Letter to Brooklyn, NY
It is the first of July.
I don't know where you are now. I don't know you Suheir, but July brought you to me. You and July and Darwish and all the poems are entangled together in this intricate complex system of a month ending and another one beginning. A month that marks a fair division, a month of heat and restlessness.
I think I wanted to spend the first of July in bed.
I remembered your poem yesterday and I listen to it. I listen to the softness of the sheets and the rhythm of your words and I try to recall the beat of past days. I listen to your voice and I feel the weight of the 7th month of this holy year: it has arrived. And I think, Suheir, I wanted to spend it in bed reading Darwish.
I'm not as humanitarian as you are. I'm a bit more self-centered than that. A piece of the world is falling at the moment I am writing this, and another piece will fall at the moment I will post this to the universe and yet I can't see beyond the four corners of the bed I wanted to be in.
We get so involved, that's the problem maybe. We get so involved with ourselves that the pain of loss is much more than we can take. It pains us and moves our core. At this very moment someone is sharing pictures of Khaled Said's mother and her opinion of our new president. At this moment, dozens are being killed in Syria in the same recklessness in which I spend money and minutes as if there is a surplus of them. This hot morning in July, someone is waking up to the inerasable pain of having lost someone in the past year and a half and the knowledge that they will never see them again.
I hear their names sometimes Suheir and I go past their faces to that moment, a few days after they were killed, when I first heard it. It was said so smoothly, so honestly, a fluid confession of a fact, that I didn't believe it. I was not sure.
And here I am, at the beginning of July thinking of myself again. And thinking of how I would've loved to spend the first of July together in bed.
Just as I would've loved that no one dies. I would've loved to have spent the day with him.
Your poem's softness makes me think of the craft of poetry. The way you say Darwish in your interviews, the way his poems make their way into yours. I read your poem about July and I remember the days I spent celebrating with my grandmother a day I had no idea what it stood for. Another nation's liberation. I liked the hotdogs. Root beer. And this July, of this holy year, is the first to pass me as I know its other name: Tammuuz.
In Arabic, we love double letters.
Night spills from bodies, Suheir.
It could be about any two lovers, couldn't it? It could be about the lovers in your poem, spending another nation's liberation day in between the sheets, scared of treading on an old buried mine. It could be about us, him and me. It could be about what was said, what wasn't. Do you think he read it? Do you think he is reading it today?
I don't know how to wrap up this letter to you which you will never get. If I ever meet you, this letter will not come up. It will not be part of our first meeting. But we will talk of poems. Your poems, the earth, Darwish lines, and trees Suheir. We will speak of trees.
Today as I walked by the Nile early in the morning, there was a man sweeping. It was early but the heat was sweating already. This man's brown figure was bent over a broom; it was very wide. Again and again he pushed what I came to see as wilted flower petals from a tree much taller than us.
A man stood near him monitoring his meticulous aggression against those leaves whom the heat had already lumped up.
I passed, lighter in weight but heavy with other things, I passed the sweeping Suheir. Now, at this moment as I remember the smell of flowers as I passed, I hold a grudge against memory for remembering.
But we haven’t spent the first of July together. We're spending it there between lines of Darwish's poems, oblivious of your poem because his poem speaks more to our pain. I told you earlier; I'm a bit more self-centered than you are.
Double letters are more intense. The smell in my memory which has gone into my blood through my pores is not of jasmine, but of roses. It is because of it that sometimes I feel I cry rosewater.
I need to stop writing now. I always end up writing long letters. I will just end it with a memory that didn't happen. Reading Darwish to him on a bed – maybe a few rose petals. And a poem.
let us begin a month
on paper which is not lined
so we can tattoo both
and beneath it
lest we forget
we could not begin
Thank you for listening. Thank you for the poems, they are light.
I'll see you around Suheir. I'll see you around.
Peace and love,