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Editors Choice
Volume 3 | Issue 1 | September 2008 | 

GHAZAL: Dar al-Harb
for Fady Joudah and Wafa'a Zeinal'abidin
Marilyn Hacker


This time the Editor's choice is Marilyn Hacker from New York. Her two poems are given in the Editor's choice: 1. Ghazal- Dar al Harb and 2. Morning News. The poems prove how firm the poet's love for her country is and how firmly she hates war. This is patriotism in its true spirit. Every patriot has to learn this Great Spirit from Marilyn. She laments for her country as well for all peoples of the world. It is painful to be a patriot, but it is also proud to be a patriot.


GHAZAL: Dar al-Harb
for Fady Joudah and Wafa'a Zeinal'abidin

but millions have reason to fear and hate my country.

I might wish to write, like Virginia: as a woman, I have none,
but women and men are crushed beneath its weight: my country.

As English is my only mother tongue,
it’s in English I must excoriate my country.

The good ideas of Marx or Benjamin Franklin
do not excuse the gulags, or vindicate my country.

Who trained the interrogators, bought the bulldozers?
-- the paper trails all indicate my country.

It used to be enough to cross an ocean
and view, as a bemused expatriate, my country.

The June blue sky, the river’s inviting meanders:
then a letter, a headline make me contemplate my country.

Is my only choice the stupid lies of empire
or the sophistry of apartheid: my country?

Walter Benjamin died in despair of a visa
permitting him to integrate my country.

Exiles, at least, have clarity of purpose:
can say my town, my mother and my fate, my country.

There used to be a face that looked like home,
my interlocutor or my mate, my country
Plan your resistance, friends, I’ll join you in the street,
but watch your backs: don’t underestimate my country.

Where will justice and peace get the forged passports
it seems they’ll need to infiltrate my country?

Eggplant and peppers, shallots, garlic and cumin:
let them be, married on my plate, my country.


Spring wafts up the smell of bus exhaust, of bread
and fried potatoes, tips green on the branches,
repeats old news: arrogance, ignorance, war.
A cinder-block wall shared by two houses
is new rubble. On one side was a kitchen
sink and a cupboard, on the other was
a bed, a bookshelf, three framed photographs.

Glass is shattered across the photographs;
two half-circles of hardened pocket-bread
sit on the cupboard. There provisionally was
shelter, a plastic truck under the branches
of a fig-tree. A knife flashed in the kitchen,
merely dicing garlic. Engines of war
move inexorably towards certain houses

while citizens sit safe in other houses
reading the newspaper, whose photographs
make sanitized excuses for the war.
There are innumerable kinds of bread
brought up from bakeries, baked in the kitchen:
the date, the latitude, tell which one was
dropped by a child beneath the bloodied branches.

The uncontrolled and multifurcate branches
of possibility infiltrate houses’
walls, window frames, ceilings. Where there was
a tower, a town: ash and burnt wires, a graph
on a distant computer screen. Elsewhere, a kitchen
table’s setting gapes, where children bred
to branch into new lives were culled for war.

Who wore this starched smocked cotton dress?
Who woreof the district soccer team?
Who left this black bread
and this flat gold bread in their abandoned houses?
Whose father begged for mercy in the kitchen?
Whose memory will frame the photograph
and use the memory for what it was

never meant for by this girl , that old man, who was
caught on a ball-field, near a window: war,
exhorted through the grief a photograph
revives. (Or was the team a covert branch
of a banned group; were maps drawn in the kitchen,
a bomb thrust in a hollowed loaf of bread?)
What did the old men pray for in their houses

of prayer, the teachers teach in schoolhouses
between blackouts and blasts, when each word was
flensed by new censure, books exchanged for bread,
both hostage to the happenstance of war?
Sometimes the only schoolroom is a kitchen.
Outside the window, black strokes on a graph
of broken glass, birds line up on bare branches.

“This letter curves, this one spreads its branches
like friends holding hands outside their houses.”
Was the lesson stopped by gunfire? Was
there panic, silence? Does a torn photograph
still gather children in the teacher’s kitchen?
Are they there meticulously learning war-
time lessons with the signs for house, book, bread?

Marilyn Hacker was born in New York City in 1942. She is the author of twelve books of poetry, including Essays on Departure (Carcanet Press, 2006) Desesperanto, (W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2003); First Cities: Collected Early Poems 1960-1979 (2003); Squares and Courtyards(2000); Winter Numbers (1994), which won the Lenore Marshall PoetryPrize and a Lambda Literary Award; Selected Poems, 1965-1990 (1994),which received the Poets' Prize; Love, Death, and the Changing of the Seasons (1986); Assumptions (1985); Taking Notice (1980); Going Back to the River (1990), for which she received a Lambda Literary Award; Separations (1976); and Presentation Piece (1974), which was the Lamont Poetry Selection of The Academy of American Poets and a National Book Award winner. She has also translated Vénus Khoury-Ghata's poetry: Nettles (2008) She Says (2003) both from the Graywolf Press, and Here There Was Once a Country (Oberlin College Press, 2001), as well as books by Guy Goffette, Claire Malroux and Marie Etienne. Hacker was editor of The Kenyon Review from 1990 to 1994, and has received numerous honors, including an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Prix Max Jacob étranger in France, the John Masefield Memorial Award and the Robert F. Winner Awards of the Poetry Society of America. She lives in New York City and Paris.









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