my humility

in remembering you

 

if I ended there

I wouldn’t be accountable

and I make promises that I keep

the actor carries

a wounded hand

drawn over her shoulder

by a rat

 

when I first found out

traitors were executed

I was glad

I thought

it takes enough of us to carry on

so why not lose some of the scum

holding onto my belongings

with fear

suspicious of the class

drawn into the trap

 

the decisive role

is always

carried by a woman

she guards the pamphlets with her life

chooses who is lonely

 

I never believed

in poetry

the idea

that peace

was foreign to me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

untitled 4

 

 

 

finding a squat

for the evening

not because

we are homeless

sleeping hours

under a well lit fridge

the squat is a form of hunting

knowing what is loose

from the walls

swollen with Levantines

shabby and young

in spirit and in form

 

the fumes

the gases

races beyond

an equatorial upbringing

bridging me to home

I see patience

in a fag’s stoned eyes

poetry on the brink

employing the cans

for bathing

for candles

for shit

 

supplemental soap,

compacted with scavenged waste

he bathes

addressing them as brothers,

and they were all brotherly

preparing for a tragic encounter

with their daily lives

mostly

the pursuit of bread

before liberty

 

tragedy warps the comedy

tragedy colors the walls

he taught them

to juggle pebbles

but the men preferred juggling cement blocks

mattering

how it was said

that their lives were equal

to the weight of the cement

nodding their foreheads in agreement

 

the corrupt

want to be fed

to ravish

their desires

 

I am also a tragedy

only personal

 

somewhere near the breaking of dawn

the youngest breaks hash for a spliff

warning that he won’t stay long

itching to chase the desert

the reddish hues

near clusters of the sea

I haven’t seen yet

“do you believe me?”

but for the brutality

we would be swimming a single shore

“I was working in the mountains here”

“nobody pays”

I pay

with my time

I suffer

 

he passes an eye around the squat

several of the men

asleep

piling cigarettes

for an installation

they would have been artists

if their lives had served them differently

“what if these men betray you?”

I take advice from a clown

 

with the turning of another dawn

I retreat from their safety net

stumble out

into the rural lightness

dreaming of a walk

over the mountains

performing a ritual

to the mystics

ascetic with cause

 

I pity the mystics

for being misunderstood

but I know

it is my own delusion

that requires

I am understood

 

 

I empathize with trauma

for seeking the remains

to sculpt from it

my mortality

 

the process requires

an impression of trauma

to transcend the memory

of [my] immobility

when faced with fear

 

the haunting

uncoiled snake

you won’t understand

being so

painstakingly far

unearthing your own

disambiguation

 

I flex terms

until they embody

another gender

 

as

the image of stained glass

horrors my dreams

what haunts is not a memory

but the image

capable of transforming

the meaning

compelling me

to regard tragedy

as haunting

and peace

as an illusion

 

But there are nights

I am told

a serpent

with chaffed hands and acrid feet

whispering to me

if I pursue time

I may

transcend history

ignoring that trauma

transcends even time

but if I transcend the self

I transcend time

and for that act

I am offered

liberty

conditioned by the past

and politik

free

at last

 

But

it is these eyes

weighing me

that I fear

and these tortured cries

murmurs

relaying

passages of death

and passages of fear

without the need

to recover

 

Here

there is only

the dead crow

fervidly whimpering

her final breath

being barely a home

for a mystic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

untitled 5

 

 

 

Outside the famous gin house

a squalor wall

famous for its choices

and a parrot

perched on his wooden plank

always

the first thing you notice

the only reason that you stay

that fucking parrot

feeding him like he was my son

peanuts

grapes

the expiry of my rubber shaft

receiving my hands with wonder

colorful

and light

I always wonder

if I’m the only one

feeding him

while he champions my drinking

urging me on

 

Conversations on consciousness

with two travelers

in hindsight

the finest ladies

the queerest toys

professors that haven’t sailed

but are planning the exit

for decades

on the run

“It’s only a matter of time,”

they keep saying

“if only I could get a good night’s sleep.”

to retire from the port

without

losing the senses by midday

making arrangements out of politeness

to engender evolution

one of them would say

and the other touches her cheek gently

with her little palm and sighs

“having the sun beam down in the middle of the city,”

away from the port

“I was gone from the port a long time.”

“I never meant to be gone that long.”

 

“Have you seen the Northern Lights?”

“Not really.”

“And you, where were you before?”

sliding her fingers into the peanut jar

making a mess with her right thumb

too large for a woman

but she is larger than most

 

Nordics

grow at a fine rate

until adulthood

when they shrivel into bits

remorseful and at calm

“I was in the bear’s mess.”

“A young city.”

“Younger than yours.”

scattering shells and crumbs all voer the place

trying to tidy the mess

unsightly

but she tries

I expect her to try

don’t you?

how else

does a woman of her character

compensate for her size?

the most boring face I’ll ever know

filled to the rim with correctness

 

He turned the place

upside down

raging

in flames

 

“have you been through Anatolia?”

“I was just there.”

“Isn’t she beautiful?”

“for the most part”

 

the lighter friends involve

a little feather

pale green eyes

sharp like a snake’s

small

rounded to proportion

enjoying my looks at her

noticing the mess

her friend has made

kneeling over to say something

 

someone takes the fall

or things fall out of context

 

“What’s remained of the architecture?”

cheesy lipstick

snappy red

glared beneath the lamppost

close enough to notice

the curve of her upper lip

dipping like a perfect wave

at her age

it works

 

“I thought I would be there weeks.”

“I stayed over a year.”

meeting beautiful people

I almost loved

leaving before I could understand

what they knew about me

 

the queen turns towards me

elongating her neck

to confront our eyes

as though my response

has any importance

“are you the poet?” she asked

he bowed, accepting her departing gift

passing two colonial buildings

resting

against the courtyard stump

“are you the poet?”

industry fumes

steam

that rises from a manhole

she could not have turned to him again

disappearing beyond the waterfront

 

do you recognize where I am?

carrying the image with you

pulled from a screen after the war

the alleys deserts

the weaving pines

an ocean tremor aligns the senses

he pulled on his gloves

lit by the prevailing smoke

 

moments to encounter

feeding you

in the twilight of your life

 

he walked

refuge gathering house

settlers

tend the gates

“you should know by now.”

be charitable with your memory

 

“the third war is inevitable.”

the ladies are off

taken from the details

I remember writing something down

but I lose all my poems

to geometric crimes

designs of another world

coming coming come

“the third war is inevitable.”

where did I put them all?

my poems

to you

 

the man

takes his strides

with his hands

in the pockets

 

walking over to

the point

bowing at

the parrots

rousing my concern

the animal like

a friend to me

 

jerking his legs

at full stretch

in a stomping motion

beating at the drums

reunion union union

my only real accomplice

so far

 

“I once held an African right in my palm”

“she fell, all of a sudden.”

“did it survive?”

 

sharing in the amusement

he asked about the others

who he had forgotten

who picked all his purging behind him

spending a lifetime in their midst

yet hardly noticing their disappearance

 

a part of me remains

where she is implied

seeking shelter

listing the things he shed

he noted,

nothing of substance simply vanishes

 

his eyes glazed with the waning of an insurgent youth

when will it relent?

“tell me everything.”

 

I take a walk through the quarter

I pay my share

I leave

 

I was an obituary writer

before I descended to the crown

“I don’t do that anymore.”

“What exactly do you do?”

I notice for the first time

the music

a pianist

accompanying

the waves

 

lacking an ensemble

the room is filled

with music

 

lightheaded

lighthearted

coming off

early distress

“are you pursuing something?”

one can always tell

“you were born here.”

“there is, the look of waste in your eyes.”

something about the air

is helpless

something about

the palms

 

having lost

all of his arms

he rests his chin

onto his chest

“someone I know will help you.”

the figure disappears

I walk through the quarter

abandoned at night

the prices haggle

and the women

feeling

the rat’s fur

against my leg

I admire

disabilities

harvesting in packs

feeding

on the young

here

you can become a saint

dying

with your mouth full

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

untitled 6

 

 

 

seeing

further into the light

I see backward

formulating the sign

things rotating on an axis larger than mine

 

I take

a long walk

across the town

over an outgrowth of abandoned towers

city ruins sulking

the daylight air

a hammered squall of drinkers

entitled to name their street

without a sign

 

overcome by that strange sensation

a collection rooted in verse

he felt his fingers to the air

and from his deed acknowledge

it was the smell of curling feces

hurled into a well

hearing the groans and urges

sustaining an ailing fecal plan

he heard

the large anus blossom

and from it

a sea of waste strive onto the courtyard

not just any courtyard

but a monument

to his ancestral position

as the foremost onlooker

of the port of ports!

 

Everyone was getting sick

and the dogs carrying explosive magic

 

savages

afraid

admitting sensitivity

to matters entitling the dead

and the dead rose to his imagination

among the noblest of them

wailers of a fallen generation

 

I walk further

inside

to the shifting light box

away from the blizzard

of human waste

 

“What’s happening?”

a leak

somewhere in the power system

the grid

unhinged

loosening from the walls

entire planting fields

long beaded chains

that stand like towered waterfalls

sinking from erosion

the weight of all the shit

pulling the land apart

too much shit in every basket

to much shit to go around

and the collectors keep on collecting

everyone getting sick

 

Hoping for your admiration

I realize the movement we made

from revolt to sickness

from acrobatic charms to mutant will

sailors to migrants of the dispossessed

we were immaculate

broad stony uprising

moving at cosmic speed

infuriating the disease

the infliction

the seeds

 

weren’t we on the cusp

of enlightenment

and almost

in control

of our own ambition

 

losing the trip before the pill kicks in

losing to the shaman’s heel

he could not contain the trip

only

envision it

from her seeds appear

the elastic fields

imagery

contained within

 

doing it for a purpose

not yet known at the time

feeling just

oblique

justice

in accord with values

hitherto acknowledged

as the remaining calm

 

“They say the dogs carry the explosives.”

collected into carrier cases

shipped off into the woods

somewhere in nature’s crevice

a pit stop

tossing the hoards into a crater

burning the thing to milk

“It isn’t the smartest way to deal, I think.”

 

A poem in his heart

poems not sung deserve to be written

he tried singing it

 

I was collecting buckets of shit

when I found the manuscript

taking the longest walk across town

coming to the eyes of the mystics

hammered with the thinking edge

the poem of his heart tried singing

“If this doesn’t work,” he said,

“I will recite one of yours.”

a poem told to him years ago

by a speakeasy on alphabet tides

He remembered,

feeling she had come

for her importance

 

“do you pay before leaving?”

sour come

waking in the early morning

carrying my legs to run

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

untitled 7

 

 

 

Compression sickness

the large mass

they call

the anus

recedes her muscles

pulling our souls

into unequal parts

 

weightless

heavy

weak

spinning her seldom web

the room in grains

imprints

pixels

 

“Did she admire him?”

keeping him

on a leash

 

I was her spoiled milk

and the men

who guard the door

dressed like keepers

carrying gadgets that emit

ultraviolet rays

told me to go home

before she burnt my balls

with a fiery rod

 

I met the man they called the keeper

and I really loved her

inked names onto her chest

letters of the alphabet realigned

to manage the housing situation

 

the impression she made

on the guards

that life reflects the sun’s emission

and can be harnessed at greater lengths

 

agents

of a dying apparatus

with claims to delineate

who moves what through which territory

but the rooms weren’t designed for similar abuse

though the design is outwardly similar

visitors shown enough courtesy

to believe they are alone

visitors to the rooms are always watched

those who visit more often

elicit higher curiosity

 

and the man they called the keeper

calling out names in the corner

of a hallway junction

corridors marked

by flight and bliss

where every drifter seems

to be trailing from a line

hanging by a single thread

over the abyss

 

rumors

of giant feasts

marking the passing

of another year

I watched

orphan children

gathered to the heights

their bodies maimed by subsequent falls

and the penetrating wasp of a vulture’s bite

taking the precautions

to defend myself

from the image I saw

 

remembering

to tell stories

of a squeaking mattress

where he fell for love at first sight

“I really loved her.”

and she burnt his balls with a fiery rod

 

remembering

the people searching

losing to the quarry’s sound

walking over to him

crossing the empty road

standing in the midst of the threshold

caught between the whirling

of two warring tornados

 

remembering

someone I should have met

the muse

standing shoulder to shoulder

with a panting mime

a painter dancing upon his canvas

slinging his tongue out of his mouth

for her affection

“Did he love her?

she was a pacifier

directing his attention

to the standing crimes

 

the keepers wear the waitlist

around their waist

buckled to the body

like a belt

strung six thousand times

to accompany the names

holding their eyes

to the approaching companions

 

I turned at the labyrinth hole

shaped like a brain

eyes peered out

toward the azure sky

headed

towards a ramshackle nesting house

I heard would be my home

if I deserved it

paying for the rented rooms

catching the good fortune of a broomstick

full of shit

 

I bet my fortune on it

watching the clearing pass

standing across the road

waving

 

the muse moving

from her panting side

to usher the souls yet to encounter

through the atrium

into their desired rooms

 

a housing deed falls

like a paper napkin

flying through

stadium halls

 

the foreign muse

distinct complexion

perpendicular tone

 

the voices

spoke her language

respecting

her weaving clones

 

chants rising from the partisans

the crowd grows restless

every few hours

when new initiates are not yet there

and from their submarine like windows

the participants

wave their flags

to surrender

digging wells to home

 

Hope

sells

boxes of luxury

“This…is your new home.”

 

He unwraps his belt

undressing before me

I drop to my knees

and bow my head

losing the sight

of those freed from their cells

losing the plight

of our mischief

I reach into my pockets

for the paste

applying it to my lips

laughing

at his rosy cheeks

glistening

in the September fog

I rub the shaft with two fingers

warming his cock

into my mouth

with a sordid tooth

I lynch one of his balls

cutting the mudslide open

 

I swallow his sack whole

he writhes in my hands

I jitter

he grinds

I squeal

I open my mouth

dropping my tooth into his hands

“Is it over?”

handing me the deed

 

wanting

to open doors

I gift him

applying the paste to his lips

my cheeks

the endless walk of a paranoid tirade

fitting the soul’s benevolent deal

feeling lighter at the door

falling back onto his heels

offering a taste

of the crumbling vials

the deviants cause

the waste

 

the rules stipulate

I am a keeper

keeping watch

not to be seen

or trusted

trying to shake

the proverbial hand

I cuffed him to a steel bar

circling the enclosing

enjoying the stare

of grotesque fear

I pointed to the tallest monument in the quarter

“This,” I told him

“is your new home.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poetry: The Horns

 

 

 

 

I.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“See anything today?”

“What I always see.”

He turns his head, stops.

“Where is she?”

“Lagging behind.”

“Are they hazy to you? Do you hear them? The horns. Their presence…”

 

Midday. I know the time and the hour we make the walk. Some things I choose to know.

 

He stops again.

“Do you hear them?”

He looks at me like I am invisible, like he’s searching the outlines of the air trying to form my figure in his mind.

“What horns?”

I only just drifted onto shore, dazed.

 

I think I hear them. I think I know what he means. I wouldn’t brag, yet, that I understand him. He doesn’t have a liar’s face, or a liar’s tongue. But he has a liar’s rhythm. He shifts his eyes between the sea and the pier, pausing to capture the incessant construction.

“Are you blazed?”

“Stoned.”

I think I hear them. Horns. Lines, easing onto shore, sometime at night. I surround myself with the objects of society. I surround myself with systems. The horns are different. Like a herd of jets coming in over the horizon. The vestibule I take with most care, music. Solemn, energetic, glad. Did I forget them? I turn around.

“Where is she?”

He isn’t listening, bothering with the last glare of sun chasing the pavement. I sit toside a trash, beat in the air boring fully, watching the masks race in spree. Getting darker out. Missing the less visible sun. The majestic hour at dusk, at the seaside, without the lights, before the boulevard turns herself in for the evening, the fishermen make their first and final catch.

“I knew she wouldn’t come.”

“You knew she wouldn’t come?”

“She never shows.”

He needs a change of music. Something to wrestle his mind off the present and into the past. He is focused on the present. Too modern in his thinking. He prefers music without a single surprise. He always says, listen to masters of failure, before you know what you think is good. Everyone is different. Today, we had bad weather. I chose not to stay in. The drones make their own sense, up there. Is she there?

“Did you find her?”

“She’s not coming.”

“Really?”

“She just gave word.”

His eyes tickle, creasing against the upper side of his nose. He adjusts his glasses, looks down at his watch, reading the time.

“Is it time you have there?”

“About the right time.”

“I told you. We passed it.”

We passed the horns. But everything circles in motion, rising to the initial dream. The cross, the abyss. I know we passed a cliff here, somewhere.

“What’s that over there?”

“Stones.”

I heard the horns.

“You hear them?”

He isn’t listening. Chances for a mudslide are low but its possible. We’ll walk around the bend, to get down.

“How much further?”

“A little further.”

“Do you think she’ll meet us there?”

He’s hunched vaguely over a rail, speaking to a stranger. We have time. Mostly he’s opposed to staying in one place. Having a drink on the run. It was morning, the lights were out, and I decided to have a walk. Listen, when they come through at first, rising over the horizon, a herd of fighter jets, regal to the point of despair.

“Don’t you hear them?

He laughs.

“We’re here, aren’t we?”

“We are.”

“This is the alley of rats.”

He looks over at me.

“Tell me something. What do you know?”

 

 

 

 

 

II.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                On this day of infinite days let us rejoice in where we are.

 

She sits in the final square of the park. He has his eyes set on the figure. Her left hand holds a pencil, twirling it against the left side of her face, against her ear. It appears, from his place, she’s reading something, lying with her shoulders perched, her legs stretched out behind her. He looks up at her, once, twice, to make sure he notices when she decides to leave. He wonders what she might be reading. He tries to imagine her reading a book of his, his own words, his stories. She tilts her feet, touching them against each other, slapping them in the air. He turns to hear the figure blowing his nose. A girl drops her bicycle onto the ground. Some Arabs sell hash a few steps away. A couple sit by his feet, examining their roles.

“Will you play with me?”

A dog runs over to him, licking his ear. He still wants her to be reading his book, but he can tell she’s getting ready to leave, and if the book is not in her hands, it never will be.

Providence- an agent of the universe intervenes, approaching her. He realizes the book is not in his hands. It is in her hands, and she’s handing the book to the stranger. What does he want with it? He asks himself the question. Is it nice enough outside to stay, to keep the day to himself, to keep his nights empty. Maybe he spends his hours drifting from other people’s dreams.

Suddenly he notices the book is everywhere. Everyone is reading the book, except him. He’s reading a different book. Distracted. He tries to go back to the book in his hands. It’s changed but the root is still there. Superficial changes, but they matter. They make the difference, navigating the characters from one sphere to the next. Still, he wonders, why don’t they drive to the bone?

He opens the book. He stares at the book in his hands, limp and frazzled from its original force. A juggler reaches out his hands and touches him. He lifts one of his arms high enough to land on his shoulder. The sound a slack rope makes when it snaps. And then he notices the ant.

The ant is restless, running around on the page. He watches the ant. He respects the creature, wanting for something more powerful than its own force. He consider getting rid of the ant, for the appearance of the pages, he would, but he notices something, the ant moving like a paints dances with his strokes. Like a poets paints perspective, a composer paints in empty space. Suddenly the ant stops. He watches the ant, waiting. Someone laughs, somewhere in the distance. He ignores them. What does the ant want? What does the ant need? He decides, the ant wants me to cut the book apart, to destroy the pages, rip them from their skeletal form. He has the feeling that everyone is watching him. The fat clown in the corner, between the cherry trees, dancing with two hula hoops on her ankles, seems to be watching him. The Africans, selling their weed in the bush, look like they’re developing an interest in his quarrel. He continues, proud to have finally demanded attention.

At that moment, before he began to imagine himself becoming part of a larger narrative, he managed to notice the different paragraphs he was cutting could be realigned in any order and still retain a distinct identity, an echo of transitions that could enable him to feel, insurmountably, unlike before, progressing through the transcripts of a story. He noticed many ants, hundreds of them, running in all directions. Even over the sound of another clown blowing their nose. A park, he thinks, is a natural place for a story to begin.

Mile away, he heard the echoes of a demonstration. He remembered, that the most memorable stories were confined to distinct space, portraying a certain impression to be understood at a later time. Thinking of his pages like poems, and his poems like paintings, he had composed many paintings in his time. Paintings of a port that had been abandoned. Paintings of himself, portrayed as a rain cloud, that follows the hungry over their empty days. Kind drifters. Mischievous merchants. Jesters, out of control. He was beginning to draw a certain connection to the stories. the figures, whose faces he couldn’t see until the very end, spelling their noses with light, textured strokes, preferring an overcast sky to sunshine. Monochrome, as his friend would say. He feels the youthful hands of a girl reach out to him.

“Is she the muse?”

“Someone from his past.”

I began writing this story many years ago. I was about your age, and I wasn’t yet sure if I was training to become a student of the economy or a magician. Either field would do fine for me now.

He notices the girl has put on her jacket. A stranger takes a seat beside him.

“Do you have the time?”

He reaches into his pocket. He looks over the plain, scattered chestnut trees nesting an assortment of drifters and refugees. He turns toward the stranger.

“The time?”

The stranger nods, approvingly.

“She doesn’t live here.”

The stranger doesn’t quite understand, forcing a smile and turning his head, pulling both his hands in from the cold, breathing out into the frosty air.

She’s preparing to leave. He looks back at the book, skipping over a few of the pages. He notices the first line that he would have chosen, had he made the decision right before.

 

                All ports are quietly the same.

 

“That’s sad,” the stranger says, and when he turns his head, from surprise and a sense of intrigue, to know what the man is about, the stranger is disappeared. He tries to remember the line he noticed, flipping errantly through the pages. All I have left, he thinks, is an ant in my pocket, a used brush in my guilty hands. He thinks to himself, I wanted to be a dancer, or an organ donor. When I realized more of the man I was, I wanted at least to be a stool.

He recovers the pages. He glances over his shoulders, still searching for the lost voice of the stranger. He hears a voice over his other shoulder, and turns around.

“All ports are quietly the same,” the stranger mumbles.

Yes, he remembers now.

 

 

 

 

III.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m sick, but there’s time.

“The sky is white today.”

My head swells. Maybe I dream too little, maybe I dream enough. I hear the children are trading their legs for horns. I had another dream, about the acrobat.

“We had strength in numbers.”

“Did we?”

“For a while.”

I drink from the flask he shares.

“My head hurts.”

“I patched mine with trinkets.”

“That’s beautiful.”

I am the port. I’m nothing. I’m sick. I have hatred in my heart. We are all dead souls, waiting on the trumpets. The trouble with endings is their permanence. We were above the violence until we needed rescuing. Draping, high beams, limpid fixtures in the air. Cutting across the street on the electrical circuit canopy, running from the ghosts. The waste washers of a neighborly breakfast. I am the crime.

“Why’d you bring me?”

“To see for yourself.”

This is rat’s alley, where the dead collect their bones.[46]

“We weren’t ready.”

“We weren’t.”

“We’ll try again.”

“We will.”

I want to be there for you.

I want

to be there

for you.

“She has another sip left.”

“Doubtful.”

Look around you, we are all dead souls.

 

I think we are in rats’ alley

Where the dead men lost their bones.[47]

 

I am omnipresent. I am alone.

 

 

 

IV.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He finishes his cognac, poured from the muse’s hands.

“Do you think he’s here?”

“He’s watching.”

I stand by the wayside, in a tomb of swans.

“Someone called in the morning.”

Singing for the deluge. I was drunk the night before. I had too much of their wine. I accepted their beer. I drank from the bottle. We moved onto cognac because somebody read the 53rd street poet and the room went quiet. He didn’t read very well, reading like his lips were forgetting the words his throat was trying to say. They humored him because they were drunk, and he’s clearly a homosexual, and they wouldn’t say it to his face, but it makes him sad. I wanted a fresh drink but there wasn’t a glass in my hand. Having to ask for one I shamed myself to the corner, for a while, before getting up at the end of the poem and announcing we needed drinks. Everything is attainable, so why not drink everything. They had ketamine and amphetamines in little bags, like pocket briefcases. The tide was swollen that night, and everyone said it would rise again before it would fall. I didn’t know anything about it, I couldn’t see. Singing for the deluge.

“Someone called in the morning, asking for you.”

He tears at his jacket for cigarettes. Memories of the neighbor’s tragedy. Songs of flutes migrating upstream. Hanging laundry by a thread. I stand by the wayside, in a tomb of swans.

“Do you think he’s here?”

“He’s watching.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Song of the woodwind, the hermit rings.

This song begins and ends with refutation of your beauty.

You grieve for belief and without you I am nothing.

Somewhere in the darkness under the cover of woods.

The lark flies above our waists.

Do you know how long it takes to be close to you?

 

 

 

V.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I left my village with nothing.”

An older woman, breathing the last of her days, trudges by in her wheelchair, occupying a space nearby. Rogue wheels noise along the pavement. Two painters eat their sandwiches, talking over the sound of the elder woman breathing.

“…if it wasn’t for me, I mean really, the only thing I’m owed in this life is freshly baked bread, nothing more, the rest I’m willing to work for…”

Two years ago. Three years ago.

I sit on the bench to read. The book is empty.

An angel sits to my right. Red boots, furred neck brace, tasting the coming spring. She leaves to the disquiet. Do you pay? The painters continue.

“…you have to know how to dress for different people, and you’re fine…”

“…if you’re a motherfucker, then you’re a cool mother fucker…”

One of them pulls a towel over his head. Dying for eye contact, starved of emotion.

“Is it alright if I smoke here?”

He turns, to hear the voice a few benches away.

“It’s your problem, not mine.”

 

 

 

 

VI.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reach after dark. We sit in a pool of slack, resting, waiting on the boys to set up at moor. Like crawling from a fetus. I’m told, we’ll land in near the sandbars off the peninsula. There’s a voice stored in one of the cabins. If we come in through the river mouth we’ll be destroyed. Flank, through the caves under the shoreline cliffs. A signature move for rebels.

“I value your opinion.”

“Why would you?”

They keep a mutant in the fireplace. Every night, pulling from his hands the lines. In place of a hand bomber shoveling coal.

“It’s all the same.”

I had the good nature to quiet the morning, calming beside a stump at the crescent bottom of a hill. A flight of swallows flung themselves over the precipice, diving like trained architects of the trapeze. Unison lifts the spirits.

I fainted the night you let me kiss you.

“The stars are out.”

“It’s quiet.”

We shared our lips, and I reached into your throat with my tongue, only to find his voice and his mellow breathing, his disgusting breath, and his fat, peasant lips. I fainted, because of the infestation brewing in my closet. Finishing my second bottle for the night, reaching for a screw to cork the lid.

“The occupation.”

I grab hold of him.

“Please. Tell me everything.”

 

 

 

Saudade, part I

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He gave me flowers that night, flowers he had picked. I guess it felt special. Made me feel special. Feeling special makes it easier for me when he arrives. I know how to respond with the formalities. Like, hey, where the fuck have you been? Sometimes I can be too formal. People find it annoying. Even in bed, when we’re fucking, his arms around my neck, I find the nerve.

He didn’t seem different. But I’d heard he’d just some back, so I was curious. I was curious to see if he still had his mouth running, and if he still had a fire about him, which he did. I sensed it immediately, because he caught my eyes and there we were. Sharing a moment. I was standing on the dance floor. I don’t know how long he’d been there. Why hadn’t he said hi to me? What made him wait?

Maybe we were near the bathrooms, not on the dance floor. It’s blurry, I was drunk. He was always lingering, somewhere in the shadows, so it was somewhere dark, and I went up to him. That’s where he fit. It’s where I liked him. I like the shadows. I don’t do well in the light. I like the sun, I spend my days outside when its sunny but I prefer the autumn where its cold, I have to hide under some layers, and I can feel the wind against my cheeks and feel my skin aching. We live on the sea, and I’m never at the beach, and when we go, I wear my boots, and my jeans, and a leather jacket or a jumper or something to keep me warm, and it’s fifty degrees outside and still. He looks good in the light. We’re different.

Sometimes I couldn’t tell if I was interested in him or not. You know when you have to focus on something to know if its real. He would catch me staring at him. He’d look at me and I would flinch, realizing I’d fallen into a trance, staring at his face, thinking about something. usually something related. Something to do with something he said, or something to do with something I did, something I wanted to share, or something I was ashamed of. Sometimes I thought about his teeth. He had beautiful teeth.

That night he was carrying a small book of poems, something he put together, something he printed himself, not of his own poems but a bunch of Americans he liked. I read a lot of the work he put out, printing little booklets and spreading them around our friends. I was probably one of four people who read poetry and he knew that. We spoke about poetry most of the time. I was reading a lot of French. He introduced me to Pierre Reverdy. I introduced him to Gregory Corso. Not the Corso you find in Beat reader anthologies. The real Corso. That night he was reading the Americans and he spent most of his time with John Hoffman. Journey to the End. He felt like he wrote it. Maybe he did. Maybe Hoffman’s spirit died somewhere in Mexico and a few decades later after brief encounters with triangles of the dead his soul resurfaced in the charming middle class household of Dani Arbid. Maybe not.

He had a certain sadness in his eyes when he spoke of Manhattan, when he spoke of America, and everything that happened there, all the disasters that came to the place, but always with an urgency of life, as though he never left, as though maybe none of it ever happened and we dreamt it all. I remember walking across Manhattan with him and we were discussing poetry at the time and it was before he was introduced to Rumi and Rilke and most of the ecstatic poets that inevitably changed his course in life. He was still reading Bonsai and Ways of Going Home by Alejandro Zambra and he wanted to live deliberately in the past and make something beautiful out of a past he never left. We were in Manhattan and he spoke of Beirut and all he could do was wonder when he’d ever be back and if the war would ever end and if the only reason he left is to stay away and hurt and hurt until the poems start flooding. He made everything about his work, about his writing but he never showed anyone anything so it was really just for himself. I lived two blocks around the corner from him and I only ever heard from him once every two weeks when he’d leave his place to get drunk finally in public. But all he wanted to do was go to the KGB and drink like we were sad sailors singing our leaving songs and poor old men off the country war trail who’ll never know peace and love again. I felt bad for him so I joined him. And actually it was fun and I spent my birthday that year with him.

Seeing him was like seeing a ghost. At the time, I think it was only the second or third time we ever met in Beirut. Everyone else had left. I felt like the last real one of us standing, like everything else had died and I was the only living thing on the planet. I was surprised to see him there. It’s funny, the first thing I thought was, well, after, why the fuck didn’t he say hi to me first, because he obviously saw me, I was the one dancing and he wasn’t, he was just standing there, so obviously he saw me, but I thought, after that, does he want to bring the plane down, is he here to make it worse?

We always said he’d end up dead or in prison, or vanish off into a commune and I’d follow him there once I got the chance. He ran away but he always came back. I never ran but if I ever did I feel like I wouldn’t come back. I don’t hold it against him but why would you do it? Why run and then show up again and ask how everything’s been? I think he wanted to see how much of it was lost, but really, I think what he really wanted was to see how happy people could be to see him back. Well, the last time I saw him nobody cared who was around. But it was good to see him. I went up to him. He had his moustache groomed. He looked friendly. Even in the shadows, he looked alright. He’d never bite but sometimes it was like a wall stood between us and I couldn’t see through. I think he read me a poem. He pulled the book from his pocket. He said something like, it’s so good to see you again, and I said something like, it’s better for me that you’re here. I felt like he was craving something. Craving madness, craving comfort. Craving love. Neither of us, you could say, were ever cavalier. So when I took his hand it was a gesture one of us had to make. Nobody around to notice. I remember asking, what are you doing here, and I don’t know why but I asked, do you have a plan? Maybe because he never had a plan and nobody had a plan and I felt like if someone had one thing planned we could’ve made it. All he said was, I think there’s something to be done, and I looked him in the eyes, and I was drunk, and I think I felt his fingers curl into mine and clench them, and I let my forehead rest against his chin, and then I looked back up at him and I feel like I was all of a sudden searching for something, like I was angry but I was also hurt, and I was annoyed and I felt like kicking him for being such a child. I shook my head, like a little dog drying himself off, I shook my head and couldn’t stop shaking like I couldn’t believe it and I was just trying to erase the moment from my head. He stared at me blank, like he was staring into something he couldn’t recognize, some sort of history he came to forget. I wanted to say something else but I didn’t. And then he let go of my hands.

 

 

Beirut, 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I called him. He was staying with some friends from home. Home? I never thought of him as someone with a home, let alone someone who stayed with friends from home. I wanted to say, isn’t this your home? But I didn’t say anything. He hadn’t read the Sufis yet. He wasn’t ready.

America made him a bum. He smoked too much weed and he couldn’t get a job. He didn’t try very hard. He spent most of his time on the sidewalk talking to the elderly, always asking about what it used to be like. Hipsters are fucking nostalgic. Overly nostalgic. It’s because he didn’t have work and because he felt far away from everything. All he could do was what bums do, find a nice place in the sun and claim it. Kind of like what sunflowers do, and what poets do. He was dying to be a poet. He didn’t try hard at all and I liked that about him. He didn’t try to make it seem like he was a poet. But he always thought he was on the verge of death and needed to die having done something, and for him the only idea he had of anything he could was to have written something, and every time he found a new book or a new collection or a new name he’d see his own name printed on the front and wonder why his own book didn’t look like that.

I noticed him by his hat, somewhere across the park. I was standing at the corner of an abandoned sandwich shop, rundown, everything looted, except for a tiny chair in the middle that still had all of its legs, but the seat was gone, just the seat, and the rest of it sitting there like it could still be used, if you provided your own seat. He had something going, he kept saying, but I didn’t feel like asking or hearing about it. I had to take my roommates dog out for a walk. I just looked into his eyes, big, puffy, allergenic eyes, and smiled. He got the hint and we just started walking. Sometimes I have to keep people away. I don’t want to be someone’s muse. The muse gets ditched. We understood each other. He gave everything to everyone in the moment and then he disappears wanting people to wonder where he’s going to pop up next, or when he’ll be back. The mystery is everything to some people. They want to be the mystery. Others want the mystery for themselves, they want to own it, find it in someone else and claim it as theirs. I never gave him the joy, the satisfaction that comes with being the one to leave. Whenever he seemed like he was ready to go, disappear into the woods, I always left first, just before him.

