& I'm the
an unassuming scent
of august rain
spins still air
paints walls pink
like baby-soft breaths
between ribs &
lah 8.9.12 ©®
& I'm the
an unassuming scent
of august rain
spins still air
paints walls pink
like baby-soft breaths
between ribs &
lah 8.9.12 ©®
even if he were wind dancing drunk, unrehearsed
asymmetrical in his stammer
& stagger slightly dazed on a ledge mumbling about Dante & even if she were clouds saturated, trembling suffused by violet confusion as if her raw posture begs war could they founder like rain come together in healing relinquish affinity & charm the gods? lah 4.6.14 ©®
We’re among the stars, Auxiliary and I.
She’s jumping from star to star and I’m stuck on the moon.
Being with her will bring nothing but impending doom. We’re in love with each other anyway.
Auxiliary has skin that matches midnight and dresses that sing a song of loveliness. She dances in the stars and her hair tangles in the glowing dips on them.
The stars know us. They know us. They know we’re in love. And they’d do anything to keep the two of us apart, which is why we’ll surely be blasted apart one day, through the galaxy, away from each other, away and away and away.
Auxiliary lights up the stars with her energy every night. And after all that’s done she twirls to the moon, to me, and we stare at the lighted up stars that really do hate us.
Doom for us is inevitable, and there’s no doubting that. Auxiliary knows that and I know that and doom is floating around us. It’s an aura, the doom is. An aura of doom.
Auxiliary jumps from star to star, lighting them up one by one. I’m watching her. She has so much energy. I have none.
She lights up the last one, and then flies through the darkness, her whole body glowing and humming with energy that sounds like a million songs. She twirls down to the moon like she does every night and she lets out a breathless, “Hello, Euphonious!” She does a full turn and her white dress twirls as she does so.
She always calls me by that name. She loves her long words. I prefer E. Auxiliary likes the complicated things.
We sit down together on the moon, like usual.
“Our doom is inexorable,” Auxiliary states. Her black hair is everywhere, pooling on the moon like spilled ink on parchment.
I squint my eyes as they catch on an especially bright star (Auxiliary named that one Sempiternal. She says once we’re blasted across the galaxy, we’ll still see that one star. It’ll be sempiternal. So that’s its name.) and then I turn my head to her. “I prefer inevitable.”
“Inevitable,” I argue back, because it’s what we always do.
“This is why we’re doomed lovers, Euphonious,” she says, because it’s what she always says.
“Call me E.”
“Never,” Auxiliary says, laying back on the rough surface of the moon. She’s looking up at the sky and her lips start moving; naming the stars.
I lay back too. We stare up at the darkness, only illuminated by the stars, our breaths light and sweet.
“We’re not meant to be together,” I say, my voice barely a whisper. Auxiliary’s tracing the patterns of the stars with her finger, one eye closed tight.
“We’ll be blasted through the galaxy,” Auxiliary says, in her normal voice. It never seems to waver. Always happy, always cheerful. “The stars will be frustrated with us.”
I say what I usually do, “Star crossed lovers.”
And she turns her head to me, beaming brighter than Sempiternal or any stars, and says what she usually does, “What a beautiful phrase.”
She gets up, her movements slow. She needs to get back to work; lighting up the sky. I stand up too, to watch her go.
“Goodbye, Euphonious,” she says, giving me a hug. She breaks apart from me first, looks straight into my eyes, and gives me a smile I know all too well: it means I love you and I’m sorry and ineluctable at the same time. I give her my smile back: I love you and I’m sorry and inevitable. “Call me E,” I whisper, and then she turns around, to run off again.
“Doomed, the two of us!” She calls, and she jumps into the darkness. “Inexorable. Ineluctable. Inescapable. Ineludible.” She says it like she always does. Auxiliary has a way with words. She’s something and more.
“Inevitable,” I add, and she smiles and runs off to the stars.
january is quiet
& stars move in slow motion
as if they’re falling asleep above
a half-moon shadow
carved on my bed
there’s dust on the nightstand
thick, like overused adjectives
searching for nouns to describe this
emptiness, the way it lies
in the shape of a spiral notebook
that writes the history of us
how thirty-two seasons together
equals the distance between two pillows
I swallow another mouthful of darkness
& drown myself in sounds of this night
my writer’s ghosts will visit soon
& these thin walls are whispering
the forecast calls for snow
lah 1.19.17 ©®
the world is my poet
the world is my muse
I am thy poet
I am thy muse
read and be read
be what thou choose
words to regret
words to refuse
poems that we get
poems that we lose
the world is thy poet
the world is thy muse
be thou my poet
be thou my muse
consider the shape
of a color
I can't remember
it was never a secret
how we overdosed
on growing snow
there is no
or the leaving
I have already
more each hour
small sufferings press
like breath to flute
this poem is not
to undress me
in an open vein
the ink is wet
in my ribcage
in the muscle
behind my words
I am nearer
this storm inside
lah 2.23.17 ©®
His were modern parents, for that part of the world. Not that they rejected the idea of arranged marriage—it had, after all, worked rather well for them. But they remembered how difficult it had been to go from strangers to husband and wife literally overnight, and they saw no harm in allowing their son and his prospective bride to write to each other during their engagement.
