Summer break
& the campus empty.
Only the leaves rustle
in the stolid silence.
Behind their dancing shadows
he sees in his mind
women wrestling with the waves
& lying in the grass
with their Sunday lovers.
Like when he was a young bum
cocksure he would be received
like a swimmer
festooned with sun & weeds.
Where have all these gone?
He now reeks of sunset’s
violet hour
but he dare not weep:
O time to surrender
to time’s cruel grip:
virgin’s have long turned crones,
men to stone…
Where are the high-flying birds
that seek sanctuary?
from the volley of rain & thunder?
O Summer is fabled sparkle
of diamond
but the sun often hides
behind the clouds,
& cold bodies array themselves
as if poised for flight.

No longer can he utter
her name:
time is unforgiving,
he has loosened his grip
on chance.
Isn’t that silly?
Even dogs tug wildly
at their leash!
Has he given up?
She won’t be coming back,
sure as the weather forecast.
Why cry a river
like an orphaned brat?
Too damned old for that,
though scarified by daily crap.
No longer can he utter
her name:
fantasy is a bottle of San Miguel
with its wine-dark water
drowning the sun
in his eyes.

In her celfone
She proudly stores snapshots
of kids
as if they were her own:
O this summer she’ll get hitched,
her career on hold
like a jetplane that sputters
in mid-air
yet she won’t bail out…
She’s in love
in her quiet frenzy,
damning the anti-aircraft fire
as she cruises the sky.
The moment, after all, is all –
see the angel of history
rushing like a meteor,
its head turned back,
into the future!

Eman El-Obeidy
is under surveillance:
she cannot leave Tripoli
where assassins roam
the city
to shoot her down;
she had hollered rape
against Gadhafi’s military.
(O remember Rosa Luxemburg,
who perished under
police custody)
A woman who defies
the rule of patriarchs
must therefore be silenced
O never has the desert sand
of Libya
sparkled with grains
of hot, green blood!

It is summer of white sand –
& the tropical breeze
tousles a beachcomber’s hair
to soften the sun.
But rain comes too early
in May
& his heart of stone
liquefies so easily
at the intimation of her
who was gone so swiftly.
He always counsels himself
to stop the brimming of tears
the universe won’t care a bit.
Why does he cross his fingers
behind his back
as if hoping for a miracle?

The young stud is cool,
almost arrogant –
he feels in his guts
he makes heads turn.
As if it’s written
indelibly in the stars…
Always, brags he,
a stranger to ambushing hurt,
as if fate can be denied.
Insulated from inner storm,
heart never indecorously
roughed up?
Too absurd, he snaps.
Cupid is on his side.
When someone passed him up,
he only laughed.
Will he ever be prey
to dawdle in the dark
with a half-empty bottle
in his hands,
counting the minutes/hours
as if the world
had turned upside down?
It may happen, he concedes
But time is on his side,
he can always survive
another round.
The oldtimer
gropes for words:
there is much to say
but it cannot be told.
Always an old story,
the ending is quickly solved.
He knows
like the back of his hand
how the narrative stands.
He shrugs, pushing his chair back
to take his leave,
never to return.

The sun is malevolent.
It triggers the impulse
to love madly
or kill violently
as in Camus’s anti-hero,
Meursault, who did an Arab in
while strolling on the sand.
He recalls exactly:
the ramshackle hut,
the gruel & the tears
of washerwomen,
death of a brother
who lived in his own autistic world
& intimates who turned tubercular, mad.
The labyrinth of dusty sheets
& shadows that offered quickies
& time, time, time
that flies in like unwelcome angel…
The sun brings it on,
like an avalanche.
Summer is burdened with rain
& he can neither cry nor laugh.
(He cannot however claim
the fetish for the absurd:
he’s bound to a particular age
with specific habits,
quaint temper of the heart:
O memory can never be,
in retrospect,

this savage month
when Christ
perished on the hill.
& madmen duplicate
the act.
To save whom?
It has been done
a long time ago:
Nothing has changed
but the penitents
who troop in
for blessings
of the Jewish sacrifice.
Ever we are stuck
in mud
of saints & charlatans.
Love is a myth?
Truth lies somewhere else
& rogues scamper
for the code
to solve the puzzle.