When we got off the phone I wondered why he’d come back, if everything had gone alright over there. Over the Bosphorus, over the hills of Anatolia, right into the port of ports, where he always said he belongs.

I noticed after we started walking he’d lost a lot of weight. Maybe I’d just forgotten for once how skinny he really was but he looked sick from up close and even sicker from a distance. But he wasn’t sick, he seemed alright. I was alright. We could both be alright. We grew up well, sheltered and alone. Maybe we had been prepping for a godless winter. We walked. He told me he had plans to finally see the country, finally go further into America than New York, like he had always planned but never panned out. He told me he’d been writing, and it was okay. I told him I was depressed for a while, that I was bored at work, that everyone I loved was going away from me, not like they were physically there, but that they felt further and further away, every time we spoke, like it would be the last time, and the next time we speak I wouldn’t recognize them. I told him it scared me, and he told me he was scared. I asked him why, he didn’t answer, just kept walking at our pace. I started to feel like something was wrong, and I started to feel like I didn’t feel up for babysitting or taking care of him, if he was going to be a drag, or if he was going to play quiet and sad and expected me to lift him. It was wrong of me. He started blabbering about nonsense, trying to paint an image that would tell me something he couldn’t say himself. I wanted to tell him I was going to leave, that I was offered a job in Paris, and that I was going. We ended up near the water, because that’s where he likes to go, and I forget to plan where I’m going, but he always wants to see the water, so we ended up there.

We found a bench. I had half a joint on me from before. He rolled a small one as well. We smoked. I said very little. It was silent. It was nice. I noticed the sunlight for the first time that day. It was strong. Everything was glowing with a veneer of life. Like we were given birth, renewed. Runners passed by us, some couples with their strollers. There was a nice enough breeze in the air to keep our bodies cool. I had my sunglasses on. It felt nice. I felt like we were transported somewhere else, staring off into the water, like we were on some rocks in the Mediterranean, smoking a joint. I was seething to tell him about Paris, talk about what I really wanted to be happening, what I would do there, who I already know. I brought up Paris and dropped it, and then he brought it up again, and before I could get on the subject of why I brought it up, to tell him I was going, he started on about writing, and poetry, and the stage, and about how everything in Europe is dead, and how the Europeans colonized the world but most of all they colonized their own hearts, and excavated their souls dry, and now there’s nothing left, just a sad picture of what was once the most industrious place on Earth, and now it’s empty, and people live well until they die, and they wonder why during the whole motion they don’t blow themselves up before it happens. We spoke about the resistance, the renaissance, the decay. The boredom at the turn of the century. The century that lifted the lid on all our misconceptions. I told him I had been in love, twice, since the last time we spoke. He asked me about them, who they are, what they do, I didn’t answer. I don’t know if he felt he deserved to know. Because he had that in him, to feel like he deserved something.

He liked his joints thin, slick, like slim cigarettes on a model filter. I like mine fat, like baseball bats, so they burn slow and smooth and I can taste the whole package in my lungs. His joints would crumble at the tips. He never bothered to pack the weed or roll the smoke around. Mine are airtight. I like the weight of the smoke in my hand. He lifted the paper with his thumb, dipping in the spliff in the underbelly of the roll, leaving little pockets of air and pockets of light. Maybe I liked mine fat because I was never alone, I liked to smoke with company, I had roommates, I didn’t like to be alone. Always surrounded, always social. Even at work, social. Even at home. But he smoked most of his joints alone, most of the time, on a backstreet, at the water, between the dumpsters, in the park. Unless he had a mood and something encouraged him to go outside. An idea, or a nostalgic fit, missing the sound of someone’s voice. Wondering if they’re still around. I rolled a new joint and we walked. I sparked it and we continued down the water to the end of the boardwalk, the whole avenue rail disappearing in my palm. We crossed over some roadwork, sand bags and excavation. Something with the light, the sparkle in the day, it was daunting. He looked comfortable in his skin, comfortable in the city’s jungle, stepping over the obstacles, into the sand, like when he was growing up, he said, spending his days in construction sites.

I’m not sure how it happened, but we kissed. Then we fell onto the sand. Then we laughed. Finally he gave me his hand, and I felt shivers in my knees, like I was twelve. It was probably the weed, and the strong sun, and I hadn’t had any water. We stood against the railway, overlooking the sea. It felt good, peaceful. A word I don’t use there often. For a while we stood there, neither of us saying a word, just resting at the moment between two different times, two paradigms that never collide. That’s how I felt. I wanted to tell him I was leaving. He was going to leave anyway and we’d never make it out alive if we chose for once to leave together. I didn’t bother saying anything. We found an installation, a large mass of land, poured over concrete, with little cubbyholes and swings and places to sit or lie down. A sandbox in the corner, jungle gym, a barricaded wall so nobody could jump. Everything, I realize now, is fenced off, gated, to keep us from leaping onto the other side. Without the fence you see what’s there. With the wall you have to climb and then you just go, gun. Whatever comes will come. Walls make me want to jump.

I found us a spot, a mass of finely shaved wood, poured lightly to look like felt. We lay down. Then he got up, wandered off to the side, climbing over the barricade and fixing his eyes to the horizon. I closed my eyes. In the beginning I looked up from time to time but then I settled and kept my eyes closed and enjoyed lying down with the sun in my face and my eyes hiding behind the glasses. I felt his distance. Then I heard him coming, nearing our little shelter in the late September air. He eased onto the woodwork, finding his way to my shoulder, resting there, barely grazing my arms. I felt him nearing, but once he was close enough to stop moving I felt his mind sort of slip away, like he wasn’t really there, and then it felt like a large lump of mass bearing down on me. And then he slipped away.

We must have stayed there hours. The sun went down, the night sky ascended. I lost the sound of his breathing somewhere in the midst. We were there hours, neither of us saying a word. I don’t remember if I slept, if I was awake, if we danced, two warring minds entangled. We were there hours, and the whole day must have passed, and the entire time it was quiet, and if I slept or if I was awake, it didn’t really make a difference, I just remember the feeling of the light, and the feeling of the light when it was gone.

I felt him touch me and I woke up from a dream. Where do we go, he asked. His voice was soft, like he was a little boy again, waking up from a nap, ready to go outside and play. I’m leaving, I said.

He walked me home. I left him at the entrance, waving goodbye. He wanted to come inside, I could smell it in his breath. Thirst. Hunger. Nobody needs me, nobody needs you. He turned away and disappeared. Sometime before I left I called around to his house, nobody answered. My guess is he ended it at home.

Manhattan, 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He visited me and my sister. He took the morning ferry to get in. I met him at the port, the station. He was wearing a hat, I remember, and he had a guitar, sitar, some instrument. I was sick the minute he arrived. I was fine before and I was excited but when I saw him too feet in the door I was sick. First my stomach, and then I was coughing, phlegm, holding onto myself, and then sweating. They went out for lunch. They went climbing in the forest. They had a joint at sunset, in the forest. I was asleep most of the day.

At some point I woke up. I opened my eyes, I remember, really slowly, I could feel myself lifting my eyelids. He was sitting on the floor, in my room, in the room I was staying in, the guest room. I let him stay in my room. He smiled, he was reading. He looked calm. I always envied how he could sit, for hours, reading. I smoked too much weed. I could never sit still.

I watched him. It was sweet, because he let me. Sometimes you just have to watch someone, you have to stare at them. To feel something. Your feelings.

He said something in Arabic. I asked him to read. I asked him to read something in Arabic. He told me he was embarrassed, he couldn’t do it well. I told him it wouldn’t make a difference, I wouldn’t understand anything, even though in Turkish some of the words are stolen. Then he said something about his grandmother. Like there was a moment, and he flipped. Like something made sense, felt right, at that moment. Then he sang something, in Arabic, and it was rough at first, I could tell, he was focusing on the words, and then on the pitch, and when he focused on one he lost track of the other. His voice was vibrating in its place, held together, giving. He laughed at himself, at his accent. I laughed with him. It was sweet. Then he left, and I slept.

The next day he left. He told me he was trying to finish the novel. But he needed to clear his mind. He was wired, hadn’t slept. Was he awake? Just not sleeping. Rambling. Then he was gone, on the ferry, disappointed into the distance.

 

 

Bursa, 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He spent his last night with me. I wanted him to stay but, he didn’t know, something, or he didn’t want to tell, or he felt he didn’t have the right, I don’t know, I wanted him to stay, he didn’t, but he spent the night with, almost, before we separated on the corner of A and he walked one way and I walked another.

He told me to enjoy the city alone. I was spending too much time by myself but having trouble with it. I couldn’t be around other people for long, but I couldn’t handle myself. He said most things in the city come in details too small for the passing eye to notice, and that these things carry the secrets of our universe. I taught him how to use his cameras and develop his films in my darkroom. I taught him how to clean up after himself, because he never did, not in the room. But he was tidy. It helps to be neat. For the mind.

Generosity means a lot to me. It comes back, it’s a circle. I like to give with the people I love, and with strangers. I don’t like it when people hold on to what they have. Even if they have a lot of it, even if they have little, they should share, and give. He was always giving, and I liked that. He brought coffee, and drinks, and paint for the house, for the other members. Always sharing with the wine, with the weed. Some of the men like to put things around for everyone to have. We didn’t have to worry. If people wanted their drugs it was there. Someone ended up paying for it. A lot of the times it was him.

I remember reading Nazim Hikmet. He was carrying him around. We were on the stairwell, and then we moved to the bathroom, sitting in the bath, without the water on, with our legs draped over the side, shoulder to shoulder. He had a bottle of southern comfort. I had half an eight ball.

One morning he came over while I was still asleep. I used to leave a key under the doormat for some of our friends. He must have opened the door quietly, taken care, noticed I was asleep. I did wake up, I remember hearing shuffling around in the other room. By the time I noticed the door to my bedroom was open and he was standing there, standing in the glare of the corridor light. I can’t remember if he was drunk, if he had this stupid look on his face because he was happy to see me or because he was stoned or something.

He crawled into bed with me. It was the only time we ever made love. He took his time, made sure I could come. I slept against his body. It mattered, he didn’t turn away when we were done. I needed that. I had just dropped out, it was a rough time, it was winter, it was cold. I was beginning to realize I hadn’t made any plans for myself.

In the morning I woke up and found him in the other room sitting naked on a chair. He was wrapped in a blanket. I looked at him, we smiled at each other, I felt like were children again. I brought out some lights, just a three point set up, with a stool under the spotlight, in the center of the room. Under the lights, when he smiled, I felt like I could see incision marks on his neck, when his cheeks would draw back, I could see his molars, scarred somehow. His eyes were lit up under the draping beam. They were thick brown, like the eyes of a deer.

I asked him to remove the blanket. He walked over to the stool and sat down. He had a coffee mug in his hands, and he drank from it, taking his sips, smiling. I asked him if he wanted to leave me something. He asked me how I knew he was leaving. He said he didn’t want that. He hadn’t wanted me to know.

I started crying. I don’t know why, I can’t say. Especially now, when he’s not sitting in front of me, crouching, aligning his bones, snapping his jaw in place. He watched me cry for a while, without consoling me. I wiped my face. It was fine.

Some are seasonal. It’s no way to live your life.

I took the first photograph. The second. The third.

The third is haunting. His eyes are looking away from the camera. After he left I had a hard time looking at two and three. Four and five are beautiful. They’re warm. He looks warm. He’s looking right at you. You see the person he wants you to see. We don’t always get that chance.

The next six photographs are sad. He’s up, moving around. He had an itch on his stomach, and when he turned his arm it looked like he was dancing.

Passion keeps me in place. I don’t have to move, or run away, or make things happen to feel alive. I’m happy where I am.

We ate breakfast. He didn’t mention the book. I’m sure it was stored there, safe and sound, looping in his head. We boiled fava beans, crushed with olive oil, diced tomatoes and onions and garlic. A pinch of parsley, and coriander. Thyme, oil and bread. I told him to be safe, and he left. The photographs were my goodbye.

 

 

Istanbul, 2013

 

 

 

 

 

Saudade, part II.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s true what they say. When you leave you never know if you’re coming back until you do. But you always do. I never left with the intention to return. Somehow I did. And I realized, home doesn’t change, it just softens, or it implodes. Seeing the world before the end of a journey. Seeing nothing at all. All I wanted was to paint something for you but I can’t paint. To capture the aesthetic landscape of our time together. Did it really exist? I still visit your doorstep, hoping.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I remember the first night he met Jules. He was staying at our place. There were six of us. Sometimes all of us were there. I kept my eye on him. He was good at first, then he struggled, then he settled, then he was fine. He was writing a lot of poetry, on napkins, in pocket books he scattered across the house. He always wore the same jeans, mending the holes with different fabrics. We were happy in the old world.

I was writing. I shared some of my poems. He said they were okay.

We cooked a lot of dinner. One night we were having angel hair pasta with shrimps, a root beet avocado salad, Argentinian wine. One of the girls learned how to make it, and it kind of became a thing. We were sitting on the floor, listening to some records. I was the only one he took out with him, when he finally left the house. He needed an accomplice, everyone does. Sometimes he saw old friends who were passing through town, some of them from Beirut, some of them from around.

I was lonely, and I wanted something steady. It wasn’t about the fuck, I had places to get it, but something more. I missed the feeling I was used to having.

You want to be taken seriously. You want what you want when you want it. You want what you deserve. You want to know what you deserve. How long had it been since he had been with anybody? He never brought anyone home. It made me curious. Girls, are expected to be curious. To be constantly in awe with life. Thankful.

There are times for reforming. Times for chaos and change. I showed him my work. He sat there, not moving, not saying anything, pretending like he was thinking really hard about the words. I could tell he hated it. The only thing he ended up saying was something like he didn’t know how to receive gifts, and reading my poetry was like a gift, and so it made him awkward, and he couldn’t say anything. He also said, he always wondered if he would enjoy my writing, and it frightened him, and was starting to give him a bad feeling, but that he was finally relieved.

I wanted us to love each other. He ignored me.

You are already there, where we are all going.

 

 

           

 

 

 

 

 

Song of Meera

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I read you my poems. You enjoy them. You fill my heart with gratitude. Together we share the ones I like, the ones I want to make better. Together we can our drifting love, and we make it by chance, surviving by a hairpin.

I grew up across the street from you. You never noticed me. I was too young. Finally, years later, we’re in New York, and I walk around the house in my underwear to see if you notice. I bet you do. It’s summer, and its hot, and the heat makes me go crazy, and I lie in bed thinking of you in the next room, wondering if you want to fuck me. I have nice legs, dark, smooth. I shave for you, and I have to do it all the time. You follow my legs across the room, peeking out of the corner of your eye while playing the guitar, or drinking from a bottle of wine. So much wine, so so much wine. I never say no to wine, even in the heat, especially in the heat, especially at night. I never say no to wine when we’re lying on the floor, when I know my lips will turn red and chapped with grapes and you’ll smoke your hungry cigarettes and tickle my feet with the ends of your smoke. Malbec wine, Malbec wine. One bottle, two poems. Cigarettes, joints. Records from Nigeria in the 1960s, Jamaicans at Studio One, Afro-beat and Afro-jazz. Traveling the world with our records. You want to run, you want to get a pair of wings, trade in the soles of your feet and fly outward, over the paramount sea and into the darkness. I want to see you fly, I want to see you go. Take me with you.

I find a job, you don’t. I work for a publisher during the day, and for a filmmaker at night, and I take my microphone out onto the street when its time for me to play and I record all the voices that want to be heard on their own, everyone who admits they have something to say, or who has nothing to say and doesn’t care. You don’t. You wake up and you feel lost. You wake up and run for some coffee, and then you spend the last of your money on records and weed. But you write. You write so much you forget to eat and when I find you all you want is a plate of steamed rice and you’ve forgotten the taste of meat.

            How much are you writing? Who are you writing for?

You find a studio and rent the space. You share the space with nineteen other painters and you’re the only one, the only one writing, the only person scared without a motive, who doesn’t have something on their hands, who doesn’t use their hands, who spends their time staring at the wall, at the ceiling, lost for measures and for words, lost for expression, desperate for those memories that only come shooting forth when you’re head is on the ground and you’re closing your eyes to drift away to sleep, and you see that first shining star at breakfast, the room you spent your first few tears, the stairwell in the countryside, the classroom and the afternoon naps. You find yourself there and you feel safe. You find your father’s moustache and you touch it, you hold onto the ends and he tells you stories. He tells you he’s safe, and that he misses you. You remember how much he believed in you and it hurts. You remember to close your eyes but it’s too late, your eyes are swelling and now you’re weak.

            Why didn’t you let me find you?

You are a night keeper, a watchman, keeping guard to the other souls, canvases wrapped in felt blankets. You watch the paint thicken over night, you smell the oil dry onto the canvas. You put your fingers on the crease. You put your lips against the edge of your desk and you tear your mouth open with a jolt. You cut yourself, so many times. Nobody hears and I’m watching.

You hide in your painter’s cave and I miss you. I miss going with you on the road, running with the records in our mouths, playing against the earth with our teeth. Censorship plays against the evening score. You found the soul, you tasted it. And when you tasted it once you couldn’t let loose again, dreaming away your days like the sad button souls the rest of us are. You can’t play the game, you’ll lose. It’s empty, you say. It’s empty and it’s gone.

You want me to leave. To center myself elsewhere, for my work, for my words. For my poetry to touch and strike to the bone. For my music to trickle on a forest fiddler’s song. I bounce with you, I bounce and fall into a poet’s lap. Fine on the body, fine on the mind.

You disappear. A few nights, gone, without the records, without the contour at the window, overlooking the city scars. The heat wave falls and passes into crumbs, eating away the nights with our relentless tossing and turning, hanging our tongues from the windowsill, beginning for sight of an oasis. I’m worried. Ten days, you’re gone. Where are you? I know you and your people, and I’m afraid. I want to seek you out, to find you, to pick you from the little sludge hole on the street and bring you home. Why are you afraid? Why do you keep running? I can feed you, we can love. I can order you breakfast in the morning, bring your coffee to the bed. You can read me from the book of wishes, the book of lies, the book of dreams. Take me to the water. Take me.

My writing takes another turn. I play the empty records. I play the ones you remember well. It’s not the same, you can’t go back to what you’ve done. It’s finding fresh records off the shelf. It’s bringing the record into the day. It’s not turning back and doing it all over again, unless it’s your day off and the first signs of a winter coming to close. A space we can all crawl into and hide. My poetry grows. In longing that’s what poetry does, framing the invisible into words. Speaking on behalf of loss.

When you show up at the door it’s like we’ve been to war. It’s like I’ve been waiting and I’ve been dying. You walk in, wearing boots with steel horseshoes on the soles, pins cut into the steel. I hear you on the stairs. I see you at the door. We watch you come in, somberly, walking like you’re carrying a stick, like you’re leaning on another four. Someone chooses to read the news out loud. The others are gossiping about their ingenious lives. We turn our heads, to give you the floor, to feed you our attention. You sit quietly, smile, as though we’d agreed to do it like this. As though everything had been a distraction. A means to forget your disappearance. How do I mend your absence?

You take off your hat. You sit next to me. Someone asks, faintly, where you’ve been. A smile grows on your face, I’m no longer afraid, now I’m curious. You’ve been out searching, digging, praying, begging. You’ve been fucking your face into the dirt and running your lips over the country crumbs. You found that thing, and it looks brilliant in your eyes.

You look handsome. I tell you. You look excited. You tell me we need to talk. I finally smile, and I remember how long its been, and how short a time can feel so long, and how long a time can feel. We go outside, to walk. We walk towards the water. You don’t say much, I listen, to the quiet, to your intention. Finally you say you met some people, and it took off from there, and you don’t know, but you had to keep going. What kind of people? The sorry kind, you say, good at living, bad at life. You smile. I take your hand. We talk about home, about traveling back if we ever could, if its still possible, if we can say the names. If things quiet down, you say, if the war drums were quieter. If the theaters weren’t shut down. If the enemy wasn’t out for revenge. If the hills weren’t overrun with mines, and the shore at loss with all our waste. Would you ever go back? Do you remember the names?

You stare over the water, searching for your father’s gun. You talk about his life, his losing. You talk about your plans. You ask me if we share a home. I tell you I won’t go back. I tell you I’m here to feel the sinking. I want to see America fall. I want to stretch my arms over her grave. I want to reach for the surface with my tiny hand, begging for the light of liberty.

I have a home here. Even though I’m shattered, scattered like leaves blowing in the wind. I feel my heart when I walk around. I feel the pulse of the city nerves, and the city people going softly to their deaths. I don’t discover what you found. I don’t hear from you and you won’t tell me. But I know.

You found the voice you’ve been searching for your entire life, and it calms and it haunts you, and it takes you away like a ship sailing out to sea, bearing straight into the unknown. You throw away your book, the one that brought you over the waters. The one you said forced you to escape, because you needed to escape to know if it existed. You needed to escape to know if it would end. If it could end. And so you begin another journey. Saying what you can with the will of a nightingale.

You meet the prophet Jules. Everything takes the power of an industry. We lose sight of time, losing account of the damages. I find a clue to what you found. I find your little clues and I know what you were hunting. Crossing the ancient seas. Digging ditches over night, riding the bus over Anatolia.

I find your notebook on the couch, cleaning around, banal and trite in my common domestic life. I sit with you under the cosmic order, we reorder the stars and align them to their freshly gotten names. We sit, perched on the apex of opportunity. I find a word I don’t understand. I say it and it means nothing but it slides off the tip of my tongue with authority and lightness, gleaming in some shroud of linguistic harmony, I feel my body ache to the sound of the seven chords, I feel the room implanted with the tremors of our songs.

BARA

I say the word a thousand times. I walk the streets of Manhattan, dying a different color, shining in the filtered screens of the sacred. Bowing to the invisible. Longing urged for the absolute. I float over the concrete jungle, tattooing your flower to my lips, pausing at every window. I give you my scent. I give you my other life. We call something born. The custom of an auspicious love. The prophecy of a lunatic. Suddenly my poems fall, deeper into the cracks of sanctuary. I sit under the naked trees, and rest in the temple you gifted me.

BARA

I yell with my many mouths closed.

BARA

I can see

 

 

Tangiers

Beirut, 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You’re here because you think it’s interesting, because you think somehow a writer coming out of Beirut with a story that goes the way he did is important, and interesting, and it’ll sell and you’ll go home happy. You’re confused and delusional. Beirut is not the place you think it is, and we both knew it, and that’s why all of us left. Sure, sometimes I think of it, like it was my home and like I was supposed to rot there like everyone else, but something I knew the entire time I was there and the entire time he was there is that I’m bigger than the place, and it’s a shithole.

He’s sweet, indelibly sweet, and I know he says if it wasn’t for me he wouldn’t have gotten anywhere, that I saved his ass and put the pages together in the beginning and gave him something to work with, even though at the time I thought it was done and he did as well, but I know he was just lazy and didn’t want to do the real work because I could see it in his eyes after our sessions, when we’d put the papers down and I could finally drag him outside for a joint and not smoking on the pages like some mad scientist who couldn’t leave the body for a second. He was insane, especially by the end of the day, and I understand, because you get into this place and it makes you crazy, fumbling through the words, all day, maze after maze, cutting and pasting, remembering this verse to go there and realizing for the first time why the professor comes at the beginning. I’d never edited a book before. It was fun. But it was crazy, and he was crazy. He worked his ass off but he was really trying to get through the pages and trying to make it work, trying to make it seem like a finished book but he knew deep down it wasn’t and he kept saying it ot me, every now and again, when we’d sit outside on his balcony, and his eyes would be fixated on one place, deep in immeasurable space, and he wouldn’t have said a word for thirty or so minutes, and I’m staring at him waiting for him to say something all the while talking, nonsense, telling him about my day, about my stupid work and my employees who have no business being alive, and then he would just turn to me, finally making eye contact, a beautiful grin on his face, forms just slow enough for me to feel it coming, slow enough to measure the moment before its come, measure up to it, be ready, and then he says, really fucking cool, I’m going to have to write the whole thing over again, aren’t I, Tangiers, which is what he called me, Tangiers, I can’t remember where it came from, and I would smile and look over at him like he was my brother, my son, a kindred spirit whose destiny fell suddenly in my hands, and I’d say, Oh darling, you’ll write something else, and it will be beautiful, but he was never convinced.

That’s how you know something about someone. It’s how you know someone is going to make it, do something special, out of our usual way. I’m not an artist, I’m not creative, at all. I helped him because he showed up at my house with a bag full of pages, a beautiful bag, something I wouldn’t have expected him to carry until I realized it was exactly the type of bag he would carry. Long, adorned with flowers, patterned like the lower steps of a rainforest, and he must have had three hundred pages in there, and he was confused and desperate and hurt. It was funny. A few days earlier I asked him about the same bag, but it was empty, and it was on his balcony and he just looked at the bag, empty, lying on the ground like it had been tossed to the side in the middle of a desperate search for something else, possibly for the contents now in the bag, and he looked at me and said, with a beautiful smile, The bag holds this place together, if I take it out, the whole place disappears. He said thins like that, I found it cute. Most everyone in Beirut is an idiot. They spend their time trying to fane like their lives have meaning, like if there was anyone on this earth who should be spared the apocalypse it’s them. He was cute. I didn’t think so at first, I thought he was strange, kind of creepy, kind of like a real creep. We had met a few months before, on Halloween, on those autumn nights where the last few leaves left in the dump are ploughing their way through and the air feels finally like it doesn’t stick to your skin in desperation, you can breathe the Mediterranean right into your room, smoke in the afternoon without getting a headache, take to the streets after work and find that everywhere is quiet, that people are drinking wine and the last few remains of summer parties, explosions that burn the whole seaside through are gone, done, the summer is finally over. Fafa, my good friend, was living in Istanbul at the time, and I guess they were friends, and when she told me she was coming she didn’t say she was coming with him, but the first night we were at her man’s place, and we were sitting outside in his garden, two tall sycamores that hover over you like careful grandmothers afraid to let go, afraid to let you in to the world, and the floor divided between mud and shrub and grassy patches that fill the ground with some sort of natural life, and a large slab of concrete that sits between the grass and the opening to the apartment, where a white plastic table sits and every so often a cockroach the size of an avocado races out from under the grass and circles the table before hiding in some reckless collection of used and shattered bricks. There are a few rabbits that live among the weeds, and some neighborhood cats that hide in the little holes of the trees or in pockets of grass mounds that corner on the backyard wall, overlooking the street and the parking lot of a neighbor. It was the four of us girls, at the time always together, whenever Fafa was in town, and this was before Carolyne and I got into our trouble, and before Rania left to tend the dreams of my ex-husband in Tunis. We were all on coke, doing a lot of it in those days, I can’t really say why, it’s not like I needed it, not like Rania, not like Fafa for sure, but it was just something we always had around, and in Beirut that’s pretty normal, because we have money, and we have the time, and I don’t really enjoy drinking, and everyone around me is pretty lame, so it gives me a little booster, and it’s good. Fafa was arguing with Otto, her hubby, and in comes Dani. He wasn’t anything memorable, not at first sight, and I could tell he was much younger than us and a little shy. He started drinking, having shots of whiskey and slowly easing his way in to a conversation with Carolyne, and then Rania got excited like she always does, wanting to know who’s more talkative than she is, wanting to settle the scores, so she jumped in like a bat out of hell, and suddenly I noticed it was Fafa and Otto arguing and Carolyne, Rania and Dani on the side talking about something and this thing or that, and I was sitting by myself, and so I started to make conversation, sitting between Dani and Otto, and Fafa now on her lap, and a cockroach runs from under one of the bricks, and Fafa jumps so fast she nearly strikes me in the face, and Dani’s already at the garden door, pleading, begging like a girl for Otto to do something. Otto was confused, and pretty grossed out, though he said its normal and there’s nothing he can do about it, and so Rania finally slams on the thing with her boots and all I hear is a crack and then she lifts her foot and the cockroach is smudged all over the place and I hear Carolyne, Dani and Fafa moan and I just thought the whole scene was disgusting and at that point I’m thinking, it’s time to leave, or to do more coke, or something, to make it interesting. At some point we ended up doing more blow, and Dani did some as well, and then the conversation went on for a few more hours, and Fafa sitting on Otto’s lap, and the four of us talking about love, and loss, and innocence, and sex, and I remember thinking Dani may have had something interesting to say, I didn’t know him at the time, had never met him before, though he says he met me once outside on the street, in front of his house, years back, when my hair was still curly and long, and I was trying things out with my then ex-husband, who just happened to move back to Beirut the same year I did, and just happened to move into an apartment down the road from me, and as it turns out, across the street from Dani. The night ended, I realized we hadn’t shut our mouths for six or seven hours, it was four or five in the morning, Otto was the only sober one, which was always the case, because ever since he almost died in an opium den in Paris he pretends to be above it all, the drugs, and especially blow, always teasing Fafa and giving her a hard time, though if anyone deserves a hard time it’s her, because honestly, she’ll do blow after an abortion, and that’s a fact. By the time I saw Dani next, it was April, the first few signs of a summer of drastic change peering over the horizon, secrets, secrets, secrets, I can tell all of them, Dani!, I yelled, I yelled breaking down the door, listen, it’s a dump, it’s a shithole, and it’s full of thieves and killers and roaches up to the knees, but when spring hits, and the dread of winter is over, and everyone comes out of their homes, not like it was cold, not like it was ever too cold to go outside, but maybe because of the rain, maybe because food goes better with wine when its stormy outside, and the bars play rock and roll, but everyone listens to techno, I think, really, when the first signs of spring set over the horizon, and the killers march down to Martyr’s Square, commemorating the day that ruined it all, and the lisp on Beirut’s voice grows and grows, and the sun stands like a father opening his wings, everything goes, and I mean it, everything is alright. And that’s when I first realized, without a doubt, when he came back that spring and Fafa was with him, and Fafa staying at his place, and the first week when everyone was over at The Reservation, which is what they called his house, and the parties were going ‘till eight, nine, ten in the morning, and he always seemed quiet, content, with a smile on his face, never losing his cool, no longer on the drugs, just smoking his little joint like it was his little gift, his gift to himself and sitting there quietly with a pretty smile on his face, I could tell something had changed, something drastic, he felt better, he looked better, and so when Fafa finally left, got her drunk ass to Amman, to see her family and pay her sad respects, and it was the first long day of spring, and I was sitting in my living room, just off work, walking distance, just walked home, took of my shoes, cleaned the house, took my baby dog for a walk, and I get a message, like a superstition from the stars, falls right into my lap, kisses me on the shoulder, he says, It’s that time in the afternoon, where the angle of the sun sits right at the cusp, it’s far too beautiful a day not to share it with you, or something like that, something sweeter and more himself, and I laughed, hysterically, like he said, Come on, let’s smoke a joint before it rains, because the sun’s looking fucking good, and I find you beautiful. I went over, and that was the day I saw the bag, and that was the day we became friends, and I realized he would be my sidekick for the time that he was there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April was a dream. I remember the conversations, talking about the twenty minutes it takes to have an orgasm or to call it quits, to do something else. I remember that we must have baked brownies with a load of hash at least two or three times a week. I would invite over friends and he would host and the whole place would turn into a dance, sinister at times, dark, like the city, ruined in the heart, ruined in the cold, and at times it was like we were floating, above the place, above the darkness. Sitting on his balcony, my back to the lemon trees and the gardenias, always, him sitting under the two windows and the large wooden deck, the lampposts that look like they sneaked in from 1929, the straw bench and the white pillows, where he would lie down facing me, his eyes in the sun, squinting, tilting his head back and forth, hiding his eyes until he had something to say, lowering his neck to shade his view to the cold. On some days the wind would blow through and carry the ashes of our joints along the terrace floor, and I would watch in amazement the little angels from our smokes dust and dust away, burying themselves in the plants, along the marble, against the wall. He’d talk about the olive trees he planted, the tallest one sitting just behind a pillar, behind a porch swing, and the shortest one a few feet away from me, cautious to punch above its class, growing to the custom of what it could afford. I remember his songs, and the first and really only song, where everything else was really a variation, a song that came out of something else. He played it for me one afternoon, we were sitting outside, I was rolling us a joint, in my little mosaic bowl I bought off the street in Istanbul, when I visited, before I knew him, and he told me he wrote something the night before, a slow and dreary song, that he wrote it after we all left, we’d had another tray of brownies, and after everyone was cross-eyed and we finished at least ten bottles of wine, everyone just disappeared, and he sat there in front of his amplifier, a busted old piece of shit he borrowed from a friend who wanted to throw it out, and he plugged in his guitar, a tired piece of shit with moss growing on the board, that he also took off a friend, who wanted to throw it out, so he said that he would take it, and he said he just sat there and he was really stoned, and he couldn’t see anything, he couldn’t read his fingers or see in the room, everything pitch dark, and the whole apartment quiet, and suddenly he started playing, and at this time he never played the guitar, but I guess he felt like saying something, and he was too tired to write, too tired then and too tired because of everything that came with it, and he sang me the song right there under the sun, in his shorts and yellow socks, his baseball hat turned on his head, and his shoulders slouched over like he was drunk, leaning on the guitar for balance, for love. The lyrics are simple, and the notes even simpler. He repeats the same two notes over and over again, repeating in varying degrees of expression and loudness and monotone and melancholy the same three lines.