Amir would be getting his graduate degree in the United States, as Fatima pursued her studies at home. Fatima’s mother, a widow, was agreeable. She wasn’t likely to resist anything that would help guarantee the marriage, which all agreed would take place upon Amir’s return. After a few brief, chaperoned, and heavily circumscribed conversations--they made a pretty couple, everybody said-- Amir left for the United States.
Almost from the moment of unpacking his suitcase, New York intoxicated Amir. He’d vacationed in Paris, but that was with his family when he was 14. The closest he’d come to this kind of freedom was a weekend in Dubai with his cousins as a graduation present. By the time he received his first letter from Fatima, he was already engaged in fantasies of leaving the Middle East entirely.
Of course Amir did not tell Fatima any of this, when he finally wrote her. He kept a balance between wanting to appear modern—it was, after all, 1986—and wanting to respect the traditions he’d grown up with. So at first he spoke generally about the differences in the educational and political system, about the architecture, about the art and the museums. He only touched a bit on the vast differences in cultures. It was impossible to discuss such things without inching up against basic issues of propriety, after all.
Her letters exhibited an intense curiosity. She either knew very little or much more than she let on—he couldn’t decide which. Her father had been an English professor at the University, like his own. She’d probably grown up with a lot more books than one would find in the average household. She had to know the answers to some of the questions she asked, but then again, perhaps not. It was a much different thing to know, for example, that male and female students attended class together than to know what it was like for him to be seated next to a person of the opposite sex.
She didn’t ask that question quite so directly of course, but he knew what she was getting at. On the one hand, he was slightly shocked, on the other, he imagined she didn’t want him to think by marrying her he was going to be saddled by someone who had no sense of life in the wider world. He felt flattered, almost responsible for her education. And as he started to get to know women in New York in a way that would never have been available to him back home, he was able to think of Fatima differently. He imagined what she might have been like if she’d grown up in the West, and felt sorry for her. He even started to enjoy the sense that she was living vicariously through him.
Up to a point, of course. You see, Amir was very good-looking, in fact, Andy, one of his new friends called him “Omar” – for Omar Sharif. And he had his own apartment—his father interpreted for one of the royal family and they’d insisted Amir stay in one of their many New York pied-a-terres. The women—for there’d started to be women—assumed he came from a wealthy family and he did nothing to disabuse them of their fantasy. Andy had also introduced him to vodka—good Russian and Swedish vodkas. And a little cocaine now and then. The party was on.
During the week--studying, taking classes and exams, Amir was the model of probity. He would write Fatima in English, on Wednesday nights, chatty and newsy notes that betrayed little controversial—until, that is, he started answering increasingly direct questions from her, usually about the relationship between the sexes.
When Andy invited him home for Thanksgiving, Amir wrote an amusing letter about Andy’s eccentric family—a quintessential liberal American mash of various ethnic strains that allowed him to tread indirectly into some very dicey areas, like divorce and homosexuality—Andy had a gay brother and his parents were both remarried—from a dispassionate distance.
He was a bit nervous about how she’d respond to that letter, but she reacted with cool open-mindedness, even gratitude. "I confess that I am fascinated," she wrote. "You are my window on the world." (Amir had told her about the restaurant on top of the World Trade Center.)
"She's daring you to tell her more," observed Andy a bit provocatively, that Friday night when they went out for drinks. "I mean put yourself in her place. Wouldn't you want to know everything about the kind of life you'll never have?" Amir had been taught that women didn't have such desires, but he knew better by now. At first it had shocked him, but now he searched it out.
He found it -- at least that night -- in the person of Lynn, the bartender at one of the new East village nightspots Andy took him to for the first time. She flirted with Amir as she overpoured his drinks, brazenly suggesting that he wait for her to finish her shift. With a wink, Andy slipped some coke into his pocket, which Amir did with Lynn later in his apartment. A rather potent combination, vodka and cocaine. It gave him the illusion of not being inebriated at all, and there was no way around it -- the sex was hot. Lynn had to make it quick though, she had a boyfriend to get back to. Knowing that made it even hotter for Amir.
After she left, he couldn't sleep. He paced around a bit, then tried to watch TV. Eventually he sat down to work on a paper, but found himself instead writing Fatima a long letter describing the events of that very evening, Why not? She’d told him to share everything. She’d underlined it.
