The year has earmarked days, a quota for
remembrance – fathers; soldiers from the great wars
and smaller battles; women; sisters; mothers;
all manner of ties up on the calendar
for a few hours only, and nothing more.
Your shirt’s loosened, it flutters in the breeze,
billows a farewell. I’ll take the anxieties,
the heartache and the loneliness I’ll keep,
and hand you the excitement as you leave.
It’s one of many partings, nothing more.
We’ll keep it ultra-casual, you and I
cut the drama out in each of our goodbyes
I’ll never let you see my lashes, spiked
wet in disarray, dismay in my eyes.
I’ll say it with a tighter hug, nothing more.
I know you won’t look back, but if you do
I’ll be in the doorway looking straight at you;
wait till the shirt’s a speck too small to show
and its blue vanishes into a vaster blue,
then I’ll turn and watch the phone, do nothing more.
My love’s an amulet, a verse, a charm,
a silken thread against your skin, your arm,
it binds but it also leaves you free - to come
and go, stop at my threshold, but I am
defined and changed by that one thread, nothing more.
In years from now, maybe a decade hence
will you have time to make time for remembrance?
Mark out a certain day in a certain month
and call? And we’ll speak with a wistful warmththen go back to our days, say nothing more?
A long ago friend, an EFL teacher, taught me what first language interference was. Only in my case I don't really know how the first language is defined, and she couldn't help me identify it either. Whatever I write in, at that moment it feels like my first language, and I can spot the other standing right there windmilling its arms and trying to get in not