 

my girl

you were my girl

with your face

and your lips

you were mine then

you were mine then

 

I called it Sad Song, and for the rest of the time we knew each other whenever I needed to feel something or to be lifted I would ask him to play, or I would just have to look at him and say, Remember the time you wrote Sad Song, remember when you sang it to me, remember how we felt? He would smile. He was really changed. It was so obvious. I don’t know who he wrote it for. I’m sure the lyrics to the song and the fact that he was there, the fact that he showed up in Beirut April 1st and was ready for spring and when I’d ask about Istanbul he’d just shrug, I’m sure the whole thing makes sense if you study it. I didn’t know anything in particular. I didn’t know the details. I still don’t. I know what I knew then, what I was given. That slow and somber day, that quiet and helpless boy, sitting on the floor of my sweaty and dark apartment, my dog huffing over the buzz of the air conditioner, me in my pajamas, lazy, indifferent to the beating day outside, the theater of rapid newsreels barging into the room, radiating from the screen of my television set, calling for a mind to embrace the numbness, and that poor, sad, somber little boy, on the ground, at the door, sitting there with pages and pages in his hands, and a deprived look on his face, like he could either cry or head to the roof and be done with it, and he looks at the ground, and he looks at me, and the sad, somber song in his eyes, his beautiful little almond eyes, his beautiful little peacock stare, and he says to me, I don’t know what to do with it all, I really don’t know what to do, trying his hardest not to say, I’m done. Show me something, I said to him, show me something so I know what you mean. I told him to pick anything from the bunch, to take anything out of the stack without thinking or praying just give me a stack of pages to read, give me something I can put my hands on so I know, so I know what to say, so I know how to help, so when you look at me with your beautiful little painful eyes I can console you, or to be honest, so I can tell you, You’re right, none of it is worth anything.

In all honesty, I was expecting it. I was expecting it to be mediocre and for me to have to come up with a way to tell him flat out, without beating around the bush too much, that’s not my usual way, I’m pretty serious and honest. But then, I don’t know, I took the first pages into my hands and, I just couldn’t believe it. It wasn’t the voice I expected, and it wasn’t even the sort of voice that draws you in, begs you to cancel everything you have and spend the next day in bed just reading, picturing yourself a bystander in the story, watching the world prepare for destruction.

But right away, I felt the hook. It was surreal, and tranquil, in the way that I was sitting there, like I said, in my pajamas, a joint in my hand, feeling the valley hash burn right through my throat, and the curtains were shading us from the incredible sun, and I felt all day like I needed a pick-me-up, something to brighten the mood and to bring me to my feet, and he was lying there on the ground like a wounded dog, like a puppy who knows he’s wronged his master, and it seemed like the weight of the world sat on this boy’s shoulders, and it wasn’t even the weight at all that made him shudder or cringe, or ask for help, or cry, but the fact that nobody understood a word he was saying, that if he had to do the fight alone he would, he had to, but he was begging for someone to join the fight.

Those first pages were a revelation. I saw the beginning of something. He didn’t pick them from the pile without knowing what he wanted to do, he picked them because he knew they would be there first. A walk. His walk in New York, the last walk he made before he returned again and the whole thing blew itself to pieces. When I heard from him again that summer, and he had sent me an email, and I was shifting through the pages like when I was a little girl and a pen pal from school had finally sent me a letter, I felt it again, this twitch inside my stomach, like I was beginning a journey again, our journey. Reading those pages again, the second time around, not for Eldorado, the beautiful book we put together, the book that sits on my bedside table next to Tessellations, that I read every now and again just to remember. No, reading those pages again, from Manhattan, when he was so far away, and I had felt his absence, when I was expecting him to be back after a week, when he left to spend some time in the south of Turkey with his family, and then a wedding in the south of France, and I was waiting for him to be back, any minute, and all I got was a message saying he wasn’t coming back, that he felt like he grew a pair of wings, and was flying to New York, I was sitting there, with my heart open, my entire body clenched to the bone, and I was reading those pages, the new pages, and halfway through, I put them down, I had to put them down, and I realized I was reading his pages again, I realized I was watching the character go about his life, I was hearing his words, I was listening to his voice, his pretty little voice, his beautiful little voice, and I started to cry. I don’t cry, ever. I really, really don’t. Not when my friend died last summer. Not when I got my divorce. But dammit when I read those pages of Manhattan, and my poor Dani was so, so far away, and I could feel the desperation in his voice, I could feel the dryness of his tongue, that he was bleeding for love, for food, for home, I cried, like a little baby, I hugged my little dog and I cried.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He knew what he was doing the entire time. From the moment I picked up the pieces and started juggling his manuscript in my hands, I knew that he knew what he was doing, he was just consumed by an insufferable doubt that he couldn’t shed, and I understand, I’m not an artist, not even close, but I know he had a genuine fear for the work, that he wasn’t doing it right. He didn’t care if it was going to sell. Let’s face it, money isn’t an issue, and he’s not going to starve. But the book is a lifeline, it became his life. It consumed him. Is aw it with my own eyes. The flesh of the pages was his flesh. If I tore a page apart he would bleed form the inside out. But he let me do it. He let me crush the thing when I needed to. But in all proud honesty, I didn’t do much crushing. He was determined to do the job right, to do justice to the story, to tell it like it should be told, and once I went through everything once, once I knew what he was all about, and he kept handing me page after page, in a specific order, ordering them for me on a whim, I realized he had already put the whole thing together, he just needed a loving touch. I crossed out some paragraphs, usually the last few lines of every scene, where its obvious he falls right off track, just when everything is perfectly ended, and he tries, in some Dickensian way, to tie everything together again, to bring us back to the plot. I told him, Babe, honestly, there just isn’t a plot, not like that. I think just the fact that someone was reading it was enough. He trusted me. He knew that I wouldn’t spit him out to dry on the dirt. He trusted me, and I gave him all my time.

Those three weeks were insane. We went through his walks, through his memory. I felt everything the way he did. I could see into his eyes, past all the bullshit that sits on the surface of every written page, I could see right into his soul. I felt Her. I still didn’t know who it was, and I still don’t really know, though I guess, based on what everyone always says, I guess I have an idea, but still, I know a different Her, a character that can’t ever be present, there’s no way she’s that real. He just doesn’t play the games, and it kills him, and I saw him struggle to put two and two together, to admit that there’s such a thing as right and wrong, to admit that there could ever be a story, an intention. This is Beirut right before the summer, so basically, this is Beirut before everything turned completely on its head. It had been bad, it had been worse, it had even been destroyed, but the spring is the spring Hezballah joined the war. Everything changed. I was reading his pages and outside the world was changing, and things were moving to an even darker state. I was reading about the character’s journey into Africa, about the character and his muse, about him meeting Her. I read the finale and I wanted to hug him for the entire night. I wanted us to drive to the remotest island and build a pyramid, stand on the mantel and play with the world like she was our toy. I met Writer and Self, I met the Professor, met Lady and the Witch. I didn’t know where they came from, I didn’t know their real names, or who they were meant to portray. I didn’t know why they even played in the story, but everything, when put together, fits, like a glove, it fits, it sits in its place and its like the scenes just figure themselves out. He was so desperate to finish, and by the end of every day, finishing work, walking home, feeding the dog, taking a shower, I would walk over to his place and he’d have his head in his hands, again, ready to cry, and I would sit on the ground next to him, and he would hand me two, three more scenes, and I would read them, cross a few things out, put little red hearts where they needed to be, armory and support, warding off the haters, the critics, the devils, and I would roll us a joint and we would walk outside, to the other end of the house, to the balcony, his sacred spot, and sit beside each other like we were huddled at a fire, and he would tell me how he needed to finish so he could start something else, and I’d ask him, honestly, why the rush, and he would laugh and say, it’s not his choice but that everything is rushing, And look outside at the shit, man, everything is destroyed.

By the time he left, without me realizing, or even he realizing, he wouldn’t be back for another five months, when he’d show up with another face, another set of eyes, another voice, and a whole long list of Sad Songs, a new typewriter, hours and hours of recorded voices he gathered on the streets of that bare, crater like city, and a bag of pages, new pages, he burned into a book and called Manhattan, and I saw that he moved from the third person trickster to a first person dream, everything, and I say it with the faintest memory of a time I knew what clarity meant, what idling away to the breeze of the Mediterranean over seaside brunches and day after day of joint after joint, by the time he left, not knowing that he wouldn’t be right back, everything in our world began to change, everything in our world just ran her hands into a jar of rotten, molested coffins, and shit, I mean shit, really, really hit the fan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The older you get the faster the summer goes, the quieter the winter, the more you feel like you’re dying waiting for the spring. It all went up, and then it went down. I didn’t hear from Dani for a while, and when I did, I’ve said it before, it was magic, and he gave me these beautiful little pageants of his story, two hundred pages of a long, drawn out sigh. And then he disappeared, and I wasn’t thinking of the spring we just had, we were burning through the summer like it was our last.

Carolyne realized she had to leave for good, to raise her kid somewhere else. Four years old, spoiled by her parents, raised in a home with two maids, two grandparents and a sensitive mom. His dad couldn’t put his finger on his nose if he was pushed against the wall and told to. An all together useless man. Carolyne found a place in Atlanta, a decent job, and decided she would go there, try it out, put her kid in school. Her sister had just moved there, set everything up. I was already planning my escape. Burn the ship before it blows. I needed to get out. It was alright at first, but the moment we started to hear the fires, two bombs in Tripoli, two in Beirut, not like we weren’t ready for it, not like it didn’t happen all the time, but it was different. Suicide bombers. In Beirut. It wasn’t usually like that. And it felt different, because of Syria. Where do you go? The southern border is closed, attempting a pass is like walking up to the gates of hell and pulling down your pants, closing your eyes. Syria, fucked. Where do you go? The first thing the Zionists do, as we like to call them in frank humor, is shut down the airport with a parade of bombs. The port? Shut down before the afternoon, before the first full day of fighting closes. It’s true, the sun is there and you feel light, you get in the car, roll down the windows, and when the traffics at a pass, the wind flows through the vines, you feel that feeling of home, that passage he always spoke about in his poems, the place he says he discovered, every night, in his dreams. But before you know it, you’re trapped. And then what? Curfews. Shelters. Funerals. Goodbyes.

Before he left I told him I wanted to make a break for California. It made sense. My parents live in Arizona. They made a fortune out there, buying shit property, selling it to their friends, starting a community, selling when the market opens, moving to finer pastures, doing it all over again. My father has a strange knack for putting people together on a plot of land and calling it a home. something that comes with being a permanent refugee. I was born in one of the camps, just south of Beirut. He drives a Porsche and wears a beret now, and owns several homes, and a long plot of land he says will be our ticket. The gift that will take care of his daughters, he always says.

I have a sister in California and another in Arizona. Family made it out. I came back, don’t know why. Beirut. The same story, over and over again. We were born in an asylum, and we left. One day I had an American passport in my hands, and my mother’s face says it all. I was no longer a refugee. I’m an American. What does it mean? It means I can go wherever I want whenever I want, and if anyone tries to stop me, I just nod and make my way. But still, when you’re in Beirut, and it all goes off, like it tends to, every four or five years, sometime after spring, in the middle of summer, usually after a world cup or a miss universe pageant, it doesn’t matter who you are or what you have in your pockets. If you don’t make it out in time, you’re trapped, and you find yourself eating rubber bullets for breakfast.

Carolyne made it a point to celebrate and mourn her imminent departure. We had beautiful nights, and then more beautiful nights, and then the nights dragged into the mornings, and the mornings dragged into the day, and suddenly we were in Tyre on the beach pushing turtles into the sea and taking mdma through the night. Everyone had their hubby and their dates all figured out. Carolyne rekindled the romance of something lost, a girl I came to realize at some point that I knew. It’s an old story, and I thought I’d never have to think of it again. Basically, I saved her life.

Before my ex-husband became my ex-husband, he was the love of my life, the man who, in university, I decided I would marry, if only to see his smile form on his face. That man has a genuine smile. And a beautiful laugh. Pretty much all he has.

Like everyone else in Beirut, we were doing a lot of drugs. One of the older guys Eve, my ex-husband, knew, and bought a lot of drugs from, invited us to stay in his chalet in the mountains, stay the weekend if we liked, he was going to be up there and host some friends. We thought it would be fun, so we joined. All night, the vibe was weird. It was pretty easy for me to realize that we weren’t on the same page as everyone else. Everyone was on blow, smoking a lot of weed, drinking a lot of wine, a lot of vodka, a lot of rum, and there were enough pills for everyone to enjoy. It’s not like it is in other places. In Beirut, everyone buys, everyone chips in, and everyone shares. Unless someone has a habit they can’t kick, people are generally kind with their goods. But I thought it was shady, every now and again a few of the older guys would go up to another room, and when they came back they were wobbly, a deep, distant glaze in their eyes, and they seemed to be losing focus. At some point, there were these two girls I didn’t know, who I never got to know, sitting beside me. They went up as well. Everything else was right there on the table, for all of us to do, so it was obvious they were smoking, or snorting, or shooting dope, up there in the room, looking to be private. When they came back down the girls didn’t look well. They didn’t look themselves. Even though I didn’t know them, I could tell, anyone could tell. One of them sat next to me, and for a while I kept feeling her rubbing up against me, pushing into me, like she was digging her shoulders into my ribs, as though she was trying to push me, to see if I would act. I was turning around to finally be like, What the fuck, but when I turned around she just bombed right onto the floor, smack, hit her face, fell to the side of the couch and landed with her face planted on the wood. Everything stopped, everyone went silent, and before I knew it, before I could put my hands up and ask for help, the older boys, the mature guys who lured us into their secret fucking cave, were starting to lose their shit, yelling things like, Leave that bitch on the street, and they were plotting how to pick her up, get her into a car, secretly, and dropping her off, in the snow, on the side of some curb. It was disturbing, I was disturbed. Eve had to get involved, and I literally put myself between the girl’s poor body, losing life on the ground, saying if they were going to take her to the side of some curb, they’d have to take me, and none of them would get away with it. Finally, it figured itself out, Eve getting into someone’s face, me pushing them away from the body. Our friend, he finally gave in, said he would call someone to meet him at the hospital, said he knew someone who could take care of it. He said it in a way I could trust, because that’s really the only way anything gets done, is by knowing someone. I told him I would go with him, he didn’t budge, he said he would drive himself, and he made the call. Before I knew it, we were carrying the poor girl’s body, lifeless, limp, in my hands, into the backseat of his car, patting her face with water, putting a stab of lavender in her hands. I don’t know why, or for what. The man took hold of the wheel and he was gone. And that’s the last I ever saw of her, but I heard from him later that night, after we’d all parted, separated and gone our ways, and agreed not to talk unless it was absolutely necessary, I heard from him that night, and a week or so later, and then a couple months later, that she was alright, that she overdosed but that she’d be fine, and that he was grateful and thankful I did what I did, and I told him to shut the fuck up, if anyone was going to die on my hands, it wasn’t go to be my choice, it would have to be something none of us could change. Something like the pale root of destiny, the dumps, Beirut.

I never went back to that place, never met again with that guy, and somehow Eve and I forgot about it, and never really spoke about that night. I never really thought about her, maybe once or twice, in twelve years. And then one night, stepping off the wooden stairs, stepping into the wild expanse of sand, dipping my feet in the water, warm in a summer night, warm enough to touch with my hands, to my chest, feeling my nipples harden, I looked back onto shore, and I knew, I knew right away, I recognized Carolyne’s girlfriend, like I had met her before, and not just met her, but I had really known her, like we had shared something, something surreal.

I spent the night wondering, every so often looking over, looking her in the eyes, making sure she wouldn’t catch my stare but wondering, watching, observing, tripping on md, slowly coming into a world of our own. I watched her, through the night and into the day, and it wasn’t until I had my own feelings of discomfort, I was being tailed by a guy I knew, right away, I shouldn’t have invited. A guy whose story I’ll let tell itself. But not right now, I’m saying, I watched her, and I was slowly coming into a daze, the sun ascending in from the east, the first howls of a morning crow, the laughs and jeers of our friends, our troupe, forming a complexion of their own, the voices, the noiseless sound, etched into the space, like it was played from afar, the echoes of a passing dream, feeling like I was waking up, like I was coming to, rising from somewhere I didn’t know I had been. I watched her, and finally, when I saw her clench her fists and rub her face in Carolyne’s neck, when the dew of my eyes formed little crystals, magnets I had to shy away with my fingers, I found the memory, sutured, painted, drawn onto a forgotten wall. I realized it was her, the girl whose life we debated in our hands. It made sense, that they would find each other, that I would be there, to see it all, and that they would disappear, both of them, twelve years apart, disappear from my life, drifting away to the paralysis of a worn, summer night.

 

 

 

 

The prophet jewels

Manhattan, 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were living on East 3rd street between A and B. Alphabet City, just a few blocks from Tompkins Square Park, from the East River Park entrance on 6th street, where he liked to go, and from all the record stores and bookstores around the corner; like, Mast Books on A between 3rd and 4th, across from the tenement homes and a little garden, a lower east side emblem of gentrification; or East Village Books on 99 St. Marks Place, where old books go to dry out their pages, smoothen their covers and learn the ropes of patience, waiting for a buyer to stumble down the steps into the dim bookshop to rummage through the covers; or even a few blocks walk towards Bluestockings, the radical bookstore on Lower East Side, if you believe there can be such a thing as radicalism in contemporary, 21st century America, in the heart of the Lower East Side, in the heart of New York City, structures unfolding their dilapidated history to usher in the common era; and a kind summer’s walk towards Nolita, towards McNally Jackson, where they give you bookmarks for every book you buy, and probably the most internationally diverse and easily maneuvered bookstore in that part of town, with sections for most European canons, feeding your eyes their distinct selection and taste, classics next to the unknown, at least to most of us, who haven’t spent the last decade of our life simmering in the pages of a literary novel, choosing to do so with balanced respect; and Housing Works, where most of the money is donated to Aids relief, and most of the staff DO NOT have AIDs, and the selection there is also beautiful, and diverse, and two floors and sections on spirituality and psychology, politics and myth, and the readings are hosted in an inviting way, but I’ve never been to one, just a thought, that I usually leave before the people arrive, probably because readings remind me of America’s wastefulness, and America reminds me of the war.

Those are the bookstores I know, the ones I remember. I left New York for a while, but now I’m back. I spent some months in the Dominican, trying to get away. I went home, to the mad oasis in the desert, the bright lights of the Empty Quarter. I don’t want to spoil the fun, of getting to know me, so I won’t mention the name, but it borders Oman to the east and the great and honorable kingdom to the south. Across the gulf is Iran, a brother and a neighbor. As a woman I never wanted to go back, but I spent a few months there recently to be with my family. My father married twice, and though he’s the hero of my world, he’s also a traitor. I can’t forgive him for what he’s done to my mom.

Dani moved into the apartment with us in the summer of 2013. He had just left Istanbul, on a whim, probably because he realized, after being there for a year, that he didn’t speak the language, that he never would. He called me when he arrived, I was at Annie’s place, on the roof, when she still lived on 12th and 2nd, smoking some really good weed and reading Robert Benefiel’s Easy Battles for Lazy Armies, reading passages we liked, passages we wanted to discover, passages that sounded sweet and warm in Annie’s voice, in mine, in Toddler’s – the name I gave to my only Arab friend, a self declared fag searching for his daddy. Annie’s uncle gave it to her, or something like that, he gave her the book, and we found it inspiring for us idling and burning in New York, clueless to the cause of destiny, to our fortunate lives. I’ve always been fortunate, but that doesn’t stop me from trying.

I remember one of the poems, “Farming a Sidewalk Flower”, is kind of like our ode, it became our anthem, our last will and testament we would read before dawning the day or cursing the night. I was good, working two pretty cool jobs, as an intern of course, not getting paid, working too hard, but I was good. Annie was depressed, and by the end of the summer she was on the verge of death, not actually, but physically, on the verge of dying somewhere inside, or something inside of her dying, and so by the end of summer she’d have to leave, but I didn’t know that yet. I guess the poem is self explanatory, in the way that titles reveal the subject without forgiving the words. The poem begins like this:

 

a stalk

has broken through

the concrete

in front of where

i live.

 

And later,

 

just this struggle

between the pavement

and the elements.

 

I remember reading that poem a few times and Annie always saying, in her sweet and raspy voice, the way most of us do when we’re searching for our environment, “that’s us, isn’t it, this is so New York.” I remember thinking, Am I the flower or the pavement, What do I want to be?

Dani called me and I picked up. He said, “Meera, I heard you have a room free. It’s Dani. How are you?” I said, “Dani? Oh my god.” And a few hours later he joined us on the roof, and after a while of introducing him to everyone, to Annie and to Toddler, and to Toddler’s boyfriend, NOT his daddy, I realized he had this book in his hand, the entire time, he was fiddling with it, and it seemed important, special, because he didn’t share it with anyone, or show it to us, or leave it on the floor to brave the elements. He also had a camera, and he took a picture of my feet, and Annie’s feet, and he laughed to himself, saying how if my mom saw me she would freak, seeing my feet the color of darkness, the remains of Manhattan soot pledged to my soles. We were stoned, and at some point I guess we made rum punch, but nothing fancy, just the taste of rum and some artificial juice, without ice, in two plastic cups that we passed around, and one of us managing to drink from the bowl, a thermos with really long legs. Finally, the sun went down, the day slowly receding to the shadows, and for fear of roaches and crawlers, for the awareness of rats and mice, we decided to ditch the roof, abandon ship, go downstairs and wash our feet, and go out to a bar, for dinner, for drinks, and then I would show him our apartment, and if he waned to live with us, he could, because I never really hung out with him before but he always made me smile, for some reason, I felt like he understood where I was coming from, because he came from there as well, even though I never shared a moment’s secret with him, but I remember when his sister graduated from school, the year my brother did, and our parents threw a party in their honor, the spectacle of the year, he was filming everything with a beautiful grin on his face, filming everything even when his cute, embarrassed sister told him to stop, he kept filming, and for once he didn’t seem like the arrogant dickhead he was in school, but I saw for once the sensitive child others spoke about, who wrote poetry, they said, who wrote well.

At dinner he wasn’t sitting next to me, and we were joined by Roro, my best friend from home and summer roommate, she was subletting the room next to mine, the only room with no sunlight and one of two rooms, other than mine, with exposed brick wall. After dinner we walked towards our place, Roro stopping at the Joe Strummer mural on the corner of 7th and A, across from the park, sending her regards. I finally had a moment alone with him and I wanted to ask him about the book, because he was still holding it in his hand, and he was pretty quiet at this point, and I wanted to know what he was carrying, you know, like it was obvious, he wasn’t just carrying a book, it was a book.

We got back to our place and Sammi was there. She had a friend visiting, Alex, and both of them were from London. I thought she was nice, really sweet, but some of the things she said were stupid, and in the end I was happy to leave for a month of her stay, to go home for a while, see the family, and during that time Dani and Roro really had enough of her, Dani locking himself in his room trying to write, always banging on the typewriter like it was the devil, like he was fishing for his soul in the glass keytops, begging for something to come out. I know the sound, I spent enough time with him in the room, hiding behind the door, doing whatever he needed to do to get the words out. Sometimes I could smell weed form under the door, but usually when he smoked he liked to pass it on and come outside and find someone to smoke with him. Sometimes I guess he needed to find the inspiration elsewhere, and when he got into the habit of buying his records from around the neighborhood, after spending a week or so developing the impression of a studio, buying a nice set of speakers, some sort of blue box that he used to wire the record player into the speakers, and into the computer, and the record player itself, something not that expensive, he would go out in the morning, before showering, in his teeny weeny shorts, showing off his legs, which I liked, and I’m sure a lot of the guys around the neighborhood liked as well, in those hot summer days, when it’s real hot, and I feel like the sight of sweat on freshly shaved legs or the tight fitted collection of a cute butt in something short sends the unemployed witnesses into a frenzy, and so he went out every morning looking comfortable and pretty and he’d buy himself coffee on the go, with lots of ice, and wind up in a record store searching for something special, and then he’d come right back home, sometimes picking up a turkey sandwich at Gracefully around the corner, full on bacon, double cheese, lettuce, tomato, cucumber and pickles, with a bag of chips, and some beer, and he would play the record, listen to it once, and then play it again and start typing, and I think it got to the point while I was gone that he didn’t feel comfortable coming back into the house because Sammi was sitting there, in what he calls her fat shorts, with her not so tight butt popping out the sides, watching a stupid TV show on really loud, something loud and obnoxious like Prison Break or Lost, and from his room he could hear the incessant explosions and the gunshots, and I understand, I mean, how do you explain the explosions and the sorry dialogue to someone trying to write a book?

Sammi and Alex left for the night to go out drinking in Meatpacking and we rolled some more smokes, I showed him the room, he seemed confused and impressed, but also indifferent, like it didn’t really matter to him as long as he had a bed, and preferably a window, I think he mentioned that, and then I explained the bathroom situation, that the shower always floods to the knees, something he solved his first day by applying a whole bottle of Drano to the drain, and that the toilet can’t handle tissue or anything but human waste, and he understood, which was pretty disgusting over the summer, the smell of shit escaping the garbage, especially when someone left the tap cover open, like it was burning, solidifying and spreading against the pungent power of a New York City heat wave.

He played us songs that night, the first night, from a variety of sources. Songs he said he liked to hear because they took him to different places. That was something I liked about the records. Every day when I’d come home and I’d find the door open to his room and him sprawled out on the bed with his hands behind his head and him staring up at the ceiling and I’d wonder where he’s drifted off to next, and he’d show me the record he bought that day and it was always like that, if he felt like going to Africa he’d show up with a record of some Malian blues band, or an Afro-beat compilation from the seventies, or he’d feel like traveling and going on the road somewhere and he’d realize his loneliness and his strange relationship to home, and he’d listen to Woody Guthrie, and I caught him one day staring out the window onto the little mosquito pond the neighbor set up downstairs, and Woody Guthrie was playing in the background, “I Ain’t Got No Home,” and I realized he felt so lost and far, and I told him with as big a smile on my face as I could manage, “You do have a home Dani, you do.” And we laughed, but I could see the look in his eyes that day, and it came again and again, and when he left, at the end of that summer, it was one of the sadder days of my young adult life, which is a polite way of saying I was fucking upset, and hurt, but I knew why he was doing it, why he couldn’t stay, because those last three weeks every time I looked in his eyes he had that same look again, that same look of something lonely and afraid, sad and tired, begging for the comfort of home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At first I didn’t see much of him. I would go to work, I was interning for a filmmaker who was putting together a festival, and assisting a professor at my school. Looking ahead at my last season at NYU. I realized early on everything was coming to an end. Marcella, one of my roommates, fell in love, and it was the most beautiful thing. She’d never really had a boyfriend, and seeing her fall right into place with Joey, like they had known each other centuries, it was a good feeling, something good for all of us to see. She also starting interning at NBC and I could see her future clearing up, the last few hectic years of her life suddenly making sense, to her, to us, to her parents. She was working like an animal, like everyone in New York, working until her nails started to bleed and she grew horns instead of hair, it was manic. and I guess Joey was kind of like a meditative support for her. It was nice.

My other roommate, Isabelle, Argentinian, she had been dating a guy for three or four years now, and they were basically engaged. I remember one night, I called Dani in Berlin. He was stoned, standing outside a kiosk, watching one of the games of the world cup. He seemed happy, proud, like I could feel the pride in his voice. I told him I was going to come find him in Paris, that if I went to Paris he had to meet me there, and I was coming with a friend, a Rastafarian professor who remains the single most inspiring model in my life. I also remember telling him how frustrating it was to come home to the usual scene of Isabelle and Christian lying on the couch, scissoring. He asked me, What’s that, scissoring? I laughed, You’re outrageous, you know, when two lovers lie together and their legs are like scissors? Something about it he found funny, and was dying on the other end of the phone, laughing hysterically. I told him I was seeing Pharell, a guy he introduced me to. Actually, come to think of it, he introduced me to a few guys I fell in love with. There’s Cyrus, the sweetest most beautiful man on the face of the earth. There’s Zayed, the sweetest most generous man whose heart and soul connected to the land, our land, my home. I was falling for guys left and right, guys who made me want to dance, who made me want to write, sing, copulate. guys who fucked me the way I wanted to be fucked, and loved me the way I wanted to be loved, and could always tell the difference, on any given day, between fucking and loving, and how much of a difference it makes, and what security means, real security, fucking and loving, and doing it in a different place, seas and leagues and miles from home, and how I felt when we would finish, and if I felt safe it was alright.

So everyone around me was in love. I was preparing for the end, and the beginning of something new. It took a while to digest and I guess that’s why I went home that summer, for a month, to come back and recalibrate and prepare myself, one last year, one last juke into the dungeon, and then I’m out, and it’s all on me, and everyone back home was asking what I was going to do, and of course the parents expected I’d be on the first flight back the day after graduation, and how do I explain the scene, my jaw dropping, my shoulders perched, my teeth sticking out like I was ready to bite something. I’m not coming home, I told them, not now, not ever.

So I didn’t see much of him, in the beginning of that summer. My sister was doing a prepatory training north of the city, and she’d come home for the weekends, and then she moved in with us for a couple weeks. And the whole time I didn’t see much of him. He was always coming through at six or seven in the morning, and while we all out working during the day, he would be in his room, I’m guessing, writing, and then when we’d all come back, he’d be gone, drinking, recording people’s voices, doing. But before he started writing in the room, he rented a desk in a shared space studio in Chinatown. I remember him telling me about that. He tried working there and by the time I left, he was spending most of his time at the place, watching sixteen other painters shuffle in and out, each in four, five hour periods. He marveled at the fact, the way they came in quiet and calm, collected their things, set up the easel and stool, prepared their brushes, the palette, and started working. It amazed him, the difference in style, between painters and writers. For camaraderie, we read O’Hara’s “Why I am not a painter”. Writers, especially those that write from the fugue paralysis of a poet, are fragile, disheveled, and destroyed. They write in a state of chaos and anarchy, melancholy and depression. He shifted between these states, shifting so compulsively it was like he was always one step behind, always catching up with the emotive sequence of his writing. I noticed that about him from the beginning, noticing the way he walked and spoke, the music he listened to on his breaks, the amount of cigarettes, the pacing, the look in his eyes, the color of his hands, the color of his teeth, the bottle in his hands, it all came from one paramount place, the book. If anything in his life took on religious meaning, it was this mysterious collection of writing, and the bound copy he had in his hands that first afternoon. By the time I came back, he had quit the studio, moved his work into his tiny room, turned the pink cabinet into a desk, the corner of the bed into a chair, and the window into an ashtray. He was surrounded by books, used and new, and records, used and new. It was a beautiful sight, walking into the apartment, seeing him there, seeing them all sitting there waiting for me like they were my children. Annie, Rori, Marcella, and D. That was really when it took off for us, and in a little way, when it started to take off for him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I got back, things were different. Sammi moved out, was back in London. She had stayed the last few nights in my room, while one of her many visitors was staying in hers. Marcella was back, I hadn’t seen her in a while. And Rori was wrapping up her internships, working two days a week with one studio and another two days with Ba Da Bing records. Dani was well into the first stages of Manhattan, which at the time was just new 1st person, as he would call it. He started opening up more. We started going for walks. I had a lot of free time, and I had a lot less work to do, prepping for the semester ahead, doing some reading, writing a few poems, scratch paper poems. I guess I became his drinking buddy. I started to see a different side to him, and I realized I was beginning to see his side to it. His view of things, the way he maneuvered around town, the story of his days. I hadn’t thought about it much, but I realized I had always thought of him in a vague way, going about his day writing, buying coffee to go from different hipster baristas, buying his beers during breaks, eating a small sandwich to keep him going, every now and then stopping at the Bowery Hotel for a stiff drink with his favorite bartender, Jose, from the Dominican, who lived in the Bronx and had just had a baby boy, and the other guys, Nick, the Manchester United fan, his ally in town, and Josh, the nice, white guy with a sweet smile and a firm handshake. I knew he had certain spots, certain places he always went because it made him feel comfortable and he could focus on his plans, on the writing, on other things, like he had this plan for a publication, and it consumed him for a few days, until he realized, like with everything else in his life, he had finish the book first before he had any legitimacy to attract any sort of fellowship. So then like everything he dropped it until further notice.

We went on long walks. He would come home, from wherever, with a smile on his face, and by this time Rori had already left town, gone back to London, and Isabelle and Marcella were both back, forging their careers and their lives. He would walk in and grab me by the hand and ask if I wanted to join in. Or he would storm out of his room, in his charming red shirt, the one his dad gave him, the one he gave me before he left, and the only pair of jeans he owned, torn in several places, always dropping them off at the Chinese lady’s place across the street, who stitched them for free because he took his laundry there as well. Nothing comes free in New York, but somehow he always managed to get some deals. At Snack Dragon across the street he never paid, spending Monday nights, Thursday nights and the occasional Saturday night with John or Pharell, whosever turn it was, drinking forty ounce beer all night, though he usually bought a Red Stripe while the others drank the forties, and smoking blunts in the basement of the restaurant, a steel winding stairwell leading you into a sort of bomb shelter like steel encampment. If it wasn’t a busy night they would shut early and smoke their joints in the store itself. Snack Dragon on 3rd street, not the one on Orchard Street. Pharell’s older brother worked there but Pharell worked on our block, so that’s the one they spent their nights at. A few other regulars, basically artists and low time weed dealers, would hang around there as well, usually on Pharell’s shift, and they’d all sit around drinking beer calling out to some drunk, stumbling white girls passing through, fighting emaciation with a two order of Johnny Boy or Nacharito. And during the day if ever ran out of cash or forgot his wallet at home, he’d have coffee and breakfast waiting for him from the two Ibrahims, the Touareg from Niger and the beautiful, most handsome man to ever propose to me, young ambitious Ibrahim from Mali, the ball player who got rejected from Nursing school more than times than I can count. It was really sweet to see how fast someone can set up. He hadn’t been there two months before it looked like he had been there years. Which made it all the more surprising when he decided he would go.

On some of the walks we would bump into friends of his from some of the divier bars, quiet bars with old neighborhood regulars, like Morgan and Cassie who worked at the reforming punk spot on 5th and B, or Brian at Dorian Gray’s on 4th between A and B. But my favorite place of all was the KGB, on 4th between 2nd and 3rd. The strangest things happen in that place, even though its now just a standard late night dive bar with old timers and people who survived the radical nineties and lived to tell the story. He was the youngest person there, except for a couple aspiring drag queens who I guess felt safe to be in the company of the crowd. They thought we were married. He told me when he went in without me they always asked why he didn’t bring his wife. I really liked the KGB, Agee serving behind the bar, doubling with Dan, whose theories on American conspiracies and tragedies always entertained us, who probably was the only person in the bar who knew where we were from and understood what was happening there. The days leading up to Congress’ vote on airstrikes in  Syria, the most flagrant days of that summer, we spent the nights with Dan, mainly for his humor, and Dani really enjoyed that he could smoke weed and cigarettes after they locked the doors, and whenever he wanted to catch up with a friend he would bring them there. It’s quiet, and there isn’t a line to get in.