Madonna as Christ:
Always the tongue-in-cheek
assault in postmodernist style.
Nothing is sacred anymore?
An oldtimer sighs
as leaves in the garden
continuously fall.
Any idiot is free to invent
his faith
as per revisionist delight.
O the world’s no longer beholden
to the old dispensation
of sanctified desire.
It is free-for-all at the carnival.
If God is dead,
we must be condemned
to be free & mad.

We cannot move on
far beyond our dead.
O How they live within our skulls:
thrilling to our happiness
as if they were alive;
mourning over lapses
as they expected.
Who can step beyond the line
they had crossed
in their own barbarous times?
Should we forget
what good or evil men did?
Who must be honored?
Who must pay out?
Who served the Devil?
Who loved the Saint?
Must we render judgment
if they are worthy of their deeds?
O Death is not the Great Leveller.
Memory is – which visits
like a thief.
O We cannot move on
far beyond our dead.

Does he know
What’s going on?
He has heard talk
about his student
arrested in the South
for subversion
& thrown the book:
homicide, robbery in band,
But he was a nice, cool kid
who could have been top dog
in the state apparatus.
Instead, he ran around
with poor company…
But what are “the facts of the case”?
What could have “gone wrong”
“Gone right”?
In this part of the world
where generals steal
& buy houses in NY & LA,
he is clapped in jail
for questioning the state of affairs…
An odd story
repeated a million times,
a tale passed around
dance halls & barbershops
as ordinary, real
whose truth eludes most,
the terror in the telling
that absolves criminals
& politicians
as if it were routinary
& therefore false…
In this age of digital info
he’s at a loss for words:
nothing to hold on to,
material for classroom conversation
as if the regime
has turned him into an idiot.
Everything is hidden,
swept under the rug…
In snatches of coffee gossip
everyone is a moving target
by the police…
O Something nasty indeed
is going down
in hot summertime.

No big deal, he says
of the scuttlebutt
he’s a heroic icon.
He dismisses it
like an unwanted
skin disease:
I do what must be done
under the circumstance…
Why the fuss?
I merely simplify
the complex equation
that freezes everyone
to stone,
doing away with the imperative
to rise vainly above the crowd.
It isn’t worth
the hyped credit of affection.
He ups & leaves
for another tour of the lowland
where white zones
the expense of cannibal collusion.

Will there be
an end to love songs?
He may tire of them,
the sadness & the desolation
but they move the heart
that moves the hand
to hymn the passion
of the revolution,
beauty of compassion
& imagined future
that leaves behind
the corpses of despair:
love buries all
the blood & the tears,
like a white streak of lightning
that illumines
the nights of April.

His death was undocumented.
He’s disappeared
but the logic of his demise
was sure, precise
even if his bones couldn’t be honored
by family & comrades…
But they insist, without a sense of madness,
that he lives.
They, after all, can feel him
in the air,
in the trees,
in the streets –
like Christ of April resurrection
who’s the “silent listener
to every conversation”
in fora & secret confessions,
the leader who leads the assault
on fascists hordes
whose terrible shadow
over the fearful
at the blast of light
of his incandescent destruction.
He, who infests the heart
of torturers
but enflames the spirit
of warriors,
has turned immortal.
He has died to live forever…

The equatorial heat tells you
the semaphore of summer –
the air staying stagnant
on top of trees
like stone statues in the look-out
for something to shake
their feet.
For a stray breeze maybe
to rustle the leaves to speak
& stir the empty memory
already twice-emptied
of your grief.
It has been that way –
the old theatrics
of appearing desolate –
as if condemned to play
a waiting game
for the no-thing of the imaginary.
O How do you greet
the silence of absences?
Do you stare with half-closed eyes?
Do you start with the slowness of a cripple?
Does it all matter?
No man is an island,
they pontificate,
& you wish for human voices
to wake you up
as if from a sad, sad sleep.

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