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Walid Bitar Walid Bitar was born in Beirut in 1961, spent his childhood there, and later immigrated with his family to Canada. His poems, collected in Maps with Moving Parts, 2 Guys on Holy Land, Bastardi Puri, and The Empire’s Missing Links, are often “torn between the comic and the inconsolable,” exploring “the conflicts and tensions inherent at the intersection of traditional Western modes of thought with modern geopolitical realities.” He has traveled and taught in Asia, Europe, and North America, most recently teaching English at Lebanese American University. Looking You in the Back of the Head I’ll compare you to the outskirts of Copenhagen, I’ll compare you to a swan made of twisted coat-hangers, to Mars, to a toad, to pink gum stretched from the pavement by a clog, to a rose, a mailman’s uniform, the Klondike Goldrush, popcorn spilled on a black velvet purse, an alligator, a sky blue bongo drum, a pomegranate with many cavities, a pine nut, an unsigned income tax return, I’ll compare you to a pear, an avocado, I don’t care as long as after all is said and done it wasn’t you I was talking about—let all these comparisons be so much confetti decking out the cathedral of amnesia which, by the way, is not a cathedral at all, it’s a labyrinth, a celebration, onion soup, a mallard, and yes I’m happy the neighbors love us very much because they’re gulls made of swans made of twisted 56 1CHARARA_pages_i-164.qxd:Layout 1 11/14/08 2:36 PM Page 56 coat-hangers, and all my clothes are on the floor, and I’m— naked? No, this is not my body—you’re naked; get away from my clothes; I love those clothes! From now on you do what I do, you are me, not you at all—I’ll do what you like, like plantains, like apple pie, double digit inflation, and then baboons. In return, repeat after me: I. Now it’s your turn: “I.” Survival of the Fittest Our ancestors wouldn’t know what to make of us if they were here; we’re their immortality, which they may enjoy at heavenly stages, but back down in this bombed-out city we’re cannon and fodder for sight’s artillery. Light isn’t reflected off objects into us. We fire the world out of our sockets, real only in so far as demigods we trust say so. We wait for news and entertain ourselves by sampling our favourite scams: selling the auctioneer’s tongue as it auctions, clapping with our earrings instead of our hands . . . We’re not an audience for opening nights. We interrupt actors because we’re bored and angry enough to rewrite their lines. Our idea of socializing is to forge one another’s signatures at struggle meetings modeled on Maoist peasant scenes, Walid Bitar 57 1CHARARA_pages_i-164.qxd:Layout 1 11/14/08 2:36 PM Page 57 except that now we pull enough strings. The self-criticism of each human being describes foreign bodies—a hippopotamus, or the sun with its repetitive rising and falling valuable as a gold mine immune to rushes, or, in my case, the Loch Ness monster. I’m restless at rest, though when in motion longing for stasis. So I’ve found a compromise and become a figment not of my imagination, but of somebody else’s. That’s how one survives after he’s gone, and I’ll be leaving soon. The neighbours are trick-or-treating. I’m out of the usual candy—give them ships of fools, laws of hospitality on automatic pilot. Here’s my strategy: I’ll welcome them into my study, the drawers and the garbage pails that are spilled, jumped on, occasionally hurled across the floor we mop up for stage names fit for a tomb. If we sleep at the wheels of post-Darwinian worlds, our survival means manic rehearsals and depressing revivals of agnostic takes on the Lazarus theme. 58 Walid Bitar 1CHARARA_pages_i-164.qxd:Layout 1 11/14/08 2:36 PM Page 58 Progress Report We waited for news; we were old-fashioned, and didn’t realize our patience was futile. We live in an age whose executions and trials are kept well away from the three dimensions, away from time even—justice is eternal. And so, for some reason, are our criminals. At least that’s...


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MARC Record
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