- Malouk’s Qassida, and Psalm for the Departed
Lampedusa only a dozen leagues now, the baybetween it and Sousse a corridor of debris,a phoenician graveyard.
Are we prepared for the storm’s paradise?The starlings recite the zodiacs on their wings;the marabouts must in kindness abide.
On the wireless the noises of rescue—the double dealing of virtue and abuse—into a theater of salvation we ride.
We are exalted into some hippopotamus,our mouths checked, hands glovedwith inhuman skin, their fingers inside.
The mouths that speak are covered like the tuaregs’,their eyes swathed with a dusky mirage.Our names taken, flicker like fireflies.
Looped around our wrists numbersthat look like a kind of price.The bull horns cry, the seagulls deride.
On slippery bridges, we’re wrapped in gold foil,woozy, often diseased. But who is saving whom?The question’s not stated, only implied. [End Page 65]
Psalm for the Departed
A fistful of myrrh in his lefthand, and his farewell waveis the bennu’s upward flight.
His voice a thread buriedin sand, an incandescent lightinflaming a sky gleaming
with ink. He’ll be pure and I willstand an inexplicable glyphwaiting to be assigned.
Measure now your heart’scontraband—all that’s delvedbetween us. Measure it
in blood. Tell the mind towithstand what it’s discountedbut could not ever disavow. [End Page 66]
Khaled Mattawa currently teaches in the graduate creative writing program at the University of Michigan. His latest book of poems is Tocqueville (New Issues, 2010). A MacArthur Fellow, he is the current editor of Michigan Quarterly Review.