He never intended to send it, of course. His fatal error was remembering that he also had two valiums Andy had given him, with the admonition to down them before the sun went up. "Party like a madman, dude," Andy'd advised. "But always get your sleep." Amir didn't even remember walking down the hall and depositing the letter into one of those mail slots you find in pre-war buildings. Down the shaft it went, plummeting 8 floors and directly into his future.
He woke up in the early afternoon with a strange and uncomfortable feeling in his stomach, something over and above the hangover. He didn't remember the letter until he saw the pen and paper on the table. He threw on some clothes and rushed down to the lobby, hoping to retrieve his folly from the mail room. It had already been picked up.
Amir debated whether to write her again, but it seemed that to contradict himself would only make matters worse. Instead, he half-convinced himself that he'd never written the letter at all, or that she would simply destroy it. There was nothing to do but wait and see.
It was his father who called 8 days later, He was so angry he could barely speak. Fatima’s mother had come to the house, distraught, clutching a letter Amir had written. His father did not have to ask if he’d written it, he recognized the handwriting. Amir’s father recounted how Fatima’s mother had asked to see him alone—an almost unheard-of request, but one for which he was grateful as it spared Amir’s mother direct knowledge of the nature of her son’s perfidy. Amir’s father shared what he’d heard, that Fatima had come to her mother sobbing, horrified, throwing herself on her mercy. “Please don’t make me marry him!” she’d pleaded
Amir didn’t know what to say, but he correctly sensed that his father’s pause was for the purpose of calming himself, not to hear any explanation, of which he could have none that made sense in any case. He continued: “You can understand, Amir” he said, slowly, methodically, as if with every fiber of his being he was trying to not physically explode, “after I read—and burned-- the letter, I had no choice but to release Fatima from the engagement.”
Amir stammered out an apology. Or did he? It was a blur. He waited for more, to be ordered back home, but all his father could manage was a curt request to finish his studies without further dishonoring his family. In the end, Amir was the first-born son. Perhaps his father was even afraid Amir would react with some sort of haughty contempt, spitting on tradition, rebellious. Perhaps he was afraid that Amir was so changed by living in the West that he would not even be ashamed. Amir didn’t really know. He tried on all sorts of scenarios to make himself feel better.
It was only after he received a letter a month later that he understood the affair in an entirely different light. His mother, in a cautious postscript that was perhaps an assertion of her right to comment on an event that had been censored for her, wrote that she had heard that Fatima was being married to an Algerian and going to complete her studies in France. It was short, almost breezy, no doubt written after his father had signed his name, but it spoke volumes.
Amir knew in an instant that Fatima had to have met her fiancé during her engagement to him. The letter he’d so conveniently written to her must have been an unhoped-for godsend. Though perhaps not entirely unexpected, considering she couldn’t have done a better job of encouraging him to write it.
Window on the world, indeed. He’d played right into her hands.
And yet, it was impossible to be angry with her. With a tenth of the freedom that all the Western woman he knew took for granted as their birthright, she’d taken control over her destiny, spinning the thinnest of straws into silk. Through his subsequent marriages and two divorces (for he would stay in the United States, and become very American indeed), Amir would never quite get rid of the nagging feeling that he could have been the love of Fatima’s life, and her of his, if only he hadn't been quite so honest with her.
A rose I'm given and it I take
its thorns I find with bites of red
and though I cry and my hands shake
I drain my face of any dread
The pain of knowing and not all the same
I seek to find a holding firm
but when I tighten my hand exclaims
telling me not to shift or squirm
"Why must it hurt?" my eyes gasp
as water falls and lands on a petal
the rose is stunning and tears make it cast
a finer shine than any metal
I call to sky and earth and air
to release me from this floral trap
but all I hear is devil may care
laughing echo a harsh landing slap
After a spell I roll my sleeves
the vines of pink don't bother me
they make a trail of zig zag bees
a warping vine on naked tree
My scars they heal while new ones tattoo
upon my fingers and skin they impose
and while I cannot say "I'm fine." and lie to you
I'm better off with this my Rose
it will happen
four days from
now it will happen
in the dark like january shivers
or sweat soaked
august sheets it always happens
in the dark
when the moon
disappears it always happens
in silence as I rock myself
awake as I smooth out
memory's quilt over
my lap count each piece
of patchwork remember each day
I carried you beneath my heart
inside my heart before I became
the unbearable living & you became the light it will happen
in four days as I brush away
the never-will-be the petals & snow
brush dirt from your
stone pillows & fill the emptiest
part of me with trembles
of winter & the sad notes
of birdsongs lah 1.10.12 ©®
Rest in Peace Jason & JonThomas
Mommy loves you...
A heart, an arrow, cupid's aim
Apart are narrow, just a game.
Together they are love in force,
Forever staying firm the course.