One night I told Dani, without thinking, that I couldn’t remember the last time we hung out together sober. I don’t know why but I think it hurt him. So we started going for afternoon walks, in the sun, away from the maniacal food and beverage industry, towards the water. He liked sitting by the sea, it calmed him. When I first heard from him after he left, a few weeks or so after he arrived in Beirut, it was really strange at first, and I felt like I was talking into the past, to someone who wasn’t really there, like the world he left behind had disappeared, and he went looking for it. He told me he spent his first week in a haze, sleeping at four or five in the afternoon, the exhaustion coming so suddenly he would wake up a couple hours later, at nine or ten, on the porch swing on the balcony, or on the couch with a joint in his hand. He was staying in his family’s place, living with his brother and a maid, who cooked and cleaned, took care of him. Things were difficult with his brother. He felt misunderstood. He had written to him that he was thinking of coming back, and his brother rallied against it, blaming him for bringing a shadow of darkness over his life. But he seemed okay, and he told me in that first week, in the haze, he had nothing to do, had only a couple joints he had saved from the last time he was there, and he hadn’t spoken to anyone yet that he was back, so he just roamed the streets at night, into the morning, and quietly into the day, walking aimlessly, through Ras Beirut, onto the Corniche, onto the rocks, sitting there for hours in the morning, when the sun’s eyes could finally be felt, the cool Mediterranean air putting a blanket of ease for the sun’s scorching rays. He told me he would sit there hours, writing in his notebook, reading a book of poems I gave him, Rilke’s Duino Elegies, watching, observing, These people, he said, who stepped into my heart and dismantled every little vein, these people, he said, who I’ve come to love. I remember him saying it made him proud to see so many people, Syrians especially, who had fled the war, numbering well over a million, he was overjoyed to see them fishing on the waterside, spending their afternoons eating seeds and fruits, drinking juice and cartons of cola, harassing their friends, teasing the coffee sellers and the musicians playing the oud, the little boys who beg to polish your shoes, the feeling he had, he said it in a really beautiful way, was that he lost his vision, he lost his sight, he lost his compass in New York, and sitting there, in the company of all these strangers, he felt like he had emerged from a long, desperate dream. He told me he spent most of the nights walking silently, without music, wandering into neighborhoods he’d never walked through but only drove, neighborhoods near Cola, Tariq el Jdeideh, Barbir, walking all the way East towards Mar Mikhael, Dora, Bourj Hammoud. He told me he sat on the concrete slabs that separated the two egregious lanes outside his dead grandparent’s home, looking through at the alleyway that led upwards from beside the front gate, to the abandoned kiosk from where he used to buy rapidly expiring chocolates and dates as a kid. In a romantic way, I remember as well, in the days before delivery service, where you’d ease a basket on a string off the balcony, with money inside, and they’d put the candy in the basket and you’d row it up. I hadn’t been to Beirut in four or five years. My father didn’t allow it. He said it was dangerous, that we could find ourselves in the middle of something without knowing and then we’d be fucked. He may have had a point, but I always felt if four million others were doing it why couldn’t I? Was my life that much more valuable? I know the answer. They don’t have the privilege to leave. Some of them do, and they choose to stay, for work, for love, for hope. Some of them stay because they’re attached at the hip, addicted to the feeling you have, or the feeling you don’t have, when you’re home. Most of them I would say are nostalgic, and if they ever leave it draws them back, just like it did him so many times, because at some point they felt something they had never felt, and it burned with so much strength it almost consumed them, and they could never forget or turn it away, always chasing that first, unpredictable high. Like an angel that comes out of the corner of your eye, the moment you decide to end it, sparing a few words and a gesture of love, knowingly or not, saving your life.

We went on long, incredible walks. We would start outside a bookstore on St. Marks Place and after a few hours I’d find myself on the waterside in Brooklyn, looking back over the water, having walked over the Williamsburg Bridge, smoking a joint, singing some songs, stopping every now and then to write down a few words or a thought, to draw a picture of a bird that didn’t look diseased, to take down the name of a poet someone mentioned on the fly. By the end of the night we’d be sitting in an Americana bar in Coney Island, somewhere he said he came once with a couple friends while he was helping them with a film, and we’d eat Toto’s pizza and look over the amusement park struggling to breathe. I think the longest we walked was probably thirteen hours, and for a whole week I felt a stiff pain in my thighs, I couldn’t lift my arms over my neck, and my lower back felt like I had been hit by a car. But we walked at the speed of our thoughts, and sometimes it was slow, dormant, melancholic, grey, and other times it was rapid, decisive, raging, a fierce crimson red, cautionary proverbs under an elm or an oak.

I never read his book. I don’t know what he wrote about or where he got his ideas. But I’m sure those hours drenched in the immeasurable sweat of a summer day played some sort of role in the process, painting a picture he kept loose in his mind. Something he could revert to. I always do. When I write I start by singing, and I let my voice trickle and trail like I’m hearing myself for the first time, like I’m focusing on the emptiness that pervades the space between the words, filling, gesturing it with love, affection, prayer. I sing until I can’t hear my voice or recognize the space, and then I find myself lying against a wall, grass, under the covers, in a public bathroom with my clothes on, scribbling on a pad, with a deep sense of, I don’t know, fear, or like I have to finish what I’m doing otherwise. Somehow I feel like I never read the book because if I did, I would know, I would know once and for all what it was all about. I don’t think I wanted to know, I don’t know if I want to. I’m still dealing. In many ways, I’m really just still dealing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A story lived twice never ends the same.

Patience bites into a winter cabin.

I am (not) in that city.

 

Home

is where the plenty make their living

Home

is where they survive

 

The story is in the soil.

 

“We’re nearly there.”

“Have you never seen the port of ports?”

“I’ve sniffed her glue.”

 

I see the hunchback listen

the caged bird sing

I am an endless thing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The muse

Istanbul, 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I told him he would get over it. And then, he would move on. Wrap it up, he would wrap the whole thing up. Maybe he was too scared to admit I still had his heart when he fell from that branch, suffering for my own admission to his will, not to love him, to scorn the little boy, because the prince never meets the princess, not in these novels.

I wish we had more time. Time for watching, for moving, for listening to the seagulls and the crows from my step-father’s terrace. Time for selling rum punch on the street, taking walks with our cameras and getting lost in a gypsy quarter, finding our way back with blood on our wrists.

I was there when he met the first batch of characters, and it was like they took control of him. In so many ways, it was like I lost him, and he knew it, and he was apologizing, by falling in love or something. Like I held him back. I remember when he visited the witch in midtown, on the Westside, he told me about it. He had just left me in Chicago. We’d gone to New Orleans, and we rented a car and drove to Biloxi, Mississippi, to see Jamey Johnson play. The look on his face. A look of surprise. In New York, his first two nights there, he met James Murphy, my idol, my king. For the next week, he was backstage at three Cut Copy shows. In one of them he was the only guy with any cocaine and he had a key around his neck, so he was the one everyone wanted to meet. In the south, he was nobody. We found it funny. When we told the security we came all the way from Beirut to hear Jamey Johson play, if we could just see him backstage, the guy just turned and walked away. In New York, he bowed.

I was there when the jester sprung from his chest, like he was hearing his own voice for the first time, like he was looking into the mirror and seeing himself, finally, after searching for his reflection for years. To remind myself, I don’t know, of the good things, I think of the ukulele he played me by the fountain, the one in all his films. Or was it my brother? I have the images mixed up. So much lost in so little time. I remember asking him for a secret. He wrote it down for me, and when I let go of all this things, I put it in there, with a lock of his hair, his rattail, the one I kept in a jar for four or five years, I put them in a straw basket, with all of his letters, and sent them out to sea. It’s not fair. He has this book, he has his words, his pages, to get over it, to get past us. I don’t. I have pictures. Albums. My obsession. It’s not fair.

Before he left, he gave me all his pages, the first few hundred of the manuscript. But since he edited the book in Beirut, it’s really a little more than half of everything he wrote until that day. The first moments with the jester, stories of the one boy, of suicide, of bringing down the parliament, the republic. Pictures, self portraits, negatives, written like poems. I put them in a huge wooden chest, an antique I kept near my bed. He left me his books, the fairytales of Anatolia, I watched him put it down, wondering if he even cared, if he even remembered, but I didn’t say anything. His Eliot, his Gide, his Bataille.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have his letters. The important ones, the soft ones, the tragic ones. He left me his poems, and I kept his letters.

I never wanted to hurt his feelings. Even when it was hard for me, and it was, it wasn’t fair on me, none of it was fair. It’s not just his story and then his way of dealing with it. I lost my best friend for a long time. I lost him for a long time.

We took a trip together. We took a few, but we took a trip together near the end. I always accepted them. Actually he turned me onto the idea. I was confused as well. A trip, we took a trip together. We took a few. We took one in the end. It was good, lasting. I felt fresh. He wasn’t acting strange. He was very normal. I guess around me he was normal. But he looked a little nervous near the end. We spent just a week on the road. We wanted to cross the border but my papers were not set. I didn’t know so it caused a short problem. On the road we just listening to music and played some games. I gave him all my money so he could join ours together. Things would be easier that way. And then we got lost. Actually we got lost every night for the first few nights. We had a friend working intelligence in the city for us. He found us places to stay for cheap. I think we stayed in the back of a convenient store one night. And another night we slept in the backroom of a waterpark. He was fine with it. So was I. I know he liked the idea of spending the night in obscure places. But I’m sure if we found a decent place we would’ve stayed there. We stayed at a fancy hotel one night. He drank a bottle of gin at the pool and read to me Anatolian folktales. Folktales are all the same. I just liked his reading, didn’t matter what. They were cool though. But they’re all the same. The use birds a lot. Birds in love, with powers, lost love. His kind of stories. He was romantic. I guess it was my fault, I never let him get in too far, even though he was the closest person to me, outside of the family, he knew me better than anyone, but never too close, never close enough, and for someone like him, he lived all his life in his head, he kept dancing in his head, he was practically never there unless he had some interest. I was an interest. I told him once. I told him he would wrap the whole thing up. That we would be finished. That he would regret loving me. I didn’t say love. I was ashamed of it. Ashamed he loved me like that because I was pretending that he didn’t. It was easier to pretend he was just that good. He was that good, he was. But I made him want more. I regret it but it’s hard to regret it as well, because it was so good for both of us, I know he grew a lot in that time, and part of me would not be the same without having been there with him. Not on the road, in general, those few years we were inseparable.

When we got lost one of the nights we found out a friend was staying closer to the city that we were at. I called him and he told us to meet in the morning so we drove towards him. When we got there he broke the news that we’d been going the entirely wrong way and we’d take four days to get to the border if we kept going like we going. He said he could get there in less than seven hours. He would drive.

We continued on the trip and that’s when the borders got confusing and I had some trouble with my papers. We ended up crossing for half a day just to try some olives and shitty wine.

I don’t know what went wrong but as soon as we got back to the city it was like a blanket had been lifted, like nothing could be as smooth ever again. I know I’m the type, I sweep everything under the rug, I let everything sit, and then I wait for it to solve itself. I know this about myself but still, I tried.

He got back to his place and noticed there were baby flies everywhere, like all over the place, just sitting, flying around, or just resting on any wet surface, like the kitchen sink, the bath, the bathroom sink, the windows, they were pretty moist, still the end of summer, summer just ending. He spent the next couple nights working on something and I barely saw him except when we developed our films and saw some of the work. He had his films still on him and he couldn’t develop them, it would take a while, so he left them in a cool container box and I think they’re probably still there where he left them. But the nights just sort of passed and it sucked going back to work but I had to and I was figuring out my way out, trying to snap out of the blues. And then I went over to his place to watch something. I think to see how everything would look projected onto a big white wall and with some music we could get a feel for what we’d done.

After we played the photographs on the wall he sat me down and everything became really strange. First he was going to say something and he decided not to, and then he started looking for flies to kill and then he decided he should tell me, and then I asked if I should really hear what I’m about to hear and he said he had to say it because it had been so long, and then I asked if he was really sure and then I just went quiet and then everything was quiet, and then there was a loud sound but it wasn’t anything, it was just me noticing the sound of someone flushing a toilet upstairs, and then it was quiet again, and I don’t think he had heard the sound, I don’t think he heard any sounds because he was very quiet, and he was standing against the windowsill like in the movies and I was sitting crosslegged on the floor, and I was wearing a tank top, and I started playing with the seam, and I don’t know how long it was, it was probably very short, but it felt forever, and he was really quiet, and then he got really nervous, because I’ve never really seen him nervous, except that time, and he was smoking his cigarettes really heavily, and like he was planning something, or he knew he would regret something, or he just had to say what he had come out to say that day, and then I noticed that everything around me felt strange, and I wasn’t really there, even though of course I was, I was there more than anywhere else, and there’s nowhere else I could have been, but at that moment I felt alien, and he felt like a serious stranger, because I could feel him breaking some sort of deal we made, and everything looked a shade of grey and blue, and the colors of that summer were gone and I felt nothing at that moment, I felt like he was staring at me really seriously and so I turned to look at him and he was sitting there staring at me with big fawn eyes.

“What?”

And then he put out his cigarette and he gave me a few strange looks like in the movies they would make when something serious was about to happen or be said and I know he spent so much time in his head so he probably felt like he was living out a story and it wasn’t just a story and I told him that, once, before all of it happened I told him not to make me a story, and then I realized he started walking over to me and I realized for the first time we were sitting in the dark and my eyes were making plans to see better and I saw him coming over to me and he sat right in front of my face and he held my hands and then he dropped them. I don’t think anything serious happened on my part like shaking or being nervous or looking scared or away from his stare but he was more afraid than I was and I can understand it must have been heavy on his heart, he let everything be heavy as long as it felt like something so I’m sure he enjoyed it a little, in some way, everything being heavy on his heart. And then he held my hands again and then he dropped them and then I realized that he was finally going to say it and I didn’t want to be the girl who breaks his heart or breaks his dreams and tells him not to say it before saying it but it would have been so much better if I did, or if he never said it, and then he finally said it and I felt like we were cursed and I bit my lips and I didn’t know what to say, so I said nothing, and for saying nothing I must have looked sad or hurt because he started saying sorry, and I believe him he was sorry, and then I think he walked away and it wasn’t like he had wanted because you say these things and then they sit in the air and its not a movie where the scenes change or the shot cuts and suddenly we’re somewhere else and I’m telling it to someone and we’re thinking what it means, because we were there and he was at the window again and smoking another cigarette and breathing really loudly and suddenly I got mad, I think I said some things, and I was hurt, and upset, because why would he? How could I? What did he think would happen?

“This isn’t a movie.”

“I know.”

“What did you think would happen?”

“Nothing.”

He wanted me to run into his arms and say everything would be perfect and finally it would work and we would try it and that I’d been waiting for him to say it for half a decade but it wasn’t true because it wasn’t like that, he was closer than everyone but he wasn’t that, he wasn’t just a friend but he was, he was just a friend, but a friend that was like family and so I didn’t want to hurt him but I was upset.

And then I grabbed my things and I left.

I was in a state of shock even though I was expecting it but when the time comes and things are finally said everything changes and its not always easy to understand why but it changes and I didn’t know how to feel or what to say so I had to leave, and I left. The strangest things were coming to my mind and I realized that the entire time we were sitting there after he said it and before and immediately after all I could think of was how quiet everything felt and I could hear my own breathing and his and I felt like we were in a kind of dance together, but it was quiet, so it was like a forest, but without the wind, without the night owls or the moon light and nothing romantic because it was all dead, it wasn’t bland it was lifeless, and heavy being lifeless and everything felt struggling and limp, and I felt that and then when he said it I realized all I could hear was quiet and the quiet was so loud I almost could smell the feeling and that’s what I feel when I remember it, I remember smelling my hearing his words and his walking and hearing each footstep on the greywood floor and the passing wind once or twice and then quiet, dead quiet, never ending quiet and then it was all just there sitting in the sky and it felt like I feel after I realize I’ve smoked too much or we’ve had a night and the dust is settled and I poured some in my drink and then everything goes quiet and the trip is over and the sun is out and its quiet everywhere you look, and everyone is quiet in their hearts and in their head and the feeling of walking back in the morning after the night was kicking every decibel in the face and then quiet, and I can hear people’s dreaming and their thoughts and their worries and being afraid or being happy or just content. And then when I left I felt like I did something wrong but it was him who did something wrong even though it was beautiful what he tried to do but he didn’t do it right because he did it with expectation and with expectation you’re always acting selfish. So I was the one who wrote a letter that night and it was strange for me to do it, I wasn’t used to it, I wasn’t used to putting my thoughts about him or to him or anything down on paper and treating our exchange like something or like we were an item and we had this secret place to talk about things but suddenly I felt good about it, so I wrote it and I sent him a message saying that I left a letter for him in the plant in front of my house where I usually leave my keys for my friends.

I guess he came looking for it but never found it because I left to work the next morning and it was still there under some mud. But then he got in touch and he said he found it and read it and that he wanted to see me so I told him to come by the office and we decided to go for a walk.

We went across the boardwalk and walked for a while until we found some trucks to sit behind and somewhere not so quiet but quiet enough and it was a beautiful day, I remember, the sun was really out, and the wind was nice, and I felt beautiful too because I guess I hadn’t felt good in a while, and then we sat down.

“Do you think I don’t love you?”

“Not like that.”

I had to tell him that it wasn’t right but when the sun was hitting my face and he was sitting next to me I felt safe again and so I didn’t know what to say even though I planned on saying everything. It happens, so I waited, and he spoke and said things like he wished he could be better and he just started pitying himself so I wanted to get him to stop and he did, without me saying anything, I think he noticed that I wasn’t interested in his self pity or his feeling like shit about it because it happened and he went and said it and now we live the consequences.

And then, you know when everything is getting really heavy, and dark, and then suddenly out of nowhere you start laughing, and that’s what I did, for no reason, and he started laughing, and then I realized that even though everything changed it didn’t really change, and we were still the same and only we were going through something different we hadn’t done before, and I realized that he was doing it to himself, working himself up because he did that sort of thing, and I realized it must have been something to do with his pills, and his taking so many of them, and his using them for inspiration but they just made his head chaotic, and his thoughts swerving all over the place, and so instead of saying anything I listened, and he had nothing to say, so we sat there, and then my lunch break was over and I went back to work, and he continued walking under the sun, and probably felt better about things but I didn’t end up seeing him for a couple of days.

For me it was very normal but I was thinking about him. I was worried and I was just wondering what he would do but he didn’t seem upset or so strange it was just a feeling I had that he was going to begin losing it a little, and I was right, because the next time I saw him he wasn’t so good.

 

So yeah, where were we? Right, seeing him next.

“You can break if you want to.”

“No, I’m alright.”

I know that, she looks outside the window and finds nothing there. I know that she does this often. I know she has a hand in my remembering things. I want her to remember what it was like for me but I’m against forcing the issue.

The next time I saw him.

“Was it after dark?”

No, it was early. It was about the time I expected him to call. It had been a few days, and we hadn’t spoken. It wasn’t like us. I knew he was afraid but I also know he has pride, and if he’s still around he has a lot of it and it’s probably got him to where he is, if he wants to be a part of anything, he can find a way to make it, if he wants to, and anyway, he didn’t lose you know, I hadn’t given him a hard time, I hadn’t said anything except why do it, why now? And he never answered me he just shrugged, or pitied himself. But I don’t think he had so much pity on himself when he was alone. Alone he could think about things and be curious. He could imagine himself winning over a princess and so it would make him feel better. I was too confusing to be around, so it took a couple days. But he came to me.

It was early morning. I skipped work that day. Someone told him I hadn’t gone out to work. Someone told him I was sick or something. He was probably worried. I heard a knock at the door. You know how it is. You come to know everyone’s knock. His was rapid but also casual, also shy. Even if he was expected. He wouldn’t barge in with his knock. Not like a forceful knock. But not a stranger’s knock either. His knock would say a lot about him that day. I heard his knock and I opened.

He looked good.

When I see him I smile. When I see him everything goes away. How can I not love him? I want to, it’s harder than he thinks, it’s harder than a boy can imagine. I’m overpriced, for his heart. He can’t make use of this.

I let him in. It’s always beautiful to see him after a few days because he always looks so excited to see me. I need that too. I need the affirmation. I don’t mind being loved. Nobody minds it. I just wish I didn’t have to hurt him. And anyway I don’t think he was hurt yet. I think he was still convinced of something. Like all he had to do was prove something to me. But he was crazy at this point, I could see it, just then when I let him in I noticed it, because he wasn’t like before, something new had happened, a door had been cracked.

“What’s going on with you?”

And then he said something about voices. I realize we’re all a little bit crazy, but he isn’t at all. He was too grounded for it at the time but he was also too lost, he had taken flight, somewhere majestic but nobody else could join. I saw it in his face, staring with an emptiness I suddenly wanted to discover, but I couldn’t, unless I let him in to my world, and I couldn’t lie, I wouldn’t.

The morning before a breadmaker in our neighborhood committed suicide. It reminded me of mortality. It didn’t scare me. I wanted it to be the way it was. People leave, people disappear, people die. I told him, it made him wonder. He said he heard these voices and he wanted them to leave him alone. I told him to stop what he was doing and to look at me straight. He was clean for the morning, I could tell. He hadn’t taken anything that day. But his eyes weren’t easy, he was restless, but he could be at calm. I told him he was lucky. Because he has the voices in his head to hear him. Nobody knew why the breadmaker took his life. But yeah, he had the voices to hear him. He didn’t listen. He sat down.

“I made this for you.”

He handed me a disc.

“What is it?”

“It’s everything, explained.”

I wanted to open it and listen but he told me not to. Then he said he was hungry. He looked around in the kitchen. It was like I was there but I wasn’t, I was hovering over him and watching. He was awake but he was not there, he was dancing in the clouds somewhere, like a ball of dust.

“Are you okay?”

He shrugs and pouts his lips when he knows someone is watching. He does this because he knows a moment carries the enormity of a memory.

He had this idea, that if we were to be loved then we had to be remembered, and to be remembered was to be remembered in the way that someone acted in very specific moments. He saw the world through a film reel. The moments we notice with intensity, or the ones we pass over but think of again, those form the crux of what we feel towards someone, or something, or somewhere. So he savored those moments when he could look a certain way, defiant or vulnerable or mysterious, anything he could do to keep himself etched in someone else’s memory.

He left without saying much. I didn’t want him to go so quickly but I had no food and I think eh didn’t really want to stay, he wanted to drop off the reading and he would leave after that and sit somewhere and have a few sips and maybe take something else and think of me reading it and if I was laughing or crying.

I did him one better. I filmed myself listening to the reading.

It took over an hour, or just about that, right at the hour mark the reading cut. I couldn’t find my senses right away. I was lost. I had recorded myself listening to the entire thing. It was magical. I didn’t deserve the beauty, but I did, because if someone does it for you then they mean it, and then it was made for you and with honesty and so yeah, I deserved it. I wanted it to stay with me. I could tell it wasn’t going to be normal and that things would forever change. I didn’t anticipate how they would at all but I knew, so yeah, I wanted to keep it with me, and I wanted the memory to be mine, and so he wrote that for me, and I think that was the first thing he wrote and read, and heard himself reading, and probably it took a lot out of him, because it gave so much to me, it was cool, I still remember it, but there was something else.

He ended it with the Jester. He said something familiar in it like speaking of the one boy, and the stories he had told but wasn’t able to finish, and trying to imagine an occult of laughter, and trying for freedom in our rides, past the stone of independence, past everything we left behind only because we wanted to, and let’s face it, we had everything we wanted.

When it ended it felt ominous. There wasn’t the cool air it began with and it wasn’t the longing or nostalgia that he pushed through with near the middle. It ended with the Jester and it made me wonder things, made me wonder if we lost him because he would never say it he was too good an actor so if it felt like it then that meant something was wrong. And that was the beginning of the Jester. And that was when he left the nest, I think. He made claims to his misfortune, to hearing voices he could never share, and those that he shared he could never finish. What does a voice want? An ending, and he never knew endings. I didn’t know what to say. Did I tell you? I dreamt of the Acrobat myself. And I was crying the entire time. I cried throughout the entire reading and I was being filmed the entire time. It would be for him to have and to savor and I wanted him to know what it meant. Look I’m not good at saying what it is I’m thinking. He knew it. So I recorded it. And then I sent it to him. I guess he watched it. He didn’t say anything.

But that night we went to a party on the other side of town. We could see the bridge from his roof deck. We spent the night up there and another friend joined. The party was pretty shit. But the host was kind. I think he was also in love with me. He wanted a job and he thought I could help him. He got drunk fast. We left.

Before we went to the party I gave him a letter. Before that we watched a film. We drank a pint of bourbon during the movie. He drank most of it. He read the letter I gave him while I was in the shower. I told him everything I felt while he was reading to me. I told him I didn’t feel I deserved it, that I heard the voice of a poet for the first time, and when I knew for certain that it was me he was speaking about and it couldn’t have been anyone else, I told him it was too beautiful, and that I could never again be so loved. I felt superstitious, I felt relieved. I told him all these things because he wanted to know and I wanted to say them. And he had to know how I felt, even though he had the video of me crying, he had to know it meant something and it wasn’t just my face, or my tears, it was real somewhere else. And then I heard the horns.

 

 

I’m not sure exactly. He had a dream. I think that was it. We were staying where the cold fish fry, you know, by warmer waters. There’s been a trouble with salmon in low lying waters so we help them catch adrift.

It hasn’t been the same. The past few days, since you got in touch, asking about him, I’ve been out of sync. I don’t know what you’re looking for. He didn’t leave much behind in the form of anything understandable. Do you know why you’re doing this?

He said he served in the seventh fleet. His records proved him wrong. We wanted to ensure we had an isolated scenario on our hands, so we begged him to stop, to come ashore and talk about what needed to be discussed. But you know how is it with revolutionary mania, it knocks them off their feet. I don’t think it was his idea. And not to be presumptuous, but if I had to say, and testify this in court, the assassination was not his doing, it was a result, a reaction to his doing something else, namely, springboarding a production.

“Were they armed?”

That wasn’t the last time I saw him. The night after we last spoke, and after the part, and after I gave him the letter and everything like that, things got a bit strange. I wasn’t supposed to say anything to anyone and I didn’t, but it burdened me. He was looking at me differently. I couldn’t look at him the same way. Every time I looked at him he had this defeated look in his eyes. It was kind of cruel of him to do it to me. I didn’t ask for it. I couldn’t tell what he wanted, or expected. It was like he was pouting, like he was suffering. I was making him suffer. And he took every chance just to touch me, or be near my body. I hated those days. It was too much. And there was this other guy, and I know he didn’t like him. I guess you could say his family were pretty Zionist in their ways. He had a thing for me. We all went out one night. It was supposed to be a good night. And it was in the beginning. We were drunk, fooling around. We went to a club near my house. He bought me some drinks. I thanked him. Then he disappeared, and the other guy was around me. He lived far away so sometimes he crashed around our part of town. He asked if he could stay with me but I figured it wasn’t something that was just staying because he said it in that way and looked at me, but he wasn’t the most confident and I don’t think he had too much to say about himself when it came down to it because what he really wanted was to fuck me, but he could never come out and say it, he didn’t know anything about me, I was different than the others and he just wanted to fuck me.

I went looking for him. Where’s my friend, I kept thinking, where’s my fucking friend. He wouldn’t be acting this way. Companions don’t do this to each other, is what I was thinking, and I think I said it to him once, that day after he told me, and we were sitting behind some trucks, talking. Finally I found him. He was around the corner, eating mussels. Actually he wasn’t eating anything. He was just staring at them and smoking.

I approached him. I went up to him and he saw me coming. He sat down before I got near him and then I sat down next to him. IT was loud and there were kids around so we turned the corner and sat down again. Then he said he was hungry so we crossed the street and split a sandwich. He was always stressing what to eat because he hated eating off the street, so we went across the street and got a chicken sandwich. We ate the sandwich and then we went back and sat where we were sitting. It wasn’t very late. A friend of ours was leaving town for good. Actually he didn’t live in our city he lived over the waters. He had been there for the summer. It was that kind of summer. And it was that kind of night. The end of summer. We were leading up to it from the day he told me to just now.

“He wants to stay over.”

He ashed his cigarette.

“I know.”

He ashed it again, without looking at me.

“I figured.”

We sat there in the quiet.

“If you want to go with him, then go, I’m not holding you back.”

He said it in a way that means he is lying but it also cries for pity. I didn’t accept it. I told him I didn’t want to go. He started saying things like, I’m not a kid, and, you don’t have to worry about me, I knew what I was doing, I knew what I could expect. I suddenly realized we were at the complete other end of the spectrum, him and I, we weren’t seeing it for what it was in the same way. He saw everything differently and it was partially my fault but it was partially his as well. And then the others turned the corner and saw us and knew what was going on by the looks of things because we both had this dead look in our eyes and this feeling of dread and so they understood something strange was going on, but nobody would have expected it, or that’s just what I thought, thinking it was normal for them to see us all summer long like that real close, but maybe it wasn’t, and I was stringing my feelings along, hoping the day would never come when we’d have to talk about things like we had a reason to. And so then the boy interested in me said bye and he left. Our friend left and said goodbye. He said it was a beautiful summer and he’s overjoyed to have met us, and to keep in touch, and we said the same.

But then things felt a little lighter, that the others had left and we could go home and the drinking could ease and we could just talk about things, and I know that’s what he wanted. I should say that he had jut finished something he had been working on for a while and it broke him to pieces because he’d never done it before, and also because he took too many pills to get it done. And I think he was on the edge and I wasn’t helping, and probably all he wanted was someone to hold, but I didn’t budge because I couldn’t. I wouldn’t let him on like that.

We made our way to my house. I went inside to change, he sat outside on the steps, looking down the hill. I brought him out a beer. He rolled a soft joint, but we didn’t smoke it, or we did, I can’t remember, it’s not the point, none of that was the point.

I came back outside and we talked. Mostly we talked about how strange its been and how much we miss each other. Only a few days gone but it felt like a tidal wave and it was too much. Too much for me and too much for him. I told him to go easier on himself, that he always put himself under too much pressure and he understood what I meant. He was putting me under too much pressure. But he was wondering why I wrote him those two letters if nothing came of it and It old him nothing comes of it anytime, and then Is aid something I probably shouldn’t have said, I told him that he knows me well enough to know I need to be pushed, and that he never once touched me like that or came up from behind me and gave me that feeling, or looked at me in that way until suddenly very recently, and so how could I know or suddenly turn it on. But of course I knew. I always knew.

And then he did something pretty romantic and he got a few feet below me because we were on a hill, and he sort of jumped up like a clown and suddenly I saw life spring back into him. And then he read something he had memorized or he came up with something on the spot, but it was funny and cute, and not overdone, and he said something like grant this jester one last kiss, and I understood, but I fought him on it, because why should we kiss, what good would it do, but he said he needed to know, and I told him he wouldn’t know anything and he was living in the movies, and he said he always lived there and it’s safer, and I told him he couldn’t live there if he wanted to live here with the rest of us, and he said something about the jester again, and then he asked me to stand against the wall, or I stood against the wall myself, lay my back against the wall to rest, and I was wearing a red hoodie that I had changed into, a thin one, that he ended up borrowing a few months later for a while, until he left the place for good. And so I put the hoodie over my head, like this, and I looked down at the ground, and I was staring at the ground and I told him he was making me feel good, that he was making me feel special and I appreciated it. And then he said be quiet and we laughed. And I asked what will happen if you kiss me. And he said he couldn’t ever no, he couldn’t anticipate what would happen, expect nothing he said, because he’d been waiting so long but he also tempered the feeling so long, so he didn’t know, and I shouldn’t. And then I asked what would happen to us if he knew he felt something, and he said, and probably just so I wouldn’t change my mind, he said he would leave and walk down the hill and turn away from me and continue walking and sprint if he had to and he would take a couple days off and come back to me like nothing happened, like it was all normal, it was all good again. I didn’t believe it would be like that, so easy, but whatever. He made me feel special in a way.

I had my back against the wall and my head down, covered under my hood. He put his right hand on my chin. I felt him come closer. I could hear him breathing and stopping and thinking. And then when he got closer he put his right hand on my chin and lifted my face to his. I don’t remember if my eyes were closed. I would be surprised if he closed his eyes. I told him he had one kiss to make it worth it. Then he kissed me.

I don’t know if it was worth it. It was an alright kiss but I wasn’t in it. I could have been more in it. I wasn’t involved in the kiss, I let him have it. I could have done more for it.

He turned away from me and stumbled a few steps. I ran into the house and closed the door. I don’t know if I was dreaming or if it really happened, but a few minutes later when everything quieted down and I couldn’t hear my heart beat anymore I thought I heard something rattle outside, and then I realized, I heard him wail. Like a coyote in the wild. And maybe he was really saying something.

“We spent that summer in a haze.”

He puts out his cigarette.

“She detained me.”

I thought I wouldn’t see him for a few days but without further ado he showed up at my door in the morning. It wasn’t exactly morning it was early afternoon, like around one or something. But he looked like real shit. I wasn’t surprised, and I thought he must have been up drinking. He walked inside without saying anything, the n he turned around and he had a smirk on his face, and he started laughing hysterically, and I realized he was still high off something. And then I looked into his face and realized he might not actually be high he might actually have gone crazy.

“What happened?”

“My house is infested with leeches and flies.”

And I guess that’s when we discovered what all those flies buzzing around were about, and he said he was drinking and up real late and it was after dawn and he went to put a cork on his second or third bottle of wine and when he did he noticed some flies jumping around and then he looked under the cabinet and it was dark and then it was darker underneath the cabinet next to it, and then he realized it was thick and muggy darkness all over the wall and he opened a cabinet and it was like staring into a museum of larvae. He almost puked saying it and I wasn’t surprised because it sounded disgusting. He said he vomited on the spot and fell backwards and almost fainted, so he grabbed his things and left, but he didn’t take his money so he had nothing to eat or go to sleep anywhere because he forgot his passport and he didn’t want to come see me but he’d been sleeping on a bench outside a mosque and he couldn’t get the picture out of his eyes and it was such a terrible scene so he figured he’d come here.

