Sunday, November 28, 2010

Poem: Reading Arabic

This week we read the words aloud,
their meaning less important
than the work of glottal stops
and vagaries of breath and tongue.
Our teacher translates gently:
Bahyd, eggs. Jhutheth, corpses.
Bass, enough. Nine-to-five words.

If you stare at a letter–say, yaa’
long enough, it winds away
from sound and word, curls
into a quiet shape:
the shell of a snail, or the spin
of creekwater as it winds down
into the pipe beneath the street.

Bowls of letters swell and taper,
chambers fill, half-fill with air.
Body-shaped words fall prone
in sleep, or sit with a cup of tea
on a bench in the marketplace,
pressed in quiet gossip
among a row of ample women.

(appeared in Faultline, 2001)

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