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David Williams David Williams is the grandson of Lebanese immigrants whose last name was anglicized from Melhem. Williams is the author of two poetry books, Traveling Mercies and Far Sides of the Only World, and his poems have appeared in such journals as the Atlantic Monthly, the Kenyon Review, the Hayden’s Ferry Review, and Ploughshares. His poems demonstrate “an exquisite instinct for capturing one moment that might summarize centuries of struggle” and bear “witness to the most human of all testaments, love.” He lives with his family in Worcester, Massachusetts. Almost One Airport security recognized my roots. The poor guy at the metal detector trembled and waved in reinforcements . I offered coins, keys, belt buckle, wanted to comfort them all, barely stifled a sudden longing to shout something Whitmanesque. My over-emotional nature inclines me to fanatical fantasies. I want to slip into terminals and depots, anywhere people wait hurriedly, neither here nor there, and seduce them into dancing in lines and circles that eventually join hands in one great spiral. Otherwise I’m afraid someday they might start screaming for blood, if only not to feel so small and alone. Such grandiosity and paranoia, not uncommon among my kind, is cancelled out by an equally characteristic fatalism, which leaves me speechless—a condition hard to spot among minorities, since we can barely get a word in edgewise. So many people can’t wait to tell us, with a mathematician’s pride, that they’ve got us figured out. Most generalizations, mine included, are blunt instruments, but some at least have the epic sweep of a memory ferociously repressed, or the momentum of the poor 304 2CHARARA_pages_165-334.qxd:Layout 1 11/14/08 2:39 PM Page 304 Legionnaire in that long dying roll down a sand dune in Beau Geste. If I try to mention individuals—my cousins, for instance—are huddled defenseless at this very moment under an artillery duel in Beirut, the best of them might smile wanly and say, “It’s been going on for two thousand years.” But I understand. Who wouldn’t pull back, if they could, from the chaos of grief? Exchanges with the dark ones carry risk. Ask the British. Ask the French. Among Arabs their soldiers found victory in places so extreme, they could never get home again, their businessmen cleaned up but lost their children in the desert, their academicians abandoned their meters to stalk malnourished boys, and to this day the sterile places grow. Rational men in the capitals of the practical can always accommodate a tyrant so long as he’s only killing wogs. Then one day the anguish in the hollows and ghettos resounds in the finest districts, the flags unfurl, and everyone attributes their hatred to God. “Arabia” and “the West” keep bringing out the worst in each other, and what could save all our lives can barely be heard. And I, neither here nor there, got through the metal detector, with a double legacy and a double grief, the way, you might say, a camel carries water. David Williams 305 2CHARARA_pages_165-334.qxd:Layout 1 11/14/08 2:39 PM Page 305 Privacy So what if I outsmarted a fish I found beautiful and didn’t need to eat? The pickerel’s mouth was around the hook— one more instant he’d bite and be torn. I jiggled a warning down the line, and he backed off quick and smooth. Across the pond a woman came down, waded in so far and stopped, but kept throwing out a stick for her dog to return while light off the water dappled up her thighs. She thought she was alone so I turned away. I remember how my father always entered the water shyly, carefully wetting his skin like a shepherd smearing an orphaned lamb with another ewe’s blood so she’d claim it. Once he swam out so far alone, he didn’t know the way back when dark surprised him. Then someone on shore he never met, thinking of something else, flicked on a light and he didn’t drown. 306 David Williams 2CHARARA_pages_165-334.qxd:Layout 1 11/14/08 2:39 PM Page 306 Breath The people I come from were thrown away as if they were nothing, whatever they might have said become stone, beyond human patience, except for the songs. But what is their daily breath against all the ardent, cunning justifications for murder? The stunned drone...


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MARC Record
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