He took a small pillow and put it on the floor and said he needed a place to sleep for an hour or just a few minutes before going back to the place to clean the mess up. And he said he was moving his things out.

When he left my place I told him not to go on drinking, and to take a couple days for himself. He’d put a lot of darkness into the air. It was beginning to hurt me and take a toll. I didn’t feel right and he made me feel cruel as well. He said alright and wished me well. Then he left.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joe

Beirut, 2008

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What happens when it all disappears. I’ve been trying to get back there for four or five years now, ever since I left. I know its different. I’m sure everything is different. You can’t walk into the past. You walk into something new, something you’ve never seen.

After Beirut I moved to Washington, D.C, for a coupe of years. I have a sister over there. She’s good to me, watched out for me over the years. Before Beirut I spent some time there trying to figure things out. It ended in me hiding out from the law for a week, after being hunted by federal law enforcement agencies for beating the shit out of some guys. Three of them came after me outside a bar, and I knocked one of them out. I’m pretty well trained in boxing. It helped.

Beirut was mayhem when I got there. A year after the last Israeli war. You can’t just say war, there’s many, different ones, involving different people. I got my first taste a year later. I moved into a two bedroom flat in Hamra, after a friend of mine left, I took his room. Was living with a good English guy who had become a good friend. We were a good community. We stayed close. The street in front of my house turned into a small, elite warzone. Snipers on the rooftops. Gunmen on the ground. It ended after a week, and it wasn’t that bad, there weren’t mortar shells or anything, no tanks, no airplanes, just thugs with assault rifles and machineguns, snipers taking their hits. I collected about a hundred bullets, walking behind some of the guys while they fired off their rounds, taking cover when they did. I never wanted to be a journalist, I don’t have the nature for the craft, I was just interested in the whole thing. Surprised too. Surprised to see how fast things spiral out of control. It’d been a tough year, school closures, a thirteen month strike in the downtown area that ripped the already fragile economy to shreds. Some assassinations, the norm. And then it took off, and it seemed like on the verge of collapse, people remembering the wounds of ’75. And then it ended, and we were back where we started, smoking joints instead of working, drinking at the Captain’s Cabin, going to rugby practice, trying to win our war. We made it to the semi finals that year and got duped. The problem with the Lebanese rugby league of which I was an admirer is that the administration is involved in all aspects of the game. The referee was none other than an Armenian by the name of Danny, a gross talking trickster with an English accent, eyes that recede into his face, big bushy eyebrows that hide the snickering bastard’s thoughts. Impossible to read, impossible to surrender, the little, wily dick controlled everything. What steroids the boys could take, what meds the games had on hand. He even took a coaching role with one of the teams, when they lost their coach, probably because the whole thing seemed rigged, but then he backed off, went back to coaching the nationals, playing the president of the league like it was his little game of chess, propping up a coach here and there, destroying him when he got tired of the guy running his mouth. Not like he had actual power, and any one of those guys could’ve given him a lick in the face and he’d be long gone, but the fucker proved himself intelligent, and when a coach started acting up, he started to referee some games, to manage the situation. He’d give a few bad calls, the guy would run his mouth on the sidelines, freaking out, and he’d suspend him for a couple games. The players would react, one or two might even charge at him in centerfield, threatening him with violence, provocative measures you know. He’d suspend their asses too. Some of the younger guys would quit, citing their grades or their injuries as the reason, but deep down everyone always knew, it’s the look in a guy’s eyes, thinking he’s not going to go down this road, he knows what this is all about. It’s dirty. You could smell the dirt from a mile away.

But it was also a great gift to our lives. Waking up at seven, eight on a Saturday morning, hungover, still drunk, head blasted, grabbing a pear or an apple on the way to the bus, hoping you’d have time to take a shit before the game starts, always late, always running, some of the boys packing whole organic lunches, the younger guys, most of them treated well by their families, still living with their parents, showing up with sandwiches, fruits, smoothies. The most important commodity on a team bus is the toilet paper. We always had a couple guys who brought it in, who carried it on hand at every game, no matter what. Waking up those mornings, I never had time to shit, but I took a shit nonetheless, you have to. During one of our more terrible seasons, we were down on players and our coach played with us, a middle aged man with too kind a heart, lived most of his life in Australia, repatriated to touch down on his roots. He joined the squad for a game, played pretty well, halfback, took minimal hits, until one play, we were near the try line, and we snapped the ball quick out of his hands, I was playing hooker at the time, and I admit to being pretty slow, I got it to him and he snapped it out to one of the forwards to power in for a try, and when he got hit he took to the ground real fast, and at halftime I remember hearing from some of the guys he’d shat his pants.

That season was tough. It was always a blessing to show up on Saturday or Sunday morning, even when our spirits were low and we knew we would get crushed. But twenty minutes before kick-off, stretching with the team on our side of the field, jerseys on, mouth guards on the ears, looking over some of the guys around you, everyone coming in off their own highs and lows, their own troubles, their own success, Friday night, love, sex, drugs, whatever you want to have as long as you make it to the bus, and I remember just staring over at the guys, all of them seemingly in a state of peace, a quiet peace, nobody nervous, none of them scared, and we’re sitting one thousand one hundred meters above sea level, a clear blue sky and a middle of the range sun gliding with the autumn winds against our faces, and everyone breathes in a sigh of relief, a sigh of suspense, a sigh of something they now want to do. Real grass, none of the turf bullshit that’s ruining the way the ball touches the ground, the way your knees take off, the way you slide. Wet grass surface, decent maintenance, patches of mud, patches of dirt, patches with holes so big your cleats get lost and you can sprain an ankle. No matter what happened to us during the week, we made it out to the pitch, all seventeen, sometimes thirteen, sometimes only the nine required to play. We had guys blown unconscious, with one big hit, their eyes rolling to the back of their head, their hands contorting in mid air, in the midst of a seizure, and the next play I snap the ball to a forward and he runs into the crowd of predators eyeing their prey. Guys dislocate and crack the same bone on the leg. Guys get two teeth jammed into their gums, and two others beaten out. Guys with a ruptured artery and a broken leg, in a cast for over a year, with an infection that nearly kills him, and he’s at every game once he’s back on his feet, watching, cheering us on. Real fucking men, and most of them were boys. I was older, supposed to be writing my masters thesis and growing up. Fuck that. It was beautiful.

We were never the biggest, sometimes the fastest. Never the strongest, sometimes the bravest. The only team that disallowed more than one graduate on the team. The only team whose average age was less than thirty, probably the age was around twenty one. We got creamed, we got beat. But we also won, and we made it to the semi finals one year, and after a terrible year the next, we made it to the finals again.

The first year I played was that beautiful season. The year that determined a lot of the next couple years. I had just moved, and like I said, Beirut was mayhem. By the time spring came around and I had my feet on the ground, feeling like I was building a home, the little scuffle took off, and everything seemed to bite at the nails, people expecting the worst. They wanted the worst, they like the drama. Beirut is a mix of potholes and fancy shoes. I never felt foreign, never felt like an American in some overcrowded, strange land. I moved there the years after the Israeli war, which is what they call it, a lot of them, who don’t see the different races as being different from one another, deserving different lives. The kids I spent most of my time with called it the Israeli war, the Israeli aggression, the failed Israeli invasion. It’s always strange coming back to the states and people asking about it. Asking about being in Beirut, like I was out in the jungle. How do I tell them I ate so damn well? How do I explain how many friends I made? How do I relate to the women I left behind, in a dispatched feeling of unknown, all of them wanting to get out, dying in the fracas when the doors are shut? Everyone always asked me how I could live in a place so dangerous. I always want to ask how they live in a place so fucking cold. How do you live so far from the swimmable sea? Our field at school, at the university, was no more than fifty meters from the shore. Fifty meters from the Mediterranean Sea. Sometimes when one of our guys would kick the ball on fifth down, high in the sky, and all the eyes and bodies that aren’t gunning for the ball are motionless, eyeing the little rotating egg, two eighty millimeters, four hundred and something grams, lit up and disappearing by the stadium lights, the scattered clouds dispersing the evening rays of the moon, watching it descend like a fireball of white, turning in its historic dimensions, passing cloud to cloud, figment to figment, and if you’re standing the one way, your back to the lowlying gate and the street courts, you see the ball descend and in the distance the hills of Beirut, and far back from the perimeter of the school, the four or five staircases that carry you up the hill, from lower campus to upper campus, the presidential house, the rise of buildings, and un your imagination you know past the historic, mismanaged skyline is the first row of mountains you see from the sea, and from your other side, dazed in your dizzying collection of bursts and sounds, gravitating toward the little egg falling from the sky, you stop and smell the wet leaves on the sacred trees, lining the campus for decades, and you stop in wonder, in amazement, a hundred meter sprint, ten, eleven, twelve seconds from where you stand, the great and glorious Mediterranean, in all her darkness and glory, in all her ruptured limbs and illusion, the mask that crowns the little slice of land rivals call home, and far, far away you imagine, the absent horizon, the crescent moon, the navigating wayward sea vessels edging closer and closer to shore. This is where it started, a hundred meters from my feet. Where these pious and peasant souls lost the fruit of their labor. Figments, gigantic figments, drawing closer and closer to shore.

It was a gift. Since then I’ve lived in Iowa, I’ve lived in D.C., and moved around stateside looking for work, looking for an opportunity, in all honesty, just trying to pay my way back, figure something out, do what I can to live there. My grandfather lived right across the street from where I used to live. He was famous for his kindness and his wrestling and boxing skills. He set up a dump gym on the roof of his home. I remember standing on the roof my building, joint in my hand, after an hour or two of reps with some of the guys, peering down over the steel and wiring, over the chaos we escaped down below, imagining him and his bench press set up under the almighty sun. He got me into boxing, taught me to move my feet. And if it weren’t for him I wouldn’t have found my home. This is where he met his wife. As soon I was there, loading my bags into a poor old man’s car, smoking like he needed it to breathe, ripping me off in his disfigured smile, like the cigarette was attached to his mouth, like his muscles couldn’t ease into a solemn stare, or something without his lips creasing, his cheeks digging into his jaw. I don’t know if too many people knew where Iowa lies in America, and I forgot about it pretty fast. Beirut man, it was a dream.

 

 

“Everyone always asks how you can live in a place so dangerous. I always want to ask how they can live in a place so fucking cold. When you see the variations of the food chain, it’s hard to come back to that quiet, blissful ignorance we call America. The dream is about closing your eyes and sticking your dick in a someone’s mouth. The real coldblooded Americans who get what they want are the ones who do it eyes open.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The little things I remember doing differently. Experiencing it in a different way. Some days it was like a circus. I could go three, four days without doing anything but feeling like I was standing on my head, running backwards through the woods, drowning, deep, deep sleep.

We drank at Captain’s Cabin. An old timer named Andre ran the place he inherited from his father. Forty years its been there, an establishment in the neighborhood, gone through it all, through everything. He hasn’t changed a thing in the place, which accounts for the roaches each the size of a tomato. Sometimes on Sundays I’d go over there with some of the guys, different times they were different people, and Andre would do a grill out in the garden if the weather was nice. We’d probably each have eight or ten beers before the sun was down. I drank a lot in those days, and we got pushy, but I kept myself under control. The local kids liked to get in fights, to prove themselves. I stayed away from that. It’s unpredictable. You don’t know what you’re getting yourself into. One minute you’re throwing a punch to a couple guys, the next minute a truck rolls up with six dudes in the back carrying AKs. Not that it happened but you hear stories, and you know it happens in certain circles. But I never got into real trouble. Not like that.

We smoked a lot, burned a lot of joints. Its easy to get but sometimes the kids you know go dry, and when it gets real dry people get possessive. I always got my hands on some and if I didn’t I headed over to a friend’s place and he’d likely have some. But it was difficult to get some of the local guys to let you buy a piece. They preferred to give you something for free, as a gesture, generous friends they are. They also knew if you buy off them once you’ll probably expect to buy again. I would buy for ten, twenty bucks at a time. They bought for a hundred, two hundred. Stocking up on the goods, a syndrome that’s developed over the years.

I never did get my thesis done. Not in Beirut. I was supposed to be writing but I never got around. I tried. I tried working in different spaces. Tried working sober, tried working stoned. I had a punching bag in my living room set up. That usually kept me pretty occupied. By the time the sun rolls down, in winter that’s five o’clock, the boys start calling, the girls are sending you messages. I didn’t have too many girls lined up, ever. It was pretty hard actually, being an American, being that most of the girls really like to flirt but it takes a while to get into bed. I guess like some of the guys I focused more on drinking, on the conversations, on the pick up fights, joking around. I did see a girl for a while though. Crazy fucking bitch. I’m sure now she is insane. I was sure at the time. But hell, she took me in, treated me like her family. I love her for that. Her kindness. She had this enormous nose, beautiful, like a long, drawn out walk down a mountain, and these big, oval eyes. She was tall, thin, could do pretty decent reps in the gym. A laugh you hear over a valley. She could drink pretty well too. I don’t really know if we ended on a good note. She moved to the states at some point and we saw each other for a while, I’d go up North, sometimes Boston, sometimes New York, stay with her, we’d have a good time. But nothing really goes like it does over there. It’s lighter there, lighter under the sun. There’s less expectation. You know where to go. you know what you’re getting yourself into. The best times we had, we’d find ourselves up and awake and already rolling into the day pretty early, Saturday, Sunday mornings, the weekends without a game day, summer weekends, early fall, we’d pack as many of us as we could into some cars and roll up to Batroun, to Amchit, to the beach, to the cliffs, diving into the sea, smoking joints overlooking the horizon, drinking beer and anise, eating everything well prepared, fresh, like it was picked off a tree just for us.

You never know when you’re around, in a good thing, you never know when its gonna end, but it does. I wasn’t thinking about my leaving, I didn’t let it bother me, but at some point I started to realize it was inevitable. It broke my heart. Leaving the boys, leaving the squad. Leaving the memory of my closest friend, a good man. Daniel Eagen broke into Beirut like a phoenix crashing into a volcano.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Most of the pack split up over the years. Some of the boys got married, like old Mike, the king of the wolves. A very good man himself, but a troublemaker with the ladies. I think we were all pleasantly surprised when he disappeared into the good life. Harvard graduate all of a sudden. Married, kids on the way. How did this man, who used to talk about ripping a girl’s ass open while she was too drunk to notice, who once fucked a girl so hard in the ass she shat all over the bed, all over the floor, shit everywhere, and he just rolled her over to a little spot on the bed where he could rest and curled into it, and in the morning she woke up so embarrassed, so disgusted, couldn’t remember a thing, she threw out the sheets and left. This man, who used to hand out wolf pills, a term used for Chinese over the counter sex pills, one for stamina and one for an erection, hand them out like they were cigarettes. He fucked every girl in the country, some of them twice. But the best part is, the thing that made old Mikey a legend, is the fact that with Mikey around, he didn’t just get himself laid, he got everybody laid.

And he got everybody drunk. I don’t remember where he’d been before he came back to Beirut a man on a mission. To rejuvenate rugby league. To tear open every girl’s pussy and leave his blessing for the eventual bride to be. To initiate a pack among the boys.

We were known as the Wolves. That’s the team name. The American University of Beirut Rugby League Team, the Wolves. Before it fell apart, before the AUB team became the Redbacks, and the Wolves a pathetic, embarrassing franchise squad that couldn’t host more than nine players a game, there was the Wolves, and there were the boys with the beautiful faces, Darren the Australian, Mikey the savage, and Pikey the Irish. I played with Darren and Pikey and it was my honor to do so. Mikey brought us all together, he coached the team after a fallout with the players left the team without a manager. Nobody wanted the job. Troublemakers, they called us. Our vice captain, craziest guy on our team, who used got stomped on the face by a Judo Olympian protecting one of our boys, he had a lot to do with people’s hesitation. Probably the best thing to happen to us. The year the streets turned violent. The year Lebanon finally got a President. The year we made it to the semi finals and got duped.

After practice, it wasn’t just drills and go home. After practice, if the mood was high, we’d all head down, twenty, twenty five of us, across the gateway and into East Beirut, to Cloud 9, the bar that brought out the very envy of our being. A classy joint that was inevitably trashed the moment we stepped in, but Mikey knew the owners and soon they were our friends. It was a good place to get things started, to start a revolution. To build from the ground up. Pikey still hadn’t gotten a job, and in one of the last games of the season, before the playoffs, when we were wiping teams out by forty, fifty points, breaking through the line like they were our children, he hurt his arm pretty bad, but the guy was shit broke and the school makes you sign an insurance waiver at the start of every year, go figure, for the footballers get the highest medical treatment, and rugby players get nothing. He hurt his arm and soon enough it grew, his thumb was broken and the whole thing looked like it had swallowed a squirrel or something. He played on, the genius, broke through the line ten or twelve times a game. The best passer of the ball. A union player who comes into playing league and realizes how much fun it is. How easy it is to push the ball around. We called him Pikey on account of his dark skin tone. Plus, he didn’t really look like a Daniel.

Love comes to those who wait. We all waited. That was the year everyone was shacking up. Shacking up for a night was easy, finding something different, something bigger, that was tough. Especially when you’re surrounded by thirty yelling, screaming, smelly boys trying to look like men. Some of the older guys, like George, a surgeon in his thirties, who to this day I am impressed dared to risk his surgeon hands for six or seven seasons of rugby league, who was one of the fittest guys on the squad but who spoke as slow as he ran, and he was by far the slowest guy on the squad when it came to breaking a sprint, he was one of the guys who enjoyed the growing camaraderie, who had been there for years when it was just a bunch of drunks and fat losers trying to get in shape. But before I could pull my head out of the toilet, before I could pull two words from my mouth, Pikey found his maiden, Rita, one of the staff at Cloud 9, the darling, darling waitress, the angel of our blessed lives. It happened so fast, before he knew it, jobless, armless, he was leading us into the semi finals with a lot of lady luck on his side. I took big hits, real big hits, and I dropped my shoulder too many times and sometimes had to pay for it, but I put in my hits as well, but no man matches the intensity of that Irishman. No man I have seen since.

Spring arrived with the promise of what she leaves open. Sometimes you get what you imagined. Two weeks before the game we beat Jounieh by forty something points. Demolished them. Put their heads in the ground. Something happened. The wily douchebag took control. Darren, a man well into his forties, whose kids were at the game, leaped into the air thinking we had won, thinking we had scored. It wasn’t to be man. It wasn’t to be. We ended the year on a damaging low, but something had started, something enormous. We knew if we held the squad together we could be crowned kings the next year, without anyone having a say in it. We supported the other guys and they won the cup, beating the undefeated Immortals in their sleep. I guess you could say it was a good end to things, a good change was coming. Mikey had left the squad. Pikey left the country, not without a fight, but he had to go, promising he’d be back. And soon enough, Darren was gone too. Then it was us, with the memory of what he started. And the elder statesman, Karim, Mounir, Ramsey, guys that had been there since the beginning, they were forced out too. Graduates don’t play. Good thing I never wrote my thesis. I still had another year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the Humdinger Rooftop Cinema

Beirut, 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dani Arbid. Ha. What can I say? We started the Humdinger Rooftop Cinema together on the roof of my shithole apartment in Beirut. Actually, the apartment wasn’t half bad, it was really decent, and it was on the roof, so I took it like the roof was part of my apartment, and the apartment across from mine was Josie’s, and hers was pretty nice too, and she had her canvases strewn about, each two meters or so, and when I’d leave my place I’d have to walk by hers. Now, you’re probably thinking apartment, but its not like that. There was basically a bedroom, a corridor and a bathroom. In the corridor was the fridge and the kitchenette. The fridge was right by the door. It was just about the first thing you’d see coming in. The bathroom was the last thing you’d see, unless you saw the mold creeping into the hall, sprawling herself along the entire wall. Once you leave my place you had a huge fall on your right, safely held together of course by a questionable balcony rail, and Josie’s apartment door on her left. Her place didn’t have the same separation of powers that mine did, her one rom was much bigger, definitely cleaner, always smelling nice, and she didn’t have a corridor, but a long open room, that led from one window, her bed, to the far end of the wall, the kitchenette, with her door right smack in the middle. We were pretty close, and if either of us got lucky we could hear the beautiful songs right through the walls.

One night we did make love. I don’t usually refer to it like that but it felt like that. It was early autumn, October, and the year would be one of our wettest, rains and rains coming down hungry and hard. The streets pile up with storm water runoff ponds and everything is wet, boots, pants, eyes and ears. Cars are so tightly bound it’s impossible not to get sprayed if you’re out walking. I remember wondering how everyone preferred siting for hours in traffic in their cars than put down their boots and hit the road clean. When a good rain comes in its as good as a morning shower, as good as a shower after deer hunting for days, cramped in a hot treehouse waiting for the sad little fucker to smell my bait.

We were both teaching at the American School in Beirut, a ten minute walk from my house. I was living right off of the famed Rue Hamra, which translates into the Red Street. In its heyday it was one of the epicenters of social and cultural life for not just Beirut but the region. Like most things in the Middle East a tide of conservatism and a few devastating wars changed the landscape a little, but the area retains a certain sense of quality that denies its cultural essence has been hijacked. Sure, in the beginning, there wouldn’t have been so many cheap, low end clothing stores and fast food joints, franchises from the deep American South that can’t even sell a pie in Europe anymore. But with the right set of eyes and some connections you get directed to the right spots, and hidden in some of the cafes, the late night bars- later than anything in America except for New York- and the small, hole in the wall food joints that have become staple neighborhood institutions, an underclass of artists, artisans, activists and journalists thrive, and surrounding them the decadent, the immoral, the criminal as well. Usually these two go hand in hand in an urban situation. And they do in Beirut. Because everyone smokes a little hash, and everyone does their share of dirty drugs. And the dirtier the need the smellier the fish. I’ve seen some of the sickest looking men sitting in a packed Café de Prague only because they had what the girls wanted at the time. That was all at night.

The beautiful walk I made every morning always gave me something fresh to consider. I never left my house angry or upset that I had to walk down Hamra, down towards AUB, down Rue de Mahatma Gandhi, aptly named, passed the rising crowd of bars and burger joints, themed clothing stores and hippie smoke shops, past the guy who everybody buys their rolling paper from, who causes a traffic jam a kilometer long, onto the famous Rue Bliss, where it looks like an American shopping mall food court exploded and implanted itself within the ruins of post-civil war Beirut. I never thought I would live off Mahatma Gandhi street in Beirut, but it happened. And every day I took my routine walk, past the falafel guy who wasn’t open yet, and past the famous DVD rental place that downloaded films before they were even out in theaters in most the United States. I would walk onto Bliss and take a left and head down the long, winding road towards the sea, and I always felt like I had come a long enough way to come close to something, every morning taking that turn, not five minutes into the walk, taking that left turn and a few steps down the long, winding road and there she sat, the great and beautiful sea, what David Abulafia calls a sea with many names. Every day I walked down that hill, a hill that leads directly to school and directly to the white expanse, met by a rousing breeze rising from the shores, thinking back on where I had just been, thinking of my parents huddled up there in the great state of Missouri, my father moving into a one room house in Joplen, my mother continuing on with her life, I would think about the first day I applied, with as ignorant a mind as can an American have, to my post in the middle school, teaching social studies to 7th and 8th graders, and I’d stumble down that long, winding road, stumble down until I could finally see it, hiding behind the shadows of a university wall, and I could feel my nostrils open up and the air seep into my lungs, feeling the weight of the week, the night before, the hours to come, feeling all of it combust into a little particle of jazz, a small, smooth, five note scale jumping up and down in her own ruins, her own party of rhyme. A lot of those days, and this came especially with my friendship to the mad raving lunatic Arbid, to Josie, to Nicola the aging homewrecker, and to Adam, salt of the earth Adam, I spent those mornings walking down that hill drunk and high, my eyes bloodshot red, I never needed glasses but I got myself a fake pair without prescription just to have an excuse to put something on. This was before I cut my chops, and so my hair went all the way down, blond like the revolving sun, all the way down to my back, and the smell of me walking into the elite private school, with hash under my nails and my overly sensitive bowels, always made a neat little scene, but I always felt home.

The walk back was different. Uphill, tired, too much coffee, just need a drink or a joint. In the morning I always felt like I had something to give, something valuable to bestow upon my students. By the time the bell rang for the end of the day I was just surprised I survived.

That day I was walking home and the rain was harder than it had been so far that year, and I noticed that I was stopped in front of a liquor store, one of those steel walls that open with girth and inside is a hundred cases of beer and every bottle imaginable to the hungry eye, and I bought a bottle of cheap whiskey and a bottle of cheap wine and head off home. I was supposed to have a friend of mine come over, a talented viola player for the conservatory, Imad, who was forced to leave his hometown with his brother when the Syrian civil war reached their town in Sweida, and he ended up living with a thirty five year old Brazilian dancer, being himself only nineteen. But he canceled. I already had the booze and I wasn’t going to wait, or let the bottles sit there for another day. There’s no shortage of alcohol. I can consume what I want.

I still had a piece of hash left over from a few nights before, when some of the older guys from work came by and we smoked all night playing shitty country songs and getting drunk. An age old American tradition.

I got upstairs and rolled a joint and lay down on my bed counting the mold spots that had scattered away from the whole, like black snowflakes on a mud stained wall. I held the joint in my hand for a while, and I guess I passed out for a few minutes, but then I heard a loud scream and my eyes opened wide and I knew Josie was outside on the roof and something had happened. I got up as quick as I could and rushed outside, almost slipped myself and took a tumble over the balcony but I held myself on the rail. I had forgotten to throw on my boots so my socks were soaked right away and I found here there almost in a louder pool of tears than the flooding roof, upset that she’d fallen and broken over a new canvas, and some of her groceries lay scattered on the floor. I picked up her things and helped her up, my hair in a loud mess and my feet drenched and really to be quite honest I wasn’t even thinking when I held her hand how beautiful she looked with her hair wet and her own shoes off but she did, and I noticed it only when I had her up and her things around my shoulders and we were laughing and she was between laughing and crying and I got her to under the tarp and we stood to the side and she was leaning on me the way friends do but in the cold she was a little closer and she had her head on my chest so the top of her head was in my neck and I remember realizing that I was smelling her scent for the first time.

I didn’t know that much about Beirut. I still don’t. I had been there a year already but I felt like anytime something new came to pass it was a refreshing reminder that I wasn’t in Missouri anymore. But it never mattered. Standing there day in and day out on the roof of a six story building in the heart of the capital, seeing in the distance the mountains on one side and sea on the other, the whorehouses underneath on the street with their sixties design neon lights and their greasy bouncers smoking two, three packs of cigarettes a day. Smoking the best hash in the world among a herd of Americans and Irishman and journalists who wanted to do more than serve coffee in a Paris cell. Falling in love with a girl who speaks three languages and is learning two more, whose read the pageant poetry of France and Italy and laughs at my insistence on Steinbeck’s Cannery Row as the American novel. Feasting on food, on drinks, on shit poetry and a brewing war outside. Feasting on the politics, man, the politics. The kids who got along until someone said the wrong name. The kids whose parents drove them to school in tinted BMWs and had their maids clean out their ears as they stepped out into the road. The kids whose parents did their science projects and whose moms came to parent teacher conferences looking for a foreign lay. Every day, something new flickered in my eyes and I saw for the first time where I stood.

We ended up in my room, stoned, listening to Neil Young on repeat, her telling me about her lost brother, burning away his youth, and his good teeth, in a slum somewhere in Marseille. I told her about my parents’ divorce, my excitement at being abroad, at being away from the things I know, the things I can expect. She’d been in Beirut four years longer, and she had a look in her eyes that said, Just wait, you’ll see, it’s building a temple for your heart now, but then it becomes a hole, and everywhere you look everywhere you turn there’s that same dark hole, and you’re gone, gone, gone away from the light, and you’re never going to wake up again.

            After a bottle of wine and half a bottle cheap whiskey, six or seven beers and at least five joints, Neil Young on the radio over ten times, and the sudden emergence of three leaks in my apartment, she got up from her spot on the floor, huddled underneath all my blankets and pillows, her head resting against the corner wall. She got up and she looked at me and she smiled and she said, I’m going to bed, and when she walked away and she turned around in the end I wondered, I thought, Why didn’t she just stay here, why go over there, why not go to bed here? And before I knew it, before I could ask myself why, why, why, I was lifting my closed fist to knock on her door, and the door was already open and the air pushed it through, and I was standing there with my blankets on top of me and my hair over my eyes, and a joint still in my hand. Standing there, and she was there on her bed, looking over at me, naked, and for the next few hours, no matter what happened in the city of chaos and loss, all I know is we were together, in bed, making love.

           

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sacred Garden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The novel opens with a drifter come onto shore. We want to know who he is, what he wants. We want to know if he’s been here before.

We know most of these things because we relate it to ourselves. We were born somewhere, and either we left or we stayed. Those of us who stayed, we have what we always wanted, what we envied in our parents and their friends, or we don’t, and we are miserable. Those of us who left, we opened ourselves to chance, to infinite possibility. We may have chosen one place but we could be now in another.

Who is the drifter and why do we care? Why do we need to know what he wants?

I have an idea. A thought. It begins with an old joke I used to tell my friends. When we grew older, they realized it was not a joke, it was a promise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sacred Garden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They said he was older than the one they expected. Wandering the vacuum of memory. When he was found, hanging by a single thread, the doctors standing at the door, sighing in disbelief, I saw from under the shadows of his long, extended arms, his breathless figure, his little hands, angel hands, tapping against grains of the earth.

Children played through the fever. I spent the summer sitting on the edge of the park grass, counting down the moments until they no longer lasted. Counting time with my fingers, like he did.

He was wearing the suit of a jester, walking through the quarter like he owned the place, like he belonged, and like he didn’t have to pay attention to the morals, to the offended eyes, the offended witnesses. He was swearing in his mother tongue. By the end of his walk, the portion of his life that passed right before my eyes, I heard him yell, Now and once and for all, he yelled, freedom is imminent.

Hangovers still get the best of me. I woke up with my head in the dirt. I had a new tattoo on my arm. And some ink drawn all over the forearm. I remember sitting on the wings of a chariot, a six seater cab we crowned. I looked into her eyes, the delicate stranger’s eyes, glazed by the ruins in my heart. Where have you brought me, I asked. Turning around I swore I remembered, seeing her disappear, floating through the windshield and over the hood of the car. I looked out of the window and she was gone, and the rest of them turned into insects, and the car veered into a deep, dark valley, and I could feel the cracking of some bones.

Where have you brought me, I asked, and no one made like they heard, and the insects turned into violins, and I swore onto the image before me, the hour of my birth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He washes his hands beside a fountain. The garden sits in the center of a long, maze like expanse, wooded forest surrounding a tall grass prairie. From the center of the garden can be viewed a circular series of sculptures, all classical, heads bowed, pertaining to a certain myth. In the very center of the garden the fountain raises its sprout to the canopy’s height. Underneath the immense showers, there are little faucets, rusted over time, for the orderly to wash, drink, cleanse.

He looks over through the early evening glare, lights towering over the grassy plain, from where he digs his feet into the muddy earth. He’s taken off his shoes to clean his feet, and to feel the earth beneath him. To give them a rest, he always says, but he rarely, if ever, wears them.

A crumbling lighthouse pierces the azure. From where he stands he can look through the sculptures, into the forest, and expect that within two, three hundred meters, he can see into the sea. He turns to address a few passers, young, well dressed, sober. They look in his direction and turn away. They must have expected it would be empty, he thinks.

Moments later he wets his face in the water, pausing to let the coldness of the water ease into his skin. He rubs his eyes, he licks his lips, raising another handful of water to his face. The hair on his forehead is wet, and he draws his head back to remove it from his face. He clears the sides of his eyes, clearing with tow fingers the wetness of his nostrils. He dries his hands off in the air, turns and walks away.

He would be waiting at that pier, rising under an autumn shower, waiting, like he had promised. He had expected to see him first, before entering the city, to see his mentor one last time, before they traded places.

The sage sells perfume, he thought, but for the soul.

As he walked through the grass, the ends of towering weeds grazing against his legs, tickling his elbows as he past through them, focused on the sound his feet made running against the earth, on the sound the weeds made when they were stepped on, pushed down to the earth, returned to their creator. He heard the evening symphony rise, the day ending like any other day, crickets delivering their sacred psalms, fireflies lighting up the sky. He felt a ladybug rest in between two fingers. Do they live at night, he thought to himself.

Reaching the cover of darkness, the end of the prairie, he stopped. Turning around, he noticed the garden had emptied. The fountain rose like an upended stream. He counted, One, two, three…He continued counting until ten, breathing, slow, breathing. He turned back around, and with a slow, deliberate twist of the arm, he rested his palm on the first batch of branches in his way. He held the twig, the stem of the branch, biting it with his fingers. Slowly, calmly, he lifted the branch, one by one, passing through.

For the remainder of the night, he remains disappeared in the darkness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The two men sat huddled together on the far end of the pier, laughing at something one of them had just said. The tallest of them, a local with a beard that covers his face, big, black eyebrows that hide the impression of his eyes, receding into his skull, arched his back as he laughed, coughing over smoke he blew from his lungs. He sighed, the sort of gesture that told the other of them he was happy with his company.

“Do you think he’ll show?”

“He’ll show.”

The other man, the oldest of the two, sat with his back against the woodwork of a small rowing boat, his feet pressed into a small bank of sand that rose from inside the harbor. He had his pants rolled up to his knees, his legs reflecting the overcast sky, varicose veins running from his ankles and disappearing into the seam of his pants. In his crouched position, his stomach protruded from his vest, a white undershirt that bore the blooded stains of an accident. Over his shoulders he wrapped a thick, woolen blanket, that looked like it was made from sailor’s rope.

The quiet of the morning had felt, for both of them, a good omen. How else would they explain the sighting of migratory birds overhead, the earliest sighting of many years. How else could the older oft hem explain the feeling he had when, making his way to the water, he realized upon reaching the final checkpoint that he had forgotten his papers, but due to the timing of the day and the look on his face that suggested he could no harm, the likeable officers let him pass, detaining him briefly for routine questioning, which he passed skillfully.

