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D. H. Melhem D. H. Melhem was born in Brooklyn, graduated from New York University, and earned her M.A. and Ph.D. from the City University of New York. She is the author of seven poetry collections, her Notes on 94th Street the first book of poems in English by an Arab American woman. Her writings (including poems, scholarly books, essays, novels, and a musical drama) have been honored with numerous awards, among them an American Book Award and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Fondation Ledig-Rowohlt in Lausanne, Switzerland. She has received unstinting praise from fellow poets, including the late Gwendolyn Brooks, who called her “serious, fervent, meticulous . . . one of the most remarkable minds of our time.” Her poems create a world that is “expansive and diverse,” for which Melhem “sounds a trumpet of humanity and compassion.” A founding member of the International Women’s Writing Guild, she serves as its vice-president. New York Times, August 15, 1976 “As Lebanon Dies” my background is lebanese and peaceful, I said proud of redundancy grandmother beirut grandfather damascus my father tripoli on the clear coast, a boy diving for sea-urchins now the tides cast their dead blossoms 211 2CHARARA_pages_165-334.qxd:Layout 1 11/14/08 2:39 PM Page 211 to sprawl at the roots of cedars whose ancient tongues weep fire in the sun Broadway Music The musicians at the newsstand are singing they sing and play instruments the saxophone and cracked guitar bawl and whine over exhaust fumes and garbage dust they play and play the dirty black cap open between them on the ground— two old men for pennies. And a big, drunken woman laughs laughs over her balloon stomach she pulls up her sweater to show it the string holding up her skirt hanging from the big white belly she laughs through the spaces between her teeth her mouth looks purple and half-vacant when she opens it she shows the old men her distended belly as if it were fruitful or cherished she lifts her paper bag to her mouth like a trumpet—and drinks. She is singing now, softly, then begins a hard hoarse cry of a note and holds it. She is singing— 212 D. H. Melhem 2CHARARA_pages_165-334.qxd:Layout 1 11/14/08 2:39 PM Page 212 a little wine left in the bottle the flavor that was in it a harsh joy in the emptying And the old men sing with her they dream through the curving wood and metal and the forms of the sounds that go out as if the dirty newspapers and today’s news the people running up subway stairs the dogs the pimps the hustlers the gleaning-eyed girls, the howling police cars their bullhorn commands, the litter and dust-filtered daylight as if these held the moment of art as if it could be made from the unlovely flesh, half-clay, half-dust as if it could all be molded again, and the players were gods empowering a new music the big-bellied woman and the musicians at the newsstand D. H. Melhem 213 2CHARARA_pages_165-334.qxd:Layout 1 11/14/08 2:39 PM Page 213 On the tendency toward solipsism in literature 1. Where am I in your poems? How can you be there without the boundary defining you—the place we are accomplishing? Are you a blob, unmanageable endless omnivore, a science fiction fact, the total topographical of earth, a mobile constellation, quirky quasar, voluminous vegetal omniscient— how about that? Where are you leading—except to Parmenides, his circle spherically flat? 2. The unimpassioned poem is retrospective of a flight responsible only to its own hovering images that link Ming vases with the tense of made things, of mental surfaces, and with feelings shaped to the fixed glaze of a tight, washable glisten. Feathers can dust the unimpassioned poem where nothing importunately clings but the poem whose rude textures grapple with the live space around the self can grip the air and hold light, and fly as the earth flies 214 D. H. Melhem 2CHARARA_pages_165-334.qxd:Layout 1 11/14/08 2:39 PM Page 214 from Rest in Love part one There, by the rail, my mother at seventeen pale, her thin white arm raised, as in salute to a seagull trailing the ship, Homeric, September, nineteen twenty-two. Black dress flutters behind her, a silken whispering about her knees...


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