He felt thirsty, his throat drying over the hours, waiting, a taste of forgotten salt left ruminating in his mouth. He felt his forehead to accept that he was sweating. Looking over at the other man, he questioned him with his eyes, wondering what he would really do if he knew why they were waiting. The man, gazing off to a distant figment on the horizon, took it upon himself to speak, to break the evolving silence. But the older man, listening as he was to the migratory birds pacing overhead, the cry of seagulls and crows claiming their territory, the announcing horns of ships impeding their way to shore, didn’t hear the man’s words, thinking to himself all along, repeating to himself the same, exhausting sentence.

In the garden the way is long.

“I never came out to the water as a kid. You’d be surprised, seeing as how I do this now, spend most of my time here. I never made it over. We spent most of our time on the streets, playing football on the concrete, forming roadblocks and goals with our oldest pair of shoes. The shoes we didn’t need to play. Or we took off our shoes and played barefoot, if it wasn’t too hot out. It gets so hot in this country, and it surprises me, because it always feels hotter than they say it is. In some places if it reaches a certain temperature they just send you home, tell you its not worth it to work that day. but, I’m happy with my job, happy with my work. A lot of the kids I grew up with are bored out of their minds.”

Noticing the old man’s drifting gaze, he slowed is words down, dropping to his knees with another cigarette in his mouth, looking directly in the older man’s eyes.

“What are you thinking about? You look like an interesting man.”

The old man simply nodded his head, showing the top of his teeth with his halfhearted smile.

“Do you think this friend of yours is going to show?”

The man rises with the cigarette finally lit, looking out in the distance, hoping to catch sight of the older man’s interest.

“I have a lot to do today. Don’t want to spend all day out here, waiting for him.”

“He’ll show.”

The younger man watches over the movement of his hands, in and out of his mouth with the cigarette, in and out, taking long drags of the cigarette to feel the crispy burn at the back of his throat, and the weight of the smoke carry down through his shoulders and into his stomach, his hands, his thighs, drowning him in a sense of exhaustion and relief, following, elation that comes with his sighs. He studies the older man, who seems uninterested in his being observed. He’s probably used to it, the younger man thinks. He probably does this all the time.

After a long silence, where the two men, withdrawn into their thoughts, settled into a lasting peace, the younger of them took his leave, silently, without drawing his friend’s attention, walking slowly away with his head drawn back so as to walk with the feeling he owned the pier, and the actions of the morning, what had passed and what was to come, was only possible under his watch, his authority. He felt a deep sense of pride, in his little cabin of authority.

The old man sat quietly, staring into the outer limits of the sea, feeling the quick, bolts of waves crashing against the bank, where he could feel, every time they struck, a quiet rumble underneath him. He thought of the years that had passed, between his insignificant arrival, a port town he thought would not be his last, a transient place for him to continue with his writing, help reform a suffering literary program, and maybe, just maybe, fall in love. He had not thought of what else would be possible, and when the seasons turned their attention towards more political matters, in the beginning, he thought, why not?

He thought of the young girl, a student of his, whose eyes he would never see again, gazing up at him in the front of the class, her long eyelashes compelled by neat, black ink, her hair trimmed to below the ears, her chin always lowered so as to appear, more so than was physically true, that she was teasing him from below, calling out to him from her subsidiary position.

But in truth, though he thought of these things, he didn’t think of them for long. He knew what was awaiting him, and what had come. He had decided long before it had been told to him, before it had been described as necessary. All the while, seated with his feet drenched in wet, soggy sand, his palms pushing down on the side of the boat, his eyes cast off toward the endless sea, he held the tranquility of the moment, the passing, all the while, repeating to himself, In the garden the way is long, repeating, In the garden the way is long.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She knew when she woke up that day that the dreams she was having were real. Her first instinct was to look outside, through the dreamcatcher whistling over the windowsill, the white silk drapes hanging form the wall, o the point in the sky she always turned to, for guidance, for reflection.

Full moon, she thought. She understood.

She had been dreaming of him for some time, waiting on his call, expecting him to visit. Like she had been warned, she thought. Like I have been told.

She follows her eyes to the bedside table. Stacks of books, poets- Reverdy, Hoffman, William Pitt Root. A collection of Silvina Ocampo’s short stories. Books on the cosmos and the human psyche, The Myth of the Eternal Return, The Myth of Meaning. Beside the books, a stack of freshly sharpened pencils, and beneath the pencils, a large yellow notepad. Free bookmarks sat next to the books, and in each of the books, a different bookmark from a different bookstore. Not, as she would prefer, the bookstores she bought the books from, not always, not specifically. But more or less, for every book in her collection, she had at least one and a half bookmarks. One day she hoped to carry a bookmark from the same bookstore for every book, but for now, it wasn’t possible.

These items had always been there, as long she remembered. Not the same books, and not the same pencils, but more or less the same amount. The only difference in the collection on her bedside table, apart from the different lightbulb she would use to view the contents, is the appearance of a thin, paperback book she writes in from time to time, more recently, every night, waking between dreams to note everything down.

She noted everything down, exactly as it came. She was careful to paint as honest a portrait of the images, her memory, the symbolic presence in every scene, the possible relation to her own psyche, to the possible relation to her life. Once she had achieved the capacity to note down to perfection the contents of her basic dreams, she then took it upon herself to note down the different elements of others in her life who may have made it into her dream, as an order to escape their own, or maybe, to ask for help. This change in direction, from a subjective experience of her dreams, to an objective experience of another’s, made her feel very special. It inspired her to dig deeper into the symbols. Different spaces gave her a different feeling, every time. Recurring spaces, spaces that she could name, spaces she knew she would never see. Cityscapes beyond the architecture of man. Towering urban systems conniving so they intertwined. She would walk between the buildings, stretching into the sky, beyond her visibility, waiting to be directed, guided to the next light. She noticed patterns, and from the patterns she noticed airwaves and soundwaves she could employ, to empower her decisions, in where she might go. Dreams being the content of her psychic self, meshing with the random introduction of collective unconscious material, she discovered certain elements to herself she had not been aware. After the rapid introduction of cockroaches, for example, into the dreams, she remembered entire chapters of her childhood she had completely forgotten. The months between spring and autumn, where the moisture in the air and the heat on the ground made it perfect weather for the reemergence of the cockroach onto every day life. She remembered her home, the third or fourth her family lived in, where she would wake up for school and between her walk from her bedroom to the bathroom, would find one, two, sometimes three cockroaches dead on their backs, the remaining sight of their oppressive battle. She remembered finding mothers, liynig on their backs with two, three of their young lying next to them, and the entire house would rise with a wail, and the feeling she had of being home, of being in her place of safety, was gone, discovering a new place she had entered, the feeling that is there when a child finds themselves in the face of danger, and the eyes of her mother, the voice erupting from her giant mouth, tell her she should be afraid. It became so the very sight of a cockroach made her scream a terrible scream, and if the proximity between her and the disgusting insect was too close for her to believe she was not in danger, she wouldn’t scream but freeze, her face would pale, ghost white, her hands would stretch to their most extension, her knees would tremble, her toes would kneel.

Even this, she had forgotten.

 

Over the course of several months the images became more steady, still, the pace of her dreams was disorderly, like everything was moving in slow motion, but the introduction of different space, foreign elements, disjointed, she stepped from one world to another.

The mountainous she spent summers with her best friend, hiding their prettier underwear and their makeup from her parents, their evolving interest in the village boys, young immigrants from poor households, who had no papers, no names, just arms and legs and a set of eyes they could use to put in the work, and their mouths were kept closed, and they never spoke a word, for fear, she never realized at the time, but on thinking on it now, of being reprimanded, fired, deported. Executed, if they were ugly and couldn’t put in much work. As long as they had no family. Executed, she thought. She noted it down.

In the beginning, she doubted that the dreams held any meaning, any purpose, but being a student of psychology and a believer in the persona of a cosmic order, she decided to investigate her interest, and treat the dreams as a sort of subject, a patient, and a place where she was free to experiment with things she had learned, techniques, like a hypnosis method, or a method of meditating, to see how she might alter the sequences, the spaces.

She was surprised to find that in the first several months there were no real faces. When she focused on a face, it disappeared. When she focused on a feeling, faces appeared out of nowhere, in great amount. More and more, she tried to study the faces, but they disappeared. She tried to trick her unconscious, turning her eyes away to the faces, but searching somehow, from the corner of her eye, or, if she was lucky enough to notice she was standing in the bathroom of her high school, or, say, the bathroom at her best friend’s, she could find one of the faces staring back at her in the mirror. In the mirror, the faces appeared. Many of them seemed as though she were waiting for her to see them, standing there with their arms crossed, or their backs against the wall, like they were studying her as she studied them, noting down her movements, regularities and irregularities, patterns and symbols. The color of her nails, the scratches on her back. The dirt under her eyes. The scars on both her knees.

Music. The element that was missing from the start. She heard humming, light humming, rising from the shadows of every image, and she followed the shadows, following the sound of a deep bass chorus, humming in perfect fifths the same four chords.

There were also lighter dreams, of fast, wormhole pacing, like she was running through the tunnel of a vacuum, the longer she ran, the deeper, the more it would expand.

It took her some time to make the connection. To believe in the messages. The connections she later made weren’t visible at first. The parallel faces in her dreams and the subjects in her life.

Voices came to her in the dark. She always had trouble sleeping, and those hours she spent waiting in bed for the sudden ignition of sleep, she grew accustomed to a spur of images, moments in her life she never connected, moments that were insignificant at the time and together seemed even more irrelevant. The corridor of her kindergarten, for example. She would even swear that she could smell  the corridor, like she was there.

Months passed before she recognized the face haunting her in the dreams. She knew that face. She had known him. What was he doing there?

The night she recognized his face, she saw him everywhere. In the corner of every frame, in the center of every picture, the depictions seemed to rotate around his figure, like he possessed a magnetic field and her images, her pictures, were drawn into his orbit.

Then she heard his voice. He was whispering to someone else, an extra in her scene, someone who comes into the dream to take up space, and leave you with the memory of their shoes, or their patterns of walking, or their eyelids. A tiny detail, expressing itself more for the whole.

She wrote down all of his words. Gibberish, of course, the content of dreams is fleeting, intangible, repressive. What she came to realize is the messages.

What is my name? She didn’t know.

Will we ever go back? Could they?

She was sleeping alone, had been alone for a long time. She accepted she could have done more for a relationship, for something meaningful, more than the occasional fuck, but if she gave it too much thought it just depressed her, so she left the idea as it came, always, on the brink of every silence.

In some way, his voice comforted her, keeping her company while she managed her day. That was why she decided to write down what she remembered, everything he said that she could recall.

But she still didn’t know his name, and she never knew where to look for his face, it appeared out of nowhere and she moved fast enough to notice, like the sudden interruption of a cockroach.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cockroaches are my only friends. Singles, pairs, whole armies. When it rains, they disappear, like I do. When the sun is shining, they rise, ascend to their little kingdom beneath our feet.

He steps out of the house at dawn. The dreams, they’re like mannequins, passing by. The sun, making her way over the horizon. He walks the length of the sunflower fields, the length of passage beside the long wall of the abandoned farm. In the dream, he was walking through the ruins of a city, touching his hands against shattered glass, stones and wild concrete, running his hands along the cold brick walls. He finds himself standing in the presence of an older woman, braiding the hair of a younger girl, speaking to him without looking. The eye of envy written on her face. He watches his reflection force two other men into a suitcase, climbing over the bag to force it shut, reminding himself, I don’t do these things. He sees a snake, imagining the bite her tail holds. He pictured the old woman, speaking to him again, her voice in his ear. He wakes up.

The borders are open. Night buses carry over the mountains. Anyone who goes doesn’t think about coming back.

He enjoys his final bite, leaving the kitchen, drawing away into the woods. The dogs follow him to the basin. Past the apple orchards, the lemon trees and fig trees his uncle harvested. He finds the farmer’s son sitting atop a stone stoop structure, near the underpass of the first row of hills. The man is smoking his pipe, smelling the grass in his smoke, smiling. He sips from a lamb woven flask.

“It’s quieter, away from the house.”

“The border is open. I’m going.”

They walk together back to the eating house. The man carries a small pile of firewood, walking with a limp on his left leg, drawing a sound form the friction of his boots against the wooden floor. Dreaming into the passage.

“I fed the dogs.”

“They’ll miss you.”

“They will.”

The man pours himself a cold cup of coffee. He reads from a scattered set of papers lying on the counter, shuffling through them, lightly, without any real intention, touching them with his fingers, gentle. After a while, he fills a plate from a dish on the side of the counter, mashed eggs and vegetables, and every so often dips a torn piece of bread into the mixture, before adding an olive to pit in his mouth. The morning rays of a rising sun scatter along the dimly tiled floor. A red hue cloud sits under the one or two tungsten bulbs still running, presumably from the night before. The m an chews away at his food, filling his mouth with bites out of the eggs and sips out of the coffee.

In the morning he climbs a wagon into town, riding on one of the wheels. After an hour or so wait at the crossroads, he thought of the face he would encounter one last time.

Two women sit on a pile of wheat and straw, an cheerful old man driving the wagon. The road is empty, the sight of an endless field. The crowd sit prisoner’s to the sun’s growing aggression.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a feeling she had, that everything would begin in spring. Similar faces. Different set of eyes. She was seeing them simultaneously. Seeing the tow faces conjoin and then part, speak with unconditional likeness, disembody one figure for a whole.

That morning, she heard a man coughing in the distance. The night before, they had told her the disease had become airborne, and over the water, when the ice would melt, it would flood in through the banks, through the walls. She knew none of them were prepared, but she couldn’t do anything.

One of the guards had confronted her, asking why she let up before the fight began. She said only the weak refuse to surrender, the courageous resist but ultimately accept their fate.

In the morning she was called for by the voice, the man coughing in the distance. Finding him hiding under the shade of a line of pine trees, she sat beside him and wept. The flight of migratory birds passed overhead, coloring the overcast sky. She was hoping to flee, hoping to pass while the ice had frozen over. She imagined the fate of a stranded swan, versed to have woven into an icy blanket. Afterwards, the swan’s corpse would have melted, returning the abandoned vessel to the water.

I wasn’t there to see it, but she was. She says the flight of birds is still a mystery. We were watching from the shrub while the few boats drowned. Don’t you remember, the voice said to her. I reached out and you were gone.

Considering that the lake was formed by two distinct sides, accessible from either shore, from which the parallel side remains visible. On the one side, a deliberate glamorization has steadily evolved the nature of the shore, though somewhat slowed by an economic downturn in recent years, nonetheless sweetening the landscape, rescuing it from its tired form. Any success owes much to the rehabilitation, and regular nursing, of lakeside chestnut trees, whose seedlings fall angrily against the canvas floor, withering beside an array of weeping willows and elder flower nesting below similar other variant tress stretching further away from the water.

She had told me, recently, before the divorce, investigating the sudden intrusion of Varroa mites into the forest, she was surprised to discover a wild strawberry patch had grown in the absence of natural vegetation. In her opinion, standing perfectly still within the frame of the strawberry patch, it was possible to dismiss the summer chorus of laughter playing feverishly across the bank, focusing her attention to the spot where she stood, feet pressed firmly against the earth, her hand holding the bark of a towering tree.

When the memory comes to you, he asked, are you nervous?

His eyes pierced moonlight’s hollow glow. The image, sutured into her thoughts. The memory of the day unsettled.

In an August entry the summer she disappeared, she recounted to him the story of two children swept ashore, theirs legs bound together with fishermen’s rope. Sanding at a waterlog trench of the bank, she listened carefully, closing her eyes so as to meditate on the sound, a murder of crows passing overhead, embracing their dissonant cries. A flight of swallows dipping underneath the lowlying bush to veer into his sight. Had she pictured the image herself, hoping to entomb the living vessel of their shared past, she would not have noticed his face, watching her from across the shore.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

His first night on shore, having passed calmly through the border, he read from a book of his favorite poems, passages he noted down when noticing them. While wiping his feet in the water, he notices the figure of a woman racing up the hill. He follows her, finding her having receded the passage, standing in a great field of waste. Waste, having amassed over the years, drying what was once a great lake.

She transforms in his eyes, from the affection of the earlier image, to one of death. He decides that night not to enter the city, returning over the hill to the earlier passage, remaining there for the evening, lighting a small fire, reading with a sense of piety, thinking. He listens for what wildlife remains to be heard. He sleeps.

In the morning, waking to the rising sun brushing against his face, he sits in the water for a moment, lying with his hands and knees in the sand, digging his face into the breaking waves.

He sees in the distance a great, impressive bridge. He remembers the bridge at the entrance to the city. An impassable bridge for some.

Ending at a cliff, locals are permitted to walk onto the bridge and dive if they please, the only sanctioned means to end one’s life. It could hae connected two parts of the same nation, separated by a waterway, but they refused, and built a wall instead. The southerners live under the bridge, while the northerners live over it. where odes it go, from which way does he ascend? Bridges of polarity. Nowhere, somewhere. Wilderness, civilization. Conscious, unconscious.

While he was away, everything reminded him of the place. Every song, every lasting scent, every bird, every harlequin. Every time he felt something close to him, closing in on his derelict heart, forcing him to feel safe, free, he felt like he felt here. It remained a mystery to everyone else.

The polite thing to do is to acknowledge the descent of the old woman from the upraised balcony, calling out to the man who has yet to power her generator. The woman, convulsing with yells, interests no one. It would seem it is a common custom. She is so accustomed to screaming, the town is not accustomed to hearing.

An ascetic breaches the front gates, storming out of the building. Quaint, tainted with time, eroded by sand storms, a steady stream of fumes, a layer of musk masking the walls. The ascetic looks precisely as you would imagine him. His tone, an eastern blend of honey and gold. He gallops, levitating through the city, veiled in an accessible violet cloak, and a shroud of incense smoke. Most impressive is his physique, fit like an auxiliary.

A conversation draws his attention. A resident and a man responsible to tend to tenant needs. The housing is pueblo like, confined to shades of pale lime and green, embellished with the romance of a spiral staircase, a wide courtyard door. The man carries oil, kerosene, lighting two lamps for the lady arguing her rights.

“I have waited all day for you to answer my call.”

“I was out, time off.”

“And me? How am I to cope in your time off?”

“The inconvenience is my embarrassment. I’m sorry.”

“So you will concede?”

“I will power the generator in less than an hour. This way, you will be within your right, and I will have saved what I am able. It is a difficult time. Please try to understand.”

“Always to the last drop with you.”

He shies away. The figure on the stairs curls into a shapeless shadow, while a group of young boys smoke, hanging out near a mural painted on the building wall. They smoke hash compressed in the valley, near columns of the resistance. Earlier, it had been debated, and one of the boys said that he thought the resistance had finished their supply, overharvesting the fields. One of the other boys assured him, whenever there is a demand for drugs, the drugs arrive in their hands. The border is opened, he said. They are quiet now.

The youngest of them, a gypsy without a home, isn’t wearing any shoes, but has inked the contour of a sandal onto his feet. One of the feet is done in color, while the other is black and white. The colors are well faded, and the black and white looks like muddy chalk. Simply for the effect of shading, the sandals are beautiful.

He sips from a friend’s beer. It is indigestible, burning a hole through his throat. This is fierce, he says. His friend holds him in a chokehold. You think I want to poison you, little guy?

The herd of boys drift away. He rests under the umbrella of a garden, peering over a flat concrete plain, hundreds of meters wide. Later, as he walks, his steps echoing in the darkness, he stands in the middle of the courtyard. He takes the stairs at the end of the plain, painted in a series of warring emblems. A townhouse door winces on the fringe, a steel gate pushed wide open. He sees dimly into the basement, covered in large masses of marble and stone. Through the door he emerges into an alleyway. A voice calls from behind him.

“Who are you?”

He turns around, to speak, but the voice speaks first, noting his hesitation.

“What is your business here?”

“Walking.”

“Where from?”

“The other end of town.”

The voice steps out from the darkness.

“Can I help you?”

“I’m trying to pass.”

“I’m not so sure.”

He comes nearer, removing his veil. He smiles, speaking kindly, bowing his chin. He doesn’t hold his breath, standing so close, the smell of cinnamon rising through his teeth.

“There’s nothing past here.”

Running back up the stairs he follows the memory of the empty plain. He runs across the concrete, steps heavy, breathing through dampened lungs. He tries running on his toes, running on his heels. He reaches the end of the plain, climbing another set of stairs back to where he began. The young crowd is out of sight. The women and tenants have disappeared. He turns a corner, finding an immigrant selling fruits and nuts off a cart. e approaches him. The fruit seller is listening to the radio and singing. He chews a certain leaf every now and again.

“Is there somewhere to eat?”

The man ignores him, continuing with his song, but not before offering a smile. He continues walking, turning onto a busier street, and then onto another. Finally, he turns onto a street that looks quieter, broken, the people sitting outside questioning his sudden appearance. He finds a few people standing outside a storefront. He pushes open the door.

He walks through the corridor until he finds another door, that leads him directly outside, onto the parallel road. Dust rises in a purple fume. While he walks, articulating dust into the air with the touch of his boots, he finds a little shop, an owner sitting beside the window smoking a cigarette, listening to the whining of his wife, or, to his imagination, an elderly customer taking her comfort too literally. The show owner nudges toward him, indicating he is safe. He follows him into the back. The older woman keeps her eyes on him as he passes her.

He nudges past a velvet curtain, shying away into the dark, enjoying the creases of fabric on his fingers. The smell of feces grapples the air. He walks into a room, where men have paid to lie naked in single sized aquariums, each the size of an adult coffin. The feeling intended is that of a womb.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The noise settled. The room silenced. The closing of midday, when the afternoon sun takes her siesta. The seagulls can be heard once again. The afternoon songs of a gift coming to close.

He walks by other cubes, looking in, dazed by the scent of his own smoke. He fumbles into his pockets for a lighter, pushing out into the street. Nearly daybreak. High, raving in the senses. Impressing himself in the religious monotony of prayer. He retreats back towards a flight of stairs, walking along the stretch of seaside pavement he knows leads him south, towards his home. At the stairs, he takes a moment to breathe, sitting along the edge of the second step, looking out over the brightening horizon.

The port is emptying, men take their leave from work, visitors absorb the loss of their first night.

A careful figure approaches him. They exchange the ordinary glance, taking wonder in the other man’s eyes. The figure stops, his form elusive under the light of a hovering lamp. Carried in thick, industrial boots, a layer of blankets. He holds his stare gravely until he finally tires, choosing to sit to the side.

He would have continued past him but for the man speaking again.

“Where are you going?”

He speaks his words but doesn’t wait for a response.

“You look like the type to try and cross the bridge.”

The man twists his neck, stepping forward into a grain of light.

“It takes the most celebrated pilots a lifetime to pass.”

He reaches into his jacket pocket, his hand resting there a moment, hesitant to move. At the shrill cry of seagulls passing he looks up into the sky, opening his palms in the posture of holding a book. Nearby, a local wrestles with a heap of garbage, several officers looking on, amused, near the opening of a barricade. Some of the poorest workers live in caves near the water, at the underbelly of the town. The road there begins at the lowest step of the stairs.

The man inspects a cigarette from his pocket, lighting it a lighter’s flare. His other hand remains in his jacket, and he is more focused now on the matter at hand. The unsightly racing of cockroaches at the two men’s feet, visible in the rapid succession of thick, dark clouds dancing between light and shadow.

The man blows out his smoke with careful ease.

“Are you with someone,” he faintly asks.

“I’m alone.”

Some time passes before he speaks again, his lower left arm still resting in his jacket pocket.

He thought it had been his time to leave, continuing on his way, but for the sudden feeling he had the man before him would serve as some significance. Was it by design that he had met him? These things took on a life of their own. He accepted that anything was possible.

The figure, now slightly crouching on one of his better legs, pulls a book from his jacket, revealing what had been hidden so long. He handed it over as though it were a gift and he had been waiting to show it. The sudden enthusiasm was confusing. Accepting the book, he found it to be empty.

Looking back towards the giver, the man had disappeared, the winding road to the stairwell now emptied, the morning sun praying ascension to dawn.

He napped for a while, lowering his head on a slab of concrete.

Later in the day the feeling of exhaustion had passed. He descended the lengths of stairs that lead to the water.

He climbs a few rocks to oversee the caves, dug in beneath the façade of an overlying boardwalk, the beginning chapters of a city expanse. A towering statue. A lighthouse in the distance. The city, once enormous, panders to insignificance. What is this world without the port of ports?

Some whistlers arrive his way, urging to sip from the applauding fountain. A well in the midst of desert.

 

We trail the water surface

            towards the canyon of your upbringing

            where you settled your debts with mushroom hands

            smoking the healer’s stare

            passing through

            the eradication

            of the natives

 

You see me as a vanguard of youth

            loneliness in the equation

            but when I speak

            whole legions of crows

            bow their heads

            the titans emerge from their distinction

 

            I am here

            for the settler’s

            eradication

           

            He rose for the occasion before him. How long had he sat there? Had it been his will? He walked with stunted steps toward the magnificent bridge, a confinement of human imagination. Where does it lead? Does the end ever appear?

Of the indifferent souls passing by him, only one man took notice to his sweltering stare, the aggression in his eyes obvious, the aggression in his gait discreet. The two meet several feet from the water, one of them breaking his fast with a pool of sunflower seeds in his hands, a harsh shot of coffee gone into his mouth. The man stoops several levels, pausing on his knees, holding himself upright with his hind legs, squinting under the sweltering morning sky, curious. As he speaks, a certain bark emanates from his voice, he spits his letters, biting his T’s.

“What do you want?”

His breathing is increasingly louder.

“Do you have any water?”

He walked away, confused. But there was something of interest to this man. Something of an inane curiosity, a celebration in the vapid air. But the man, so close to becoming himself significant, fell flat on his face, missing the wanderer by only a few feet, his jaw smacking firmly against the stone, an obvious jam of several teeth in the upper structure of his mouth. The blood ran to his feet. He was alright, the injury would pass, but he lay there for a while, a long, long while, even after he had been deserted, left to bleed out from his mouth alone. He lay there, wondering about the day he might have had, about the calls he had been given to return to the resistance, to return his duty to where it belonged. He had been lazy. Smoking, staying up late, drinking at some bars. A life, he believed, to be worthless.

I am a bastard, he told himself, a bastard.

Removing an overcoat from his shoulders, a man watches the scenes develop below, folding his arms over the boardwalk rails. He’s always wanted to be the sort of man who appears, out of the blue, strolling onto the waterside with a sense of purpose, as though he knows his way around, as though he comes here often but never at the same time, always in search of something, perhaps, A man of inspiration, a man of thought. He’s wanted to have the patience to stand at one of the rails overlooking the great and troubled horizon and empty his mind of thoughts, of brooding, of displeasure. But he knows, deep down inside his own psyche, he has too many barriers to posses such empty thought. He does not posses the patience, the tranquility, of a silent master. So he remains in his position, thinking on his condition, on his dependence, on his generous goodwill but his noteworthy impatience, wondering what it takes to possess such silence, what it means to be really free of thought.

The man whose jaw hinges for life grabs hold of himself and walks into a cloud of intertwining stones so as to fashion a bed. He walks atop the terrain knowingly. Knowingly, he walks atop the terrain.

Over the years the bridge has lost one of its obvious ends, disappearing behind an imposing shroud of mist. Symbolic of the townspeople’s superstition, it is only passed by those who have chosen not to return.

He sits at the foot of the bridge, letting his legs hang off the rails, his feet drenched in the open air. He listens to the absence of commotion, to the sound of waves climbing onto seaside trees. Sounds he remembers. He remembers his first trip in an estranged past. The smell of freshly baked bread, of molten stew, garlic spread and friend in a pan, overcomes him. He removes himself from his thoughts, playing a song in dedication.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Cell

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He was sitting on the floor against the window of his cell. A guard had given him a cigarette to smoke at his discretion, along with a pack of matches holding a single match. Noticing the intermittent gusts of wind, carried over the hills from the Mediterranean, he bided time before lighting his smoke, worrying it would turn off in the gust, leaving him with only the memory of what he had held in his bare hands.

He saw the shadow of a friend in the distance, peering away from the steel bars confining him to his sentence. Suddenly the figure of his old friend appeared under a nearby spotlight, coming his way. He had not seen him in some time. In recent days, the melancholy of his trial proceedings did not sway his hope, but he felt in seeing his friend now a fondness for life he had not felt in a while, and in feeling so he was overcome by dread, cursing his blessing in the presence of love. But as his friend neared, his face was cast in a sea of darkness, arguing against the earlier spectacle of his arriving into the light, hope in hand. He noticed a troubled expression worn on his friend’s face. Now, feeling his gut clench, he too worried, for nothing in particular but his fate, and that of the others.

Drawing his hands to the steel cage, he rested his lips between two bars, his hardened skin pressed tightly. “What is it, old friend? Why so troubled?”

His friend looked uneasy. He seemed to be quelling some sort of ill feeling. He looked ready to burst in tears, or fall faint to the ground. In the moment, he saw in his eyes a nauseating reluctance to speak, and he understood why.

But his oldest friend quickly composed himself. Ignoring the faint taunts of the guards, picking their ears with their fingers, burping up an aioli spread, sharing in the warmth of treasonous comfort, his friend stuck his hand into the bars. A shout roared from behind them. The unwelcome guest quickly stepped back, keeping his eyes on his caged companion, burdened by the confinement of a prison cell.

“Are you writing?”

He could not hurt his friend’s heart. They had waited for the quiet nights, where he could dispel the quantities of information they had recovered from the others. He stood against the wedge of two pillars.

“Not yet,” he admitted.

His friend dropped his gaze. He turned back towards the guards.

“How much time do I have?”

Neither of them answered, sourly staring at the clown not burdened, as themselves, by that insufferable pride which decapitated their souls so early in life. He understood, nodding in agreement. He understood by their apathy that he would be summoned to leave at any given moment, given the mood of the guards, not yet interested, but not so interested in appearing unsteady or sincere. He turned back towards his friend, who had brought his cigarette to his mouth.

“I wanted to hear you were writing. I’m sure it’s tough. Once you begin, maybe you’ll have the rhythm. It will funnel in, like a dream.”

He looked into his friend’s face, hoping to find the presence of hope, a poet’s grave phenomenon. Instead he found silence. Not the imperturbable calm of Plotinus, but the awful quiet of a man marching to his death, excusing no sin but his own, braving softly the pending cold of regret to befall a poet in the presence of death.

“I haven’t really been dreaming. Not behind these walls.”

His friend shared in the quiet of his words. He sat there in silence, staring at the ground, watching nothing in particular but the concrete flooring he had mistaken, in delirium, for marble, reminding him of some places to which he once belong, which he’d abandoned and forgotten. It must have been the marble floor at his family’s home, when he was only a child full of life and innocence had not struck him yet with her foolish warmth, and the naiveties of childhood still strung her chords, where he remained expressing, playing in spirints and bursts and kneeling on all fours, crawling as a soldier might, lured towards a trench in the hopeful secrecy of an autonomous night. He saw in the serene encampment of the concrete floor, the stone sculpture of a woman he knew to be his mother, the image of an eye that tracked his moves and never once put a stop to his amusements, only to signal the impending danger of a hit to the head or a sprawling collapse down the stairwell. A horn sounded outside, passing strangers whose voices felt familiar let out robust roars of approval and greetings of how have you been, what terrible chance I have not seen you lately. He imagined their feet stomping against the concrete pavement, tiles where he earned his stripes playing football and wrestling under the savage sun, chasing down neighborhood assailants with pellet guns and butterfly knives, wondering what could be done if they came upon them. The smell of his mother in her room, first thing in the morning, in her nightgown, when he’d made his way to her room to toss absurdly on her bed, while she read her morning fix and he imagined far away places he promised they would see. The longest goodbye of his life, which he could hardly remember but was consistently reminded, when he’d turned to Teta from the rear view of the rushing car and waved a sad goodbye as the war raged and 19—played on the symphony of the wailing oriental circus. The mysterious drives to enclaves of peace and wonder and magic in the mountains, saluting stationed army posts and the returned salute to the little boy in well made clothes and eternal wonder glowing in his diasporic eyes, not knowing the names of the armies and militias he saluted, not knowing the names of the occupations, not knowing the names of the prize. Rushing through the swamps in the lowlying mountains of his ancestors, hunting little swarms of crabs like they were gold and the return would mean freedom and the liberty of their lives, praying under the cypresses and the rooster coup at dawn.

Does every musket fired hear the frightful snare? He stared solemnly at his arms, chewing at his tongue with parched lips and throat, edging closer to the shuddering cold of an infectios corner stall, waiting on the arms of the lord, the vintage firearms of a public servant reaching into his cage and drawing his puny ass out, bridging his soul with the divine.

“Do you hear them?”

His friend stared into the cage, sadness welled deep in his eyes, an emptiness he would remember the rest of his sorry life. He had his life too, to worry about, but in the steel encasement of his friend’s demise he had only his friend’s passing to consider, who was edging deeper and deeper into a quatrain hold of his limbs and arms, his neck lying in the trench between his knees, dreaming. The celebration of a new year, the sounding bells of another year lost, the charade and circus at Teta’s home, the meals they served on their finest silver, chicken and roast beef stewed in garlic, oil and lemon, potatoes, peas and carrots steamed in the broth. The rituals of my life. The successive decline of invitations, of enjoyment, of expectation and the parade. His Jeddo who preferred his youngest son’s children, who grew his nails long and trudged along in his warmest clothing, accepting a new pair of socks like they were a new set of teeth, a new set of dials to read the sun. He thought of his uncles, smoking their pipes, their cigars, their cigarettes, lying on the ground while he lathered his body in the quagmire of toy soldiers and they blew their smoke for his terrible scene, counting with dread the soldier falling dead, one by one falling into the hole.

How do I keep you interested in my dying nerves? His thoughts turned to Christmas, to the gifts, the blessing of a quiet night among the fires, when he’d still believed in the magic of a fat and burly guest, and he could recall how the city seemed brighter and lighter then and things swayed happily as they ought to be. A city that ignored the fate of its young, who raided the seas with their arms tied to their backs and their eyes glued to the ends of their heels gushing their lungs into the saltwater earth, losing the last memorable sight of home. Beirut still smelled of fumes of a long and drawn out war, but a few songs and cattle herd of lightness existed then which did not now, and he knew it had something to do with his being younger and smaller and more curious but less aware, and now being cynical and older and damaged in the heart and in the mind, and he could no longer see the freshness of neighborly swarms greeting their days with open and empty arms, losing the scent of lavender in his breasts, the gift of almonds and tangerines in the wooden hands of his mother’s children. His mind could only fathom the valley of the darkest nights, the refugee ensemble growing gruesome and the reaction burning effervescent in its virile violence.  Standing in the kingdom of impending doom, catastrophe been and not yet cometh, forthcoming and on the shores, hanging like fallen shelves standing on their last legs, like stockings whose ends are burned by the indifference of a running cloud. Waiting, remembering the ghastly queue at the old, ramshackle airport to leave, never to return, the camping at the fiery border posts, harassment from the guards waiting for their bribes, losing his sister to the shattered tombs of a refugee cell, splintered life against the walls of a makeshift home he had not come to notice but come to see his mother’s lightning stare, still grave as it was in those days, and yet remaining himself so stubborn and obscure to the savages surrounding his derailed home. He could not condemn in judgment but knew in his return a war would wage to end all wars, strengthening the resolve of human cost, of the tyranny that unmasked the false camaraderie in their eyes. Strangling the city to its begging knees, ousting idols like kings hung drunkenly by their foreign neckties, whose empires bequeathed to the shaking sounds of a monument toppled to the ground. He sat in his quiet rage, spending the night below the parliament, dreaming of his sister’s gaze, the memory of his brother selling chocolate bars to strangers in an age of tourist expeditions, counting the mishaps of an architectural lie. Everything that comes is gone, disappeared and devoured to the demon temper of lost time.

He remembered the surprise of Teta’s voice, the embrace in her larger than life breasts on his birthday, not knowing then she had taken a leave of absence from her life, from her husband, who married her at the tender age of twelve, beckoning her new life in an ancient ritual of clap and thunder, gifting the world her first child and eldest son at the tender age of thirteen. He could not have noticed a thing wrong, watching her in her titanic enormity, smoking argileh and singing her comic stories of his mother and her siblings, of the days just before the war, of their house in the lonely collection of hills that comprise the ancient dwelling quarter, never once mentioning her eldest daughter, who she had chosen to despise, who lived with her all her life, a spinster, a city clown, dressed in the nerves of a lunatic, embellished with the wounds of a safari freak, sharing the roof with her despondent parents, remaining in the same caricature of persona until after she died, where markings of her feet still sway about the ruined landscape, stepping like heavy stones on the necks of her neighbors, carcasses bled and dried from without. A woman with no one to care for her except by virtue of guilt, destroyed and in essence only a figment, a lonely shadow pacing nocturnal through the damp corridor of her home, peeking at every nook and crevice, drawing her fat and wasted body to her knees, catching ecstasy in the immaculate sight of a cockroach invading her demolished fortress, wallowing against the vibrations and flashes of daytime television, and the humdrum honking horns of a desolate island collision outside. Where had she gone, where did she end up?  He would never know, remembering her morning stare, after having been up all night pacing the halls in rescue of the fortress, warding off visions of roaches and petty little thieves, she would fix him breakfast with stars and scraps in her eyes, bored at the warmness of her global heart, pioneering moments she could run and hide. She could not in rightful mind form a thought of transcendence, always locked to the condition of her being broken in the soul. Had she managed to flee, choosing flight against the raging concussion of their desolate souls? Had she poisoned herself, as he would have preferred, staring across the mindscape of a life lived in empty scorn, forgetting those sheepish mystical prays sung in mourning, drawing away the formal passing of dignity and life.

Stories of his mother’s youth sprang to his mind, of the mammoth ten person swing they waited for each year on Eid, dressed in their finest clothes and celebrated by rocking back and forth with no apparent purpose but to spend all their money on standing together on the swing in seamless peace. The allure of a large haystack delivered to some shopkeeper nearby, which offered by default a place of childhood and escape and safety and all things beautiful which his generation replaced with video games and electronic models of existence, making out with the taste of his father’s whiskey, sneaking out at night with a pocket of his aunt’s painkillers and wet fingers to draw into his girlfriend’s pants. The sadness he felt staring into his father’s eyes when the aging man was off gazing at a landmark long destroyed, that surged memories of youth to his mind, where he’d learned what he learned of surviving, pushing his weight against the streets, hustling against the barricade of the law. And he thought of the first time he heard his mother’s voice sharing stories of her life in the confines of a bomb shelter, the fears she encased in her soul, wearing the enigma of time like a night blanket, a protective sheet, a garment for the traumatic soul enabling her to diffuse the bullets. Beirut was a basin of sun, shaded by the ancient string of Cedars barricading the city walls. But she was ignorant, to the rising tides of animosity, hatred, sectarian arms races which ravaged the country in their time and drained the soil of its riches. To his surprise, he knew the biblical names of his enemies, hearing their taunting songs, extravagant fighter jets soaring over his home, and he was young then, but knew the bombs that would ignite the city were meant to punish the nation for wanting out of their occupation. The leeches that sprang out of Jerusalem’s wells like the last rolling caucus on the day of Revelation, the brothers with elephant ears, the winged demons descending en masse onto their helpless victims. And finally being old enough to understand there had been two occupations, of humiliation, harassment, and abuse, chastised for using the name of the Syrian republic on the phone, for an effigy of his fate he needed only to look around the corner and see, standing in the midst of an electrical circuit the remaining threads of a body hung, his breathing eclipsed in the air, for inciting the flame of revolution. Only with violence, with repeated blows did the occupations end.

Once they’d ended the violence only spread, only worsened. Idoelogical proxy wars fought on the streets of Beirut, Tripoli, Sidon. The assault on Arsal, the decapitations. The assasinations against members of the legislature, against journalists, scholars, activists. The face of his mother proved her point, each time a bomb would explode and she would turn her eyes to their few belongings scavenged into a bulk in the corner, their money, their passports, their lives, and she would grab them in fear, and rushing to some haven of supposed security, in that moment feeling such extreme vulnerability but hiding the need to cry, she would erupt in a tremendous curse of the city, of the people, the whole contriving time, ideas he thought he was meant to love but in those moments felt only what his mother felt, resentment short of hatred, blame, the anger directed toward someone or an idea, that had promised more and did not deliver. How little had he felt when the great towers fell? How little did he know to feel?

What we all want, he thought to himself, is to run around Time Square the lead in our own life. But an immigrant is an immigrant no matter where in the world. And a storm of refugees can eat away at a port.

He did not know what it meant to posses patriotism to a land because he had shed it on the way to becoming old enough to understand what it meant, how possessing it felt good and made you feel present and invited in the world but also defensive and scared and phobic, so that he prided himself on not knowing where he came from or what he believed other than the will to life through expression and the debt to the earth for expending all of its beauty and resources and love for the self indulgent urges of humanity and the tiresome effect of unregulated procreation.

Then he thought of her and it all came back flooded his mind and his heart felt heavy in that sinking moment of dreadful regret to where had she gone and why did he leave it the way he did, how she had held all the power of life in her being and her presence gave him will and belonging and filled in all the pressing gaping holes of his identity, any song played on her behalf and only as a child looking up in his mother in her endless grace and resilience had he ever felt so unworthy yet willing to be in appreciation, devotion. How she had driven him around the city of their identical wonder and estrangement settled easily to neglect in her presence things of identity were left unanswered and ignored and unimportant and only being, being being being in the present in the car in the blast of the wind and the roaring chase to highs and escape and the impasse of collective rage and the rebellion which never happened.

He felt the grip of nothing in his hand and noticed his friend move away from the cell, breathing in the smell of his smoke which filled the room with its own nostalgic presence of late night stories in the smoky kitchen of his grandmother’s home, his aunt who hid her habit from her husband her entire life for fear of being beaten, the first cigarette he’d had after he’d been dumped by the girl of his dreams who’d also been the first girl he’d shared sex with and given her trouble for her own habit, but she smoked medwakh and would spit every time after a smoke and he found that disgusting and could smell it in the air when she would spit on her hands to lube his dick to pass into her easily. His disappearing friend, sitting before him, leaning back against the stone mended wall, cold in the absence of life but the prisoner before his eyes and the estrangement of two guards. He tried to hide where he’d just been but his noticed and after lighting himself a smoke asked in an air of lightness and friendship and purity, “What’s wrong brother,” to which he could not respond but felt an uneasy lump in his throat. Finally he took a deep drag of his cigarette and spoke very quietly.

“I wanted something beautiful.”

“We’re running out of time, aren’t we old friend?”

They sat a while without words, the guest smoking his cigarette that he believed soothed his soul but knew deep within his soul only aimed at destroying it, quieting the rush of nausea he felt each time he stared at his friend in his predicament.

In brief moments of sensitivity and presence he would wonder on his friend’s own thoughts, where his mind might travel when given free reign with time and sobriety or substance whichever aided in freeing the mind to the impression of its own potential. It was his chief concern in that moment to devise a method of reading his companion’s’ thoughts and creating a voice he might imagine to emanate from his friend who’d come his own long way since childhood to lost faith and apathy and subtle amusement at chaos and disorder.

“Are you still an anarchist,” he asked?

Laughing, “Do you remember me as an anarchist,” his friend answered?

They both laughed. “I do,” he said, “I remember you quite fond of the Central Europeans and their own anarchism, not so much academic but cultural, less intellectual and more rigorous, proletariat, nearly communist.”

His friend laughed. It was his turn to ask, saying, “Are you still a communist?”

“Not since grade school,” he answered, “there’s never been a system that cares for its constituents and why should there be.”

“Because humans suffer.”

“That has always been.”

Again they fell into silence. A moan from one of the guards stirred the guest’s attention. He turned without looking back at his friend, slowly drifting away from the lightness of the corridor to the darkest corner of the cell. Turning back to his friend, he noticed he had disappeared. “Brother…”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the morning he was dragged from his cell on all fours, dragged from the heels like roadkill moved from the scene. He had tried to imagine the miracle that would save him but his imagination ran dry. He waited in the center of the square, surrounded by the stray absence of sunlight cast overhead. He felt the concrete with his fists, with his fingers, digging his nails into the solid pitch of death. The smell of rubber, of burning metal, pulsed into his veins. Within moments of his placing his palms on the ground he felt the armory of a boot crash against his back. The following moments were a blur, his face crashing against the floor, his nose shattering with the weight of militant blows and impact. He tasted blood on his lips, dust in his teeth, the fragrance of soot plastered on his gums. Was he lucid? Was he alive? It wasn’t the longest procedure. Within minutes he was pulled back to his knees, pulled by the hair, his neck straining as far back as it would allow. He felt the cold touch of the muzzle, digging into the back of his head, urging itself into his skull. Some voices, images relapsed in his sight, he tried to drop his neck but a hand gripped him by the hair and pulled his head back. What came next, what was said in that moment, what the others surrounding him had said, if any of them had spoken, if even the faint glow of light emerging onto the square was noticed, was comprehended, nobody would ever know. It takes less than a moment and you’re gone, before the echoes of the shot are lost, greased from the annals of time, it’s over.

 

 

The Dreamer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I keep having these dreams. I find myself on the top of a large structure and I can’t make my way down. I don’t have the patience to take slow steps downwards. Ic all for help. People look at me but nobody listens. Do you have this dream? And then I am on a journey. At some sort of station. With a lot of foreigners. And I see a young boy almost get crushed by the train. I meet a few of the people. They all know where they’re headed. I seem to have lost a book, but I don’t know where I’m going. I like some of them, and one of them has a dog, so I follow him.

“What book were you carrying?”

“What?”

“In the dream. The one you lost.”

“I don’t remember.”

“Do you like forgetting the important details?”

“No. I remember everything.”

“We surprise ourselves.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a dream. He hadn’t been killed or captured. He hadn’t been a rogue revolutionary agent turned prisoner of war. He sat in the library at the university, running his eyes along the bookshelves, clearing his throat. The stale air of a confined space. He wondered about the architecture of the library, shaped like a brain, shaped like it served the air a little better, but it didn’t, he could hardly breathe. What would become of him?

The novel grows. It expands and he loses his sense of control. At first, it was about a writer, who owns a restaurant in a city like Beirut, but not Beirut, somewhere that shares the same possible landscape as Beirut but is more refined, possibly a Nice, or Montpellier, and when he wants his characters to disappear into a nest of paradise, he fashions the landscape around his own image of a Greek island, one of those you see from a distance resting on the hills, like the little cubes that form homes weigh just enough to rest there without being dug into the ground, like they sprouted from the ground, or fell ever so gracefully, like a balloon, and landed where they have come to be.

But a s a writer, he could never find the time to read through his own work, and so the oeuvre of pages grew, growing drastically in size but not in style, most of it poor imitation of narrative poets of the past. Having to travel, to disembark his own comfortable nest, and possessing an ever increasing fear of flying, fear of leaving home, a severe condition of Agoraphobia self diagnosed most of his life, only cemented and confirmed by an aging, indifferent physician of the university, part of a series of networking examinations done to absolve the university of insurance payouts if something were to happen to their students, he had come to realize he had to finish his work before any adventure could take hold of his life and deliver him away from his nest. But at his age, in the cusp between twenty five and the shadows of thirty, most of his friends from home, friends he grew up with, friends he loved, were getting married, and most of their parents were dying, and in some sad cases the children were dying as well, of various causes, which of course added to his own affliction, worrying at times if he also had leukemia, multiple sclerosis, AIDs. He didn’t, and when the world suffered a case of the serious flu, such a SARS epidemic, Bird Flu, Swine Flu, he took great care to eat special proteins, superfood salads, kick starter smoothies, and load up on his vitamins every morning, afternoon, night. He even quit smoking, after having smoked for six or seven years, except for the occasional joint, which he felt was his own form of dieta, a spiritual medication, but joints themselves happened to harness a great sense of paranoia, and so he had to be careful as well from what he smoked, what he inhaled. Having had to travel for these occasions, to pay his respects, to celebrate and mark a beautiful moment, he wanted to write his stories about these events, about funerals, about how different cultures gather in different ways, how elitist, upper class Arab funerals were different than in Europe or America, although he had never been to an upper class funeral in Europe or America, but he felt that the ideology of the wake in bourgeois Arab circles reflected the people’s superficial existence, their need to surround themselves with members of an elite circle, to surround themselves with people of status, to be seen as having aroused the interest, or mourning, of people of higher status, to prove to those below them on the social order how far they are from ever attaining such status as theirs, to rub it in their faces and tie it to their tits. Funerals where a sheikh would read from the Qur’an and everyone would huff and puff in annoyance, and above the sound of the pious song one can hear the marble floor absorbing the weight of overpriced, undersized heels. Where men of real status, of significant political weight, arrive in great convoys and make their entrance sharp and abrupt, drawing in the envy of the crowd, making their way to the mourning family’s line, who have quickly regathered to their pedestal to accept the extraordinary arrival, whose quick and fashionable entrance and exit is like a comet in the wind, shooting through the axis in a moment and in a moment gone. What is really him, people ask, and think of their own future losses, of whether their own fathers, or sisters, or mothers-in-law would ever arouse such distinguished guests.

He could write about weddings. The two, funerals and weddings, sharing a few very necessary qualities. For instance, he has sometimes worn the same suit to the funeral and wedding of the same family. This the hosts probably did not know, but he knew. On top of that, both funerals and weddings happen to occur in the same seasonal stretch of time. It’s surprised for funerals, as people do not generally plan to die, unlike weddings, when usually they are planned around summertime, to give people ample opportunity to look their best and tan, not to arrive in their finest clothes under the threat of rain. But something strange always occurs in the seasonal system when it comes to death. One day, out of nowhere, someone you know dies. Maybe they are hit by a truck, or they fall asleep at the wheel. Two weeks later someone who has been battling cancer for two years suddenly falls into a state of total and absolute despair, and in the next night or two, dies. Then a father of a friend, who other than the occasional line or two of cocaine, spent most of his time healthy, playing tennis, going for jogs along the coast, skiing in Lech, loses his luck to his health and has an immediate and irreversible heart attack. A few weeks, maybe a month later, a dear, dear friend commits suicide. And in the final run of things, another cancer patient, a few miscarriages, possibly even a stillborn, some elderlies whose loss is more a gain to the family coffers, disappear into the endless night. It helps to have a hero among the mostly sad, pathetic lives stolen from waste to nothingness, someone who may have fought off an incendiary rebellion, who fought for the cleansing of a corrupt judiciary, who wrote articles on a lasting peace, a beautiful peace, who may have written a novel or two of even European distinction. But most of the time the people who come into the world with such significance to their families leave it with a certain aura of indifference. Or is it acceptance? He couldn’t know.

He had thought taking two creative writing courses this semester would be easy but they created such confusion in his head he was struggling in both. Not for lack of writing. He could put to paper thousands and thousands of words, but he could not connect the words, he did not have the connection.

One of his two professors, a fat, stump of a woman whose feet barged through her aging sandals, exposing two rumps of disgusting feet, nails eclipsing skin, hanging and protruding in all directions, the feet pasty and chaffing, so as to appear at all times as if carved by the sharp edge of a rock. But she had the good wishes of the department, an American who had taught at distinguished Northeastern schools, such as Sarah Lawrence, for instance, where she even chaired a conference on Feminist rhetoric in a digitally expansive era. They overlooked her triple chins, her bulging eyes that seemed to absorb the callouses of her face and excrete a yellow puss every few minutes, forcing her to wipe the area below her eyes with a tissue, softly dabbing away every now and then, pretending not to notice, as though it had become an involuntary act, though obviously she was well aware. She was well aware, he was certain, of her lips, that started off the hour with such an opaque color of lipstick only to seep through her skin by the hour’s end. The lipstick would run onto her teeth, and sometimes, while watching her, he felt she would take joy in chewing the leaking lipstick, as though it were a sweet.

But no doubt, this professor, whose voice was shrill, whose accent annoying and too expressive, accentuating her words like she was on stage, he marveled, no doubt, she was sharp, probably the sharpest woman in the department.

And with tits as big as hers, she might have even helped herself along the way. It’s no surprise, a department with a higher ratio of lesbian women than straight men or straight women to take such a liking to her, even if she came across at times as disgusting, overwhelming, obscene. She was sharp, for sure. And she had given him good advice.

On his first submission, twenty poems he called They Myth of Sleep, he wrote fantastically about his place in the world, the conflict between his own romantic interest and his romantic infatuation with discovery, the illnesses taking hold in the Sahara, the inflammation of tensions in the Middle East, several civil wars and revolutionary illusions around the world, the importance of contemporary elements to our survival, like gold, bismuth, and concrete, the beauty of flowers and plants such as ranunculus, San Pedro cacti, avocados, and tiny microorganism worms that live in the deepest stretch of the sea, at temperatures of around one hundred twenty degrees Celsius. He wrote prophetically of the future of sports, of the cyclical replication of the universal orbit in American auto racing, of the patient, Zen mastery involved in baseball, and the application of iconic Americana images such as the baseball hat, the spitting pitcher, the baseball mit and bat. He wrote of the disintegration of genders in the twenty first century, the loss of sexual identity, the crisis of misogynistic masculinity, the arrival of a transgendered age. He wrote of these things all in the comfort of his home, in the apartment he shares with his long time girlfriend, a beautiful, passionate soul, a dancer, a healer, a mystic, who he was surprised had ever coveted his attention, but accepted never to question the implications of the gods, whose will was greater than his capacity to know. He wrote from the comfort of his home of worldly matters, and edited on the train that shuttled him back and forth from the university grounds to his neighborhood, a daily one hour ride there and another hour back, which he used wisely as a concrete time set aside for reading, even if accompanied by his girlfriend, also studying at the university, and teaching as well, certain routines he had to employ.

She had told him she liked the subjects, she enjoyed some of the verses, some of the more illuminating lines that pervaded what she called his objective interior and performed the poem with expressive taste. She did, however, say the writing lacked a proficient scholarship in certain areas, and was more or less speculation on the nature of all these elements, and he would be better off to write about his own inadequacies as a scholar on certain subjects than the subjects themselves. It was a strange recommendation. He thought she might have asked him to try harder in his research. But she thought he showed some signs of real talent, albeit greater signs of laziness and mediocrity.

It hurt his feelings and after spending three nights in his room rereading certain chapters of some of his favorite books, notably a Chilean by the name of Alejandro Zambra, who seemed to fluctuate between memoir and fiction with such grace and ease, even with a soft hint of banality, and who managed to write the stories he himself wished to write in only seventy or so pages. Brevity had always been a target he could never reach. It seemed every word gave birth to a thousand, and he would lose himself in the jungle of restless, unconnected writing.

Between Zambra and some other Americans, Canto General of Pablo Neruda, Hopscotch of Cortazar, he also turned to an early favorite of his that had transformed his idea of simplicity, of writing on such topics as love, as food. Strange Weather in Tokyo, a novel he read more than three or four times in the last year, always gave him the feeling he was there, among the characters, one of the barroom staff looking through the receding doors, watching Tsukiko as she gobbled away at her food, a wonderful expanse of dishes so beautifully constructed in prose and style he could taste the remains of her plate in his mouth. And Sensei, of course, he adored.

So it was he decided for his next assignment, a twenty to thirty page short story on a character he had not written about before, to dismiss the expectations of the assignment altogether, and provide only a detailed portfolio of ideas, an outline of sorts, a sort of provisional script for the reading of the story and not the story itself. He refused to abandon his earlier subjects, choosing instead to employ a self-deprecating tactic of exposing his own shortcomings as a scholar by illuminating it through the work and not divulging it. Here, it can be said, his work suffered.

He nearly failed the class. The assignment he handed in was so poor it was handed over to a disciplinary committee for reasons of offending the legitimacy of the institution, making a mockery of the institutional goals, making a mockery of his peers. Was it so bad?

He had entitled the piece The Seven Stages of Man and His Neo-Dramatist Face. Somewhere in the introduction he mentions that the piece could also be titled The X number Stages. Or, more fittingly he said for universities of a high academic standing, The Confinement of Zero. None of this made sense to his professor. Following the introduction, where he also illuminates on matters of the period, aviation disasters, gun control legislation, mass immigration into a modern Europe whose tolerance remains fragile, he wrote a short poem, for the purpose of expressing the intent of his work.

 

Half of my accomplishments are gifts

            The rest of it is yours

            To let loose from your grip

            Dreaming of the relief

            I dreamt of the Acrobat

            And then I sung her to you

            The hunchback listened

            But the caged bird stings

            Moving about the room like a tightrope artist

            Hating her for her freedom

            I urge the nation of disbelievers

            The story is in the soil

            The shadows we buried are countrymen

            Remain steadfast, treat with urgency

            What is most dangerous to have and comfortable to lose

            I dreamt of the wailing Saracens

            Flogging me in abuse!

 

The poem went over okay. Nothing spectacular but it avoided the wrath of other sections. Finally, the prelude passed, the story began. Ten pages of notes, nothing more. Printed thus in such style,

 

Contentment, nature, origin, Neptune, security, the womb

inciting incident, Plutonic (of [the cosmic force] of Pluto)

force, revolution, great!

change, upheaval, trauma, uprooted from the womb!- me L

recovery, stabilization, adaptation, survival-

build a new fortress

            forge a new self

            to a common society!

 

Maybe the three stages of being

Stages of Drama

Contentment, nature, being

Insecurity, strangeness

Absurdity, surrealness, chaos

Anger, rebellion, rage

Normality, realism

Love, comfort, security, home

Stages of descent, ascension

Stages into descent

Absurdity characterized by: brass instruments

 

Manhattan chapters

Scenes with Derrick dealing,

wanting to bang the fat English girl

addicted to sushi

with small big toes

and yellow feet

also his girlfriend who is nice

he does MDMA with his feet on the wall

etc.

 

Beirut chapters

I feel like dying

rolling with the boys

loss of hope

surrender to death

 

I realize now I am a racist

I don’t like being surrounded by white people.

 

Revisit scenes with Layla on the phone

discussing wanting to visit Teta’s house

to take photos

did we?

rewrite as short story stand alone?

Go to the house

Experience the house under the threat of caring

through their eyes

through a third party

the madness!

the maids!

Can you pull a Faulkner and use dialect?

Love you!

kisses

goodnight

glad we’re back

amigo.

-self

 

In truth, while he sold the idea of his narrative as an explicit attempt to illustrate the contemporary confusion over narrative and form, to prepare a distinct style of his own voice, what he really should have related to his upset department was that he spent most of the nights he should have spent reading, writing and editing, with the occasional break for a sandwich or brief interlude of sex, actually drinking himself dangerous, stopping in at the farthest reaches of the city to some of his friends who he had not seen in a long, long time. Afflicted with his fear of leaving his place of safe rest, he has always turned to alcohol to alleviate the obvious distress visiting a friend, or moving from his nest for any reason, has on his psychic health. When he arrived at one of their houses, three roommates, all of whom are in love, in a triangular relationship, one catastrophically handsome man, the youngest of them all, and the prettiest, a shabby, pale and adventurous girl, the eldest, and a transvestite male who, of all three, dressed with more flair and panache, wrote with more passion, lived with more esteem. He enjoyed their company, and sometimes, when his girlfriend had been out of town, on a spiritual retreat, taking mushrooms with a Qigong master in a surrounding forest, or practicing holotropic breathwork with trained, seasoned professionals, he would spend a few nights in their home, embraced by all three, creating a divergent safehouse for his afflicted self. That night, one of them, the girl, with fingers that were too long for her hands, and palms too large for her arms, and arms too thin and stubby for her body, played the piano for them. From where he sat, he could see only the top of her head. At that point, the playing was exuberant, bordering on genius. she lifted her head from time to time, to signal a shift in the style, the penetration, returning her head with an emphatic leap of the arms. but when he took further interest in her spectacular playing, rising from his slouched position, walking over to her side of the piano and using a windowsill to lean and observe, he noticed something markedly grotesque, something eh could not have noticed had he not ventured to his very spot. The movement of her hands, her strange, disproportional hands, upon the piano, terrified him. The limbs looked more like tentacles, variously inspired to turn in differing directions, like the tentacles of a cockroach that are stripped from their unidirectional faculties and made to run in restrained havoc. The way she played the keys turned his insides to gelatin, suffocating his tongue. He quickly lost patience, watching as she lifted her fingers, as though they were detached from the structure of her palm, rogue fingers, the fingers of a tired witch, eyes exhausted, looking spent like she was withering on death’s verge, jolting across the board, fingers, already too large for a body that young.

He left soon afterwards, upset. He spent the night roaming around some of the dirtier bars in their district, bars he never frequented for fear of being aroused, for fear of spending his money, spending his heart, outspending what he already owed, urging volition onto his debts. Several of the bystanders took their interest in him, and while he found it amusing, to be courted by older, grimy men who thought he was selling himself to their thoughts, he was also afraid, afraid they might recognize in his fragility a keenness to cooperate, luring him in with a hypnotic stare.

It was difficult, to say the least. Difficult to find his way home, circulating among fetishes of the most extraordinary kind. He accepted a drink in the lobby of a small, boutique hotel, that catered only to masters and their slaves. In the lobby, they had thought he was a slave let off on leave, recognizing his face, they said, recognizing his ass. All around him, older men in slick, diesel leather suits held their little slaves by the chain, dragging them around like dogs. The slaves were ornamented in various garb, to differentiate between the different levels of initiation the slaves had undergone. So he learned from an employee of the hotel, who was upset to hear he hadn’t found a master for himself, a difficult economy in these days.

In another space of variable moral qualities, he found himself sitting on the lap of a giant man, whose torso was the size of his whole body, whispering in his ear the difficulties he always faced in finding love, real love, that isn’t confined to momentary sex and the inevitable reality of desertion. Before long, he was in the hands of several young girls, out on the town without their boyfriends, presumably dressing in their most radical outfits and still not selling the idea they fit in to the place. But the girls took an interest in his wayward eyes, his ability to listen without saying a word, without batting an eye, without even reaching over for his drink. They enjoyed what they took for inherent confusion and invited him to ramble onwards through their night, and he did, finding himself in a strictly vegan late night eatery, crawling with more drinks toward another club, where they simultaneously took turns standing in the line for the bathroom to do more drugs.

Later, having become a vegetarian largely to impress his girlfriend, he managed to guzzle down two kebabs on his otherwise uneventful walk home. Cold winds seeped into his spine. He hated the walk and all the while hated himself for committing to it. He needed to reinvent his entire being, he thought. He needed a revolution, a sense of purpose, something to pull him from his unattractive spell, his perpetual state of blasé, indifference.

What he found upon arriving home was that he had forgotten his sudden call to arms, his adrenaline having all but ceased into the collected fat of his two kebabs. He lay on the ground beside the door making sad attempts to remove his boots. He made callow prairie sounds, like calls of a wild fox, before drifting off to sleep.

 

 

 

Poetry: Putsch!

 

 

 

To Berlin!- I hear

putsch!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The cow

eating drumsticks

in the other room-

drinking Manhattan quiet

with Television beams

 

I noticed that,

when we were still in Beirut,

after you said something about my coat

I never wore it again

 

I lost you, I know

I let my mind play her tricks

That’s why I have no friends

only debtors

and illusions

 

but the cow knows I am awake

sniffing her excrement on the brink

noting down little visible germs

picking them with a toothpick

with my peddles

drawing you in a summer dress

charming figs from my garden

Paradise, came and went

kneeling beyond the uneventful truth

 

the urban living arrangement is a close combat situation

every stage

a tiny litter

compelled by bed bugs to disarm the waste

choosing to amount to light fixtures and dreams

transitions comprehensive, stoic, complete

I burn one for the faint chance you forgive me

or did you drift alongside the others, who left

waiting to be fed the angel’s hands

 

Freedom,

you said it yourself,

it killed your father

 

the legend [of the half night]

continues to grow [and sell in barrels]

temporal landmarks

now destroyed

I am a character and a voice

singing

losing

notes that fall short of history

resting silenced

unsung

did you see the trail of gaping mouths

dug into the sand on the highways?

laughing through the extended plexus

gaping mouths emitting no sound

 

The candles we light

are for the schools

the candles we smoke

are for my love

 

I think of your warning

in that last letter

where you named my sanity

the loss of your life

 

the port is renowned for her mules

 

I will become you

hold you in my little palm

locking the door from both sides

holding nothing of value

 

writing

they called

the practice of kings

and penmanship

drawing

delusion

 

guards go swimming

in the alley of rats

and writing

we sing

delusions

 

the oeuvre of my past

seeps from a plate

dried apricots and roasted lamb

 

a shift in narrative

drags safely from the fire

I feel- putsch!

esteeming what lives from what blunders the soul

 

He wrote me,

I put my characters on a ship of kings

and drowned them

 

Bored, I hear- putsch!

hosing the protestors who summit the walls

 

I moved to Anatolia with a moustache

studying the contents of my morning shit!

 

We are dead souls depressed in ad nausea

hoping to secure

the abject object of desire

 

Look, several children

invited by the void

the concrete jungle quagmire

chose to take their drinks

with a monster from the chamber

hollow in the crevice

fisting on the walls

 

my body is yours

if you take my simplicity

I’d rather eat men

in the mouth

 

settlements exist

why not? to the world

my dress and my gun

sanctioned by renaissance ideals

artillery shells

and stiletto heels

 

We will perish under the spell

of the purple meadow

where we murdered our first frogs

 

I was raised by wolves

scarab king slaves

nomads who never turn back

 

Do you think we’ll ever return?

What for?

 

you circle the tables

carpeted feasts spread on the public floor

I was buried when your heartbeat

expelled from your waist

 

bara is a tongue

splintered

reeling the ideas

dancers colored in the wind

 

I stood on the steps

at Cankkurtan

and started writing

 

for Karakoy and her sailors

for your breasts limping in a morning dress

the port of ports is empty L

but she’s ours!

 

je suis un doux vide

un lepreux a ceour!

 

I trade a postcard with your name

sent for my soul

 

the herald hounds

the spacious minaret

 

the owl

pierces

the perception

 

I lost an actor execution

an actor free will

sleeping where pamphlets used to rest

and heroes were named

 

The factory modernized

moved east

knowledge of the caste is alienating

 

Empathy is powerless

against the machine

that consumes in order to expand her influence

 

Whoever you are

know my generation is worthless

jeopardizing the aesthetics of a temple

for a fanatic’s dream

 

You wear the crest of Narcissus

I carry the sword of Nur al-Din!

 

The port is in ruin!

taken for granted

veiled in cheap smoke

liquored perfume

I watched you hold

the officer’s gun

in your asshole

and chew it

 

Over the past few years

along this journey

I have been made a fool

 

A slut

a tramp

a figurehead whore

begging

for the artifact

of dignity

 

You, my beloved

are the photograph not taken

And I

am a pool

of fecal waste

 

I remember watching you paint Banal stirring

or Manal eats the rim of his plate

Three chairs on south beach

beautiful

 

The strokes fit your handsome posture

embodying the groins of a siren

you are erect

in every image produced

bowing in the brush

 

I see the paintings like a mirage

accepting victims into her breath

the loathed calm carriers

suffering the acrid rain

you are in everything I see

 

He told me,

I am afraid to remember her voice

knowing she will abandon me

 

I paint my nails red

like your mother’s feet

after I kiss them

 

worn the stern look

apathy in the eyes

subject to destiny

an estimation of status

 

travelling men who fall short of respect

I wasn’t wearing any clothes

when I wrote you the letter from Lagos

on the evening train

 

being that I am here for love

and 12 frames per second

circling the advent of sobriety in a storm

 

Do you enjoy my promises?

lunging at me with big furry hands

gargling my spit in your mouth

 

Because bara is what is or never was

I sing Joseph’s verse

hoping to taste your gender

singing,

Freedom is for the dispossessed

But they are not wise to it

 

the machine of discord wears impetus

while we bow to the sacred lion

defying the thrones

 

I march barefoot in spring

hoisting the canvas of my indiscretions

a cartoonist draws bara with oil

 

Why aren’t you worried

carrying vigilant smiles?

Chapters of memory

Chapters of life

 

the hardened are less leveraged

and they sing from their caves

singing,

The armistice will not hold!

 

I spit Jerusalem’s curse your way

by autumn we will be overrun

lacking the armament of a movement

separated by the agnostic seas

 

How many protestors dead

and with whose weapons?

 

Monistic rite is among us

I sit under the firmament of disease

squalor patients

dying in threads

 

He doesn’t believe in the grid

Because a mystic carries a reserve of light

 

But he wears the cape of a lunatic

the stoned eyes of a sodomite bulge

I leave him and he vanishes from sight

 

by mere coincidence or mythical chance

I stand naked on a podium

rehearsing these words

The port of ports is empty!

counting fragile forms sacrificed over the horizon

 

Five times in the inner mouth

The mystics say

BARA

 

vanity’s cheap cloak

adds to my condition

casting doubt over the wanderings of my mind

 

at least

undressing the surrounding landscape

the city carries a natural disposition of sunlight

and I have myself a tan

 

He wrote me

I remember the night he had come to my window

presumably

to catch glimpse of his follower

invalid at the knees

 

what pains you is the face

burdening your will

 

Home is where you are going!

Where they are alive!

 

To Berlin!- I hear

putsch!

I was most loved in the port of ports

but independence is not in our blood

remember

we marched for liberty with Syrah in our hands

hoping for a quiet winter

 

I cling to that tale of nomadic lovers

reunited on the Bosphorus bridge

 

hosting

a refugee ensemble

and a cast iron lid

 

because this autumn feast plays the occasion

I am still a part of you

painting for perfection

where perception stood still

 

Do you brave her indifference with a stare?

 

Konya orbits the outlines of a dervish

Kiss my impotent kiss

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poetry: the Acrobat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Go with the sun

my sister says

 

I dreamt of the Acrobat

did I share that with you?

 

Now

when we touch

I am unsure how to smell you

and that is all I want

 

a sound despair

 

he hangs in the city square

withheld between the harbors of a peninsula

 

Do you hear the trumpets plotting war?

 

Deception governs the moon

by discourse of her rotation

 

The plan was to penetrate the elusive distance

I penetrate the elusive hole!

 

sinking in a poem that sails

turning like a parachute

 

we go to the harbor and ask for pamphlets

but we have no cigarettes

so we leave

 

I am an elderly

I am corrupt

 

I’ve never smelled jasmine in the port of ports

 

sharing in characters that aren’t likeable

to imagine a lurid cough

surprising the establishment

hiking a mountain of pearl brass

only to dream[48]

 

I can be anywhere, yet I am here.

 

 

 

Offbeat, extras

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He knew when I was with him. I knew that he knew. I knew that it hurt him but it didn’t stop me, I didn’t want it to. He never understood me, for trying to keep close the things I ever loved. It was easier for him, to ditch things. Simpler, to move on. You know, I never felt more different than him than the time he told me his method, his system to abolish love. Worn love, he called it, and he said, I’ll never forget, The only way to survive is to hate the person in the end. Otherwise, you’re a slave to the past. He said it, because he was saying it for me. He was saying it for me so I would do it, or he was warning me, if I never did. Was I such a slave? It hurt him that I disappeared, that I felt like I had to take care of Sari. But I had to.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It moved fast, for both of you…You stepped into something…She was deep in it before you…You can’t forget that…Sometimes, all a girl wants is her freedom…Same with us, with you…Maybe it’s different for you…You focus on something and you beat it dry…You chew it to death…You give them too much importance…You belittle yourself…Probably they see it and judge you…It’s unattractive, it makes them want to push you away, to quiet you, to throw your sick body out the window…You sacrificed everything for her…What do you ask in return and what do you end up with?…You’re leaving the country and she won’t even commit, after you stormed into her life like a hurricane just ot prove you were in love…If she doesn’t appreciate that, she never will…Sticking around trying to make it happen…How long will you wait? How long will you let everything pass you by? Everyone you know has something? Everyone you know is a man, and you, nothing…Why don’t you run? Why haven’t you run yet?…Pride kills the humility that real love requires…If it’s mean to be it still needs work…You can’t put it all on trust…We have too much pride, most of us…Not me and it makes me weaker…You reach out and there’s nothing there…She could’ve watched you drown if it meant she had to break a sweat to save you…Maybe she loves you, she probably does, after everything you felt together, after that night in Istanbul, after those months in Berlin, she probably does…She was lucky to have you in her life…She’ll miss you…They never know what they want…You knew…It hurts now but, time will pass, and it’s nice that you knew, it will save you…Save you from the trouble, from the valley…You’ll move on…Jealousy destroys everything, destroys the relationship…It breaks the trust…Once you say something you can never take it back, and every time you freak out that’s it, it’s there for life…She’ll never forget the things you said, especially the things that make you look weak, because it strengthen her, makes he feel calm and assured, like she is right, like she ever knew what she was doing….It’s how we move on after the storm passes…Hatred…Anger…everything that puts the blame somewhere else…You think its not your style, that you’re above it, but when you realize once and for all that it’s all ended, the only way to survive is to destroy the memory…Nothing sacred worth saving survives…Nothing sacred anymore…Fuck the place and fuck Berlin…When someone breaks the pact the whole thing blows…Unless you want to be one of those desperate leeches that stick around…Holding their tongue out for a sip of the medicine, a taste of the drug…Like the guy before you, and probably the guy before him…She’s the type, to string you around as long as you keep begging, giving you just enough to keep coming around for more…and you think you can wedge your way back into her sights…You think you can sabotage everything new that comes into her life…That she’ll have a hard time moving on if you’re still there, making your presence known, sticking out your hands at every corner, begging like a whore…You think, if nobody will survive your onslaught, if nobody can match your desperation, then she’ll be yours…You think, one day she will be mine again, and then she’ll never leave me, because she left me once and realized she couldn’t live without me, she couldn’t stand the thought, never managed to stand on her own two feet without thinking back on our time together…And then you start to think about your time, this time, like it was worth something, like it was worth more than feeding her little mouth…Thinking on your time together, this time, like it meant something, like it was valuable to either of you, precious in some pathetic little way, and you forget everything that really happened, you forget the feeling of abandonment you had every time she left you on the side of the road, wondering where she’d gone, where she was going, who she was with, even though you knew, and you let yourself wonder, wonder like a fucking pig, like it was your mission, like it was your job, to sit and think and wonder and all the while she has her tongue down his dirty throat, she has her hands where his muscles are begging and all the while you wonder, you wonder why, you wonder why your name is the last name on her mind, why your face is the face she’ll never remember…You forget the pain of the private encounters, her special encounters with all her abandoned lovers, pathetic little dogs just like you, reaching out their hands for the drug, for the medicine, because she had to take care of them, because she had to be their friend…You forget you spent most of your nights drinking and banging your head against the wall, waiting for her call, for her to show up…You forget she let you sit there for hours, wondering if she could even remember your name if you found her, if you bumped into them in their revival, in her moment of sympathy, of contradiction, of incitement, orchestration…She kept him around to destroy you…Why did you think she did it? She never gave herself to you…She kept them all around because she knew you would leave, and look at you, she knew she would drive you to the edge, she wanted to destroy you…To drive a wedge into your heart…To emasculate you…She kept them around because she knew the love would break you…She knew the love would waste away  your heart and your pathetic, frail mind…She knew she could destroy you and so she did, she did it without having to lift her little finger, she made sure you thought you felt safe and then she spat you out like you were a sickness, like she needed to get rid of you to survive, to breathe…They keep them around so they can survive, so they never have to unmask in public, and you come to the stage and think you are the one…You think you are the guy, because she sleeps next to you…You think you are the guy because when she kisses your neck you drip onto her shoulders…Because when you fuck she screams your name…Because she tells you she’s never had a fuck like you…She begs you to hold her because she’s never come in her life, until you…You think you are the guy because you teach her something…You lift her to the heights…You let her feel safe…How pathetic!…How sick of you…Sick because you thought you mattered…Sick because you taught yourself to lie, to feed filth into your thoughts to protect you…You thought, if I leave she will miss me…If I leave she will want me back in her life…How wrong! How pathetic!…How sick…When you left, she forgot you existed…When you left she forgot your name…she forgot the color of your eyes…She forgot the texture of your stare…She kept them around so you would leave and she would be protected…And you thought, she keeps them around because she’s soft, because she wouldn’t hurt a fly…You thought, she’s too sweet to hurt them, too gentle to turn them all away, especially him, who she grew up with, who survived her wrath all those years…You thought, it’s good that she is like that, she will be like that for me…How sad!…How pathetic!…She was always soft, except with you, with you she was harsh…And you wonder why, when all you ever did was gift her…Material gifts, metaphysical gifts…Ordinary gifts…Sanctuary gifts…You wanted to build a home with her and she laughed…you wanted to turn your gentle hands into the dirt for her and she ignored you…She waited for you to fail so she didn’t have to do the work…She waited for you to manage leaving on your own, for you to dump yourself, to blame yourself for losing her…She wanted you to feel blameworthy, to feel guilty and not good enough, so you would blame yourself and walk away with your head in your hands and your tail between your legs, so you would never come back, so you would never try again, so you would always blame yourself and think you weren’t good enough…She would have emptied her life for you…If she wanted it differently she would have emptied her life the way you emptied yours, the way you put your memory in a box and burnt it…If she cared for things differently she would have thrown away her souvenirs, she would have torn the icons off the wall and the emblems off her chest…If she wanted things to end differently she would have asked for you to stay without having to be begged first, without having to be cornered and made to feel guilty, she would have asked you on your own but she never did…She wanted you to feel homeless…To need her, she wanted you to feel desperate…She would drop her little finger into the ice, turning her eyes away and laughing hysterically while you held on for dear life, desperate, trying to lift yourself above water to come back into being and all you asked was for one little hand and it never came, she wanted to watch you drown…Keeping them around as symbols, trophies of each and every one of her kills…Keeping them around to train you, to domesticate you, to make you desperate for her love so she could leave you…You never noticed until it was too late…You never noticed until your head was already in your arms, until your soul was placed onto a plate and you endured watching her chew away, picking at your soul with her fingers, tearing the pathetic fragment you had left…You never noticed until you were too far gone to be alone again, you were too deep into the panic to see clearly again…You never noticed until you lost the last few bits of charm, of intellect, of ambition…Until everything you had stored was gone…The memory bank depleted…The inspiration destroyed, trampled, humiliated, abused…Your imagination revolving around the grip of her noose, the drifting sight of her eyes laughing hysterically in your face…And you, apologetic…You, drowning in a pit of doubt, of emptiness, blaming everything on yourself…The physical stress…The emotional stress…The migraines, the twitches…The anxiety, the fear…Losing your breath, losing control…Hyperventilating in public…Blind drunk at midday…You gave everything up, gave everything away…The drifting sight of her eager eyes laughing hysterically in your face…She dropped you in a hole and burned it…She defecated into your pleading mouth…Your ideas came to a standstill and then they were gone…You watched them disappear in tears…You reached out for her hand and she helped you, she said it would be alright, you never needed the inspiration, she loved you  nonetheless…You believed her and then you were spat out like used gum…She cleansed her thoughts of you until there was nothing left…She made you like muck and put her dirty fingers into every nook and crevice to cleanse her thoughts of you until you disappeared and she laughed…She laughed and you blamed yourself…You wanted a life together and she spat you out and laughed…You joined the others in the pit, standing in line for your feed…You joined them in her farm, in the depths, where she picks and pricks the one she chooses to console, the one she chooses to attend for the day…You joined the others and she laughed and you were so broken to blame yourself…You wanted a life together and she ignored you…She had all the others photographed in the wall, except you…she maintained all the symbols of all the others and when you were together she ignored you…She put a photograph of you on her wall so you could feel what it was like when she removed it, and when she removed it you felt what it was like to see his face, to know his face, to walk into a room without searching and find him facing you in the dark…You wanted her validation and she removed you…She removed you because you never mattered…If you mattered she would never remove you from the wall…If you mattered she would have built a wall for you…A wall for you and now you are gone…A wall for you that would have held you, fed you through the winter and you would have survived and now look at you…Look at you, look where you are…If you mattered she would have found you…If you mattered you would have survived…

 

undisclosed location, undisclosed time

[1] Il est tormenter…son ame est posseder” in the original

[2] It may be a stretch, but the scene in Kalatozov’s I am Cuba, where the rebels literally paddle right into the arms of their captors, right at the onset of the film, declaring in unison, when asked as to the whereabouts of their rogue commander, “I am Fidel.” This unity drives the message home. But in a similar vein, Arbid may be intending to draw the reader into the gaze of the unintentional wrongdoer, someone who finds themselves stranded in the scene of chaos. As with any structural building, there is a man standing guard, or, as BARA elaborates, “the presence of a keeper.” Which connects to the line just before, “I was the one at the desks taking notes at the time.”

[3] The host is a returning figure in all his stories. In Eldorado, the host takes the form of a generous friend, who gives him a lift from the airport and offers him his home. This same friend evolves into the host in The Sacrifice, albeit combining with another character- that of the Juggler, whose virtue is in his applying the hero to a narrative, a path towards an inevitable end. Oddly enough, in Manhattan, there is no host, and we find that the language in that story is wayward, lost, without direction, and we can assume that without both a herald and a host, the hero is lost.

[4] There can be no distinction between the crossing of the physical threshold into the narrative and the crossing of the conscious wall into the subconscious realm.

[5] In another section of the poem, he also mentions, rather dismayed,

 

I found my voice

realizing

I can open doors with my thinking

 

I changed everything

I changed nothing.

[6] poetics of ecstasy, 22

[7] the verse of Tao being read at the time is believed to be Verse 22, one which declares, “…if you want to be given everything, give everything up…” The translation being the work of…

[8]

[9] Campbell

[10] Indeed Campbell paints a wholesome, all inclusive picture of androgynous gods as the creators of life. He continues, “…Male-female gods are not uncommon in the world of myth. They emerge always with a certain mystery; for they conduct the mind beyond objective experience into a symbolic realm where duality is left behind. Awonawilona, chief god of the pueblo of Zuni, the maker and container of all, is sometimes spoken of as he, but is actually he-she…The cabalistic teachings of the medieval Jews, as well as the Gnostic Christian writings of the second century, represent the World Made Flesh as androgynous- which was indeed the state of Adam as he was created, before the female aspect, Eve, was removed into another form. And among the Greeks, not only Hermaphrodite (the child of Hermes and Aphrodite), but Eros too, the divinity of love (the first of the gods, according to Plato), were in sex both female and male.” (pg. 152-153)

[11] Marker, Catherine Lupton, 89

[12] Ibid, 93

[13] Ibid, 95

[14] Ibid, 89

[15] He returns time and again as the eunuch, a character whose presence usually comes at a time of great uncertainty, turmoil, and in the final hours of a destructive path. In BARA, the eunuch comes to embody the mystical form of the writer, and in the multidimensional world inhabited by his visions- notably, the extended path into darkness that leads into the wall of human scales, the hall of strung violins, and the stadium of imprisoned souls- the eunuch is a servant of the ruling force. Due to his overt desire to serve the ruling entity, he can be persuaded into acts of any kind, and takes up the roles most others would deny. For instance,

 

And he could finally hear where the stings were coming from. A band of women, stitched onto the walls, much like the prisoners in the enchanted room where he had just been, whose legs were held over their necks, whose clitoris had been cut and their vaginas deformed, ripped apart and stitched again together into four strings. Each woman was held up by the ankles onto a long metallic pole that stretched the continuity of the corridor. At the side of each one of these women, a eunuch stood, whose sole task was to perform ritualistic chords played in perfect fifths on the vaginas of the captive women, whose cunts were turned viciously into violins.

 

This excerpt from BARA reveals the final evolution of the eunuch as a servant of the inhabiting world and not the protagonist’s being himself. The eunuch is thus a result of perception, a figment in a painting, a character in a sketch. He is not real to the degree that nothing perceived in the narrative tense is real. The only reality that can be grasped with full confidence in the existence of presence itself, in whatever form, of the written word. The eunuch is thus a symbol of the continuity of the universe, and its ever changing form. Its ability to transform is mirrored in the eunuch’s ability to transform, sexes and gender, alongside needs or desires of the time.

 

[16] A milder tone than previous chapters. The narrator retreats behind the words, letting them speak for themselves, rather than force the belief down the reader’s throat. The performance is inevitable, and so the message will be heard.

[17]

[18] A reference to Calvino’s claim, in the closing lines of On a winter night a traveler, that all novels consequently end illuminating one of two truths: the continuity of life, or the inevitability of death.

[19] T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets, 59

[20] There are numerous blind men to whom this reference can be attributed. Of notable consideration, there is Blind Lemon Jefferson and Blind Willie Mctell. But for those who subscribe to the traveling belief of the writer having, “…crossed the water with a paper and pen…”, on numerous occasions, seeking the, “…fleeting elixir of inspiration…”, there is a tale that tells of him having visited an old friend- either an acquaintance of the great muse or the muse herself, or an early incarnation of the muse- in Chicago around the spring of 2011, exactly two years before the culmination of his writing efforts succeeded in accumulating a certain number of texts, unrelated and unaligned, into a form known as Eldorado. This very visit, which seems to have served as the inspiration for his, only two months later, returning to America to settle in New York, “…to learn from the masters what he has dreamt with his friends…”, can be connected in some way to the visit he makes to the very same friend exactly one year later, and one year before the publication of Eldorado, in Istanbul, where he also, a couple months after the visit, chooses to return, to settle down, in the city, “…where I am most loved…harlots and their concubines…the mad at Bakirkoy…the hipsters of the Golden Horn…”. Whether or not this variation on the myth of BARA is true, it serves as a consistent reminder in the wayward, wayfaring life the writer chose to lead, exceptionally so, surrendering himself to the, “…singing of those nymphs under the bridge…whose name I carve onto my own..”. And indeed he had carved a name into his own, bearing a mark on his arm resembling that of the woman he had visited on both occasions.

 

[21] pg 177, K- For the full, uninterrupted version of this story, see page

[22] pg. 52

[23]

[24] Caudwell, 242. Caudwell makes the point that poetry’s entire construct is to immerse the poet, and the reader, in action, to drive them towards an evolutionary, or revolutionary, incentive, whereas, “Dream fearfully avoids the dynamic region of the motions, so as not to wake the sleeper to action; poetry explores it courageously, so as to change the inner world.

[25] Caudwell, 222

[26] Marker, The Forthright Spirit, pg. 2

[27] Perhaps it is easy here to read into the lion as playing the role of a tyrant, who, in the time of his writing, Arbid had expected to fall. The word for lion in Arabic is Assad, the name of the ruling family of neighboring Syria, a nation embroiled in civil war throughout the entire period of his writing BARA. In fact, his relocation to Istanbul in the summer of 2011 was, in some way, predicated on the fact that the war in Syria was nearing home. Where we find the lion in his writing, we can read the character of Assad to being invoked. In another instance, Arbid writes,

 

We let the lion out of his cage, to see what happens.

“Did you like it?

He stands at the doorway, clutching pages in his hands.

“I wrote it for you.”

 

What we mean by style may also mean, the ability to confront the narrative as it is being formed, meaning, that the text is perpetually in a state of becoming as it becomes. Each sentence, provided that it confronts the narrative by placing itself immediately within the narrative, either displaces the narrative perspective, content or manifestation entirely or refocuses and calibrates the narrative into its most specific, acute form. There is nothing general about the writing and yet the writing poses itself in a replication of generalizations, speaking outwardly of miscellaneous things that do not connect until they are put together within the sequence of a montage. Thus we see that,

 

She closes the door behind her.

“Is it still dark out?”

He heard footsteps under the rain.

He had everything packed, ready to go.

“I wanted you to have it.”

“If you’re going to leave, then leave.”

 

Resonates a collection of scenes, individuals in their own right, into a collected abstraction, meaning, the remnants of what was there, and no longer what is. The painter’s equivalent is the immersion of textile and colored paint onto the canvas to depict several scenes into one, rather than denoting the scenes in their individual forms and their totality. Arbid diffuses time so that it appears infinitely placed, rendered thus as a representation of aesthetic style and not intended replication of the event, the moment that precedes the act. How does Arbid conceive of natural time in a state of disorderly things, whereby a scene can manifest in its entirety by a minute detail’s extraction? Through the reordering of events into particular wholes, which, when added together in the sequence of narrative montage, comprise an image, from one static degree of the page to another.

 

[28] Harper’s magazine “Letter from Chile” pg. 39

[29] In an essay published in the university press for the social sciences, Thought Order, an essay appeared in which the writer had applied Gramsci’s revolutionary formula to the Iranian revolution, and subsequently charged the revolution with having applied Gramsci’s formula to full effect, and to have, in the wake of victory and the establishment of the given order, applied the Platonic code of the philosopher-king to the framework of the new order, the philosopher-king playing the overseer of a society governed by devotional law. Whether the writer of this essay is the very writer to emerge from the ashes of the time with a manuscript of BARA in his hands remains unclear, but several sources cite the anonymous nature of the article and the subsequent revelations of BARA’s political code, namely, the respect attributed to a guardianship of scholars, albeit with deep reservations as to the nature of the devotional code.

[30] Bataille, Literature and Evil, 75

[31] …to be seen as ignorance, as well. There is an often told story of him having arrived at a dinner party in obvious distress. When questioned to his condition, he sought help, asking for a chair, for an open window, falling deeper into a state of sorrow. The other guests were resolutely alarmed, but knowing him to play, at times, the clown, took his seriousness very lightly, pouring him another glass of wine and passing around a ritual smoke. He then proceeded to laugh hysterically and tell them of his experience in arriving to the party. He had taken a cab and on the way the two found common ground with which to launch a debate. He had told the driver, that if the world woke up the following morning and nobody believed in the existence of a God, nothing would necessarily have to be any different, but if everyone woke up believing in God, the world would be a terrifying place, far more fearful, shameful and insecure. Doesn’t that tell you anything, he said to the man, to which the driver firmly replied, that it would never be God’s will for such a catastrophe to occur, so it would never actually happen.

[32] The Lively Images, pg. 61-62

[33] ibid. p. 53

[34] ibid. p.53

[35] Her importance to the narrative, and to the writer’s life, continues to evolve, and it appears by the time the writer took it upon himself to publish Putsch! in a fugue state before wrestling away from the monsters and taking off for new land, it was to her arms that he fled. (include quote from Putsch!)

[36] What they may have been referring to is his claim to have “…passed through the ages again and again,” or the more refutable claim that he had lived in a style similar to theirs, which is invariably a lie, as he had only lived a quarter of their years, and lived most of them lavishly, without hardship. By no means was he an ascetic until probably the very last chapters of his life. What we know of his life. is that it was riddled with violence and abuse, usually, but not entirely limited, directed at himself.

[37] Old Timer appears at the onset of Eldorado, just after the culmination of our mythical passage into the new world.

[38] The Native’s introduction and use mirrors that of the Old Timer…

[39] For instance,

[40] Campbell describes the Herald as…

[41] For a continuation of the evolving scene, please follow on page *…

[42] For a continuation of Manhattan please follow on page *…

[43] Certain elements point to a varied experience of writing the novel itself. For instance, on several loose leaf pages, which after inspection are clearly draft pages of a larger manuscript that eventually made it into the final edit of BARA, certain mistakes repeat themselves, consistently, without breaking the order of their occurrence. All g’s appears as 6’s, all capital T’s as 1’s. On a different selection of loose leaf pages, white or light beige, as opposed to those of light yellow or cream color, all f’s appear as 5’s, whereas in the previous pages, f is normally written, but the symbol denoting zero, 0, appears to be the same use of the capital letter o, O. These differences, when studied, appear to be the result of malfunctioning keytops on the several typewriters he used.

[44] While it is appropriate to suppose the extension of Her’s values into the stream of living things in the collected works of BARA, the reality is quite different for the Witch, whose evolution from a woman who, “…lived by the whim of the moon…every chance she’d get she’d hiss like a wildcat,” to a woman who, “…bleeds for revolution…hungers for revolt.” The changes from Eldorado to The Port of Ports, with regards to the Witch, reflect an about face turn in attitudes toward the occult. By the time BARA is illuminated, the Witch, unnamed, is a mythical goddess, an honorary guest.

[45] In a later scene of Eldorado, the character again is at a bar, drinking in distorted amounts, with a friend, another friend, who has just been in Russia writing a report on the Kremlin. He tells him of exactly such a crisis of hope, and that in Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union, and the demise of communism, there was such a void of meaning, such a crisis of hope, that the country fell into a naked stream of violence, and hundreds of thousands of people were arbitrarily murdered, by random gunmen with no political interest, for the sake of violence.

[46] A reference to T.S. Eliot’s groundbreaking The Wasteland.

[47] Direct quote from Eliot’s The Wasteland, II. lines 115-116

[48] Dreams are a consistent tool and space in his work, but the dream he is referring to here is its own single moment. We are even invited into the space of the room.

 

I dreamt I was in a restaurant, with my family and some guests. I was leaving that day, having packed all my things, feeling like I was light, moving like I was heavy. I remember meeting a man at the top of the spiral staircase leading to our table. An eccentric old man, probably European, fat like he had abused a life of beer and damp cheese. If he was not European, he would have been a great colonial slave to the invading merchants. He had golden curls and a velvet shirt, buttoned to the top. I put my arm around his shoulder and we laughed. I told him about the book, that I had been warring with a few chapters of verse I couldn’t fit in, and that when I finished I couldn’t find you in the text. He must have been someone important, someone I wanted to know. Later I was sitting at my table, ready to order, engaging the indifference of my friends and family. A waiter moved over to me and touched me by the arm, bending his neck so as to speak in my ear. He slid a card under my plate, and told me I had made an impression. The name on the card meant nothing, I picked it up and smiled. The waiter disappeared, and the others didn’t notice. I reached for the book in my jacket pocket, hoping to graze it with my palm, to feel secure. Where had I been before making it to the restaurant? So many of our friends had left, but I’m certain I had somewhere to go. I asked myself, I remember, who else was in the room?

[i] Eldorado

 

In such moments he would often think of far off places of magic and wonder, places he’d never experienced yet always imagined in his own special way he would. The time capsule off the coast of Cuba. The golden pyramid of rum. The contrasting contour of shade and body tresses. Fruit seller songs and the rhythmic cry of temptation. Recalling Kalatozov’s great film[i], and the way the fruit seller sang through the chaos, even in the midst of his woman’s betrayal. If there is still song in your heart then you are still safe, he thought, it is the only way to survive.

He thought of St. Petersburg, marches outside the great museum, the days he felt warm and alive, kissing the imperfect muse under the palace monument. There was snow, falling all around so that he felt himself in that moment the star of his own film, accompanied by his companion who had stolen his heart and run away with it to the Americas, the touchstone of a new world, some months later, before he had the chance to dwell in her eyes. He had always returned to that day, hidden in the trenches of his memory, running his hands through her golden hair, as the only day he ever felt truly alone. She had stepped into the chambers of his heart, stared deep into his soul. What had he sold in order to be amused? He had the habit of writing her poems. In return for her gifts- the charms of an amulet, the taste of her naked form- he had to ascend to the house of her lord and beg forgiveness, to accept the savior as his own, which he did. She was not the first, being the one who came after the first, who allowed him to sleep inside her gowns. After she had left, he intended never to deceive himself again into mystical belief, to withdraw from the immaculate world and devour, in his wasteful might, his piety and soul. To meet piety with disdain, to greet the pious with suspicion. He had offered what he felt all women would have tortured the heavens to have. The devotion of a mystic poet! Returning to the early muses he felt nothing short of despair. The magic failed. He lost the focus of his arms and legs, unable to dance in the muse’s presence. The plutonic forces were less and away. The maternal words rang heavy in his heart- “Never open the window to your soul.” When the doors of the soul are open, she would say, the mystery dies, and the muses lose their fateful interest. There the hero stands, stranded in the primordial theatre, abandoned.

He had many such places which he romanticized. Some places only existed in the scriptures of myth or the vortex of a film. He would go there sometimes in his mind, retreat to        himself in the sacred spaces. Rome of Rossellini, Fellini, Sorrentino! Kubrick’s outer space, Tarkovsky’s Zone.

 

[ii] Manhattan

 

I wash my hands beside a fountain. A man stands beside me grumbling and spitting tales under his breath. The myths permeate his mind. Voices in the distance and our immediate past. He knows this, better than you or I. I leave and watch him follow my footsteps, drawing himself            towards the fountain. He washes his face and then his parts, applying the water tenderly against his ailing skin. He is diseased, that much is obvious. His body is losing, his mind, squandered, and if he admits he has no soul left he will find himself dead in the alone. Tell me you never want this for me. Tell me I deserve dignity, home. Take me with you when you go, to the slaughterhouse rooftops, the pier off the lighthouse, the steps at my grandmother’s home. I will feed you honey and dates I collect from a camel’s womb. Are you listening? Let’s circle the tribes with the whirling dervish who caught our souls dancing! The wise man says, “I am superior and alive in thinking of you,” while the sage says, “Home is in my hands.” I clench my hands together to hold you in my palms. To keep you there, where you are safe, and a stranger’s harm won’t near you.

Night falls. The floor of rats pray by my fingers tracing the jungle of our disguise. The streets bare naked in anarchy. Sniffing fume proposals from an authoritarian nightmare. Will we meet again? If you sense desperation in my voice it is only because today I remember the woman who burnt herself alive before us all and we did nothing but scold ourselves in her memory. The bums fall over begging for change, and a second chance, for legacy. I point to the fountain two levels away on the ground. The eyes tell me they want mine, from my hands. I give them my hands, to feel them. The youngest tells me to go on home, the time is almost over. “I’m waiting for permission.” “From what,” he asks, “…to have a home is to really have one.”

Warnings from the Hassidic tides- the full moon is arriving. Waxing and waning of an inner turmoil. Archetypes and comforting signs. The chance to exhibition a monologue is given to me. What will I read? Has it been commissioned? I hear the bells ring the city’s charm. I remember the instruments off my uncle’s good arm. The cigarette plastered to my grandmother’s lips, reading a kind joke. I trace figures of the prophet and my sister in an embrace. My father’s moustache, my lover’s hands. I wander the vacuum of memory, sit on the edge of the park grass. A resting place. To die without form. To incarnate into energy. As I leave an old man asks to take a photograph of his face and hands, ruined in the biting twilight. He points at a stack of cameras on the ground. “Is one of them yours?” He shrugs. I step over the punk with his head in the gutter. His wounds fit firmly in his skin. I hide the urge to laugh. A hooker turns without her shoes. She counts riches with the wetness of her cunt. “How much longer do I have?” She orgasms.

The bells ring universal alms. The sick bastard is gone, off somewhere, losing his fight to the disease, offering his tongue to the minors who walk in. The fools eat my nails when I lunge them at their eyes. I  yearn for the taste of melancholy. The summer sheds her precious filament skies. Spring won’t set in next year I can feel it. I am the poet I never dreamed. I sleep             with the little mystics in the courtyard, overlooking the water from the hospital garden. I wonder if the image of death is blatantly bound to the image of a garden, hounded by scriptures that pervade the chimes. The word sits in a figurehead’s drawer. Installations lit on fire by the river. The contents of mind disinfecting. “The part that hurts the most was sorting who to pay for burial.” I sleep with my neighbor because he’s gone blind. I drown in your aimless reaches. The flood restores my agency.

 

[iii] A significant monologue that illustrates the terrible and the grotesque in his work in the monologue of the Apothecary, a character drawn from his own experiences and the writing of Armand Marie Leroi in his seminal book on the subject of mutants, Mutants: On Genetic Variety and the Human Body. It seems to have inspired Arbid to take one of the historical accounts from that work and write a monologue by the character. He writes,

 

There are those who will never be struck by tragedy. It is coded in their form. When I am around such people I am the one who is tragic, because I sense that tragedy awaits me while for them it is as improbable as destiny is forgiving. But of course I am wrong, I know this by dictums of my vocation, tragedy strikes where it is least expected. In the past we had a stronger base to confront the tragic, but our base dissolves with intellect. am an apothecary, I ought to know. I remember my old friend, Landucci, and his diaries, he was incessant for them. If it were not for him we might have lost the mystery of Ravenna altogether. It would not have disappeared, because there are countless theories that pose what he himself witnessed. But he never witnessed the monster, in flesh and blood, he saw it painted, didn’t he? Those omens that come from nowhere. Hopeless to infer the meaning until tragedy has struck. Do you know the story? My friend had been sent a drawing, all the more suspicious by the description of the head, housing a sword like horn, and the arms painted like a bat’s. The creature bore marks on his body, a fio on his breast and cross on the other, two serpents at the waist and, for the shock of his eyes, an eye drawn onto the right knee, miraculous. What was his foot, but an eagle’s, and his genitals, but those of a hermaphrodite? Have you ever seen this monster? You would be smart to stay away from these omens, because Landucci had fallen upon a curse, and to this day I believe the Florentines when they say they saw Ravenna suffer before the city fell. It was less than three weeks before Ravenna succumbed, and the legacy of that monster carried omens across the provinces of Europe. I am not superstitious myself, but I deal with metaphysics and those who come to my office deal with the divine. Most of what I sell is ordinary and comes from nature, but what I sell is not enough, I have to imply more than what is seen or given. This is where superstition divides us, me and my customers, my patients, because they see me hand them their vials, but they believe that somehow, in the midst of our exchange, a spirit passes, and our entanglement becomes one of intervention. Could you believe it? I swear by virtue, but Ravenna sits in my mind. If it is true what is said, that a monster has been born in our city, I will not rest, and this will likely be the end of our stay here, the last portion of us. Is it an omen? Haven’t we seen the worst of our days? I go by my mentor’s words, there are those who deliver tolerance in an intolerant age. That is my plight, but if I see talons on this child’s legs, and our physician loses his esteem, we will be marching into the darkness of teratology. But these people are so superstitious, they won’t close their blinds until sun is settled, they won’t chew their meat without prayer’s due. Imagine they are told, from the center of their city, an omen has been born, just some weeks before Festival. I will not describe the monster if I see him. I will do my best to quiet his lungs, with some vials. Ravenna…sit closely, so I learn from you your wounds and promise not to inflict them on our city.

 

[iv] The idea of possessions plays an important role in Arbid’s ideological perspective. As we will see in the following passage at the end of this chapter, the character speaks of his unwilling to posses, because of what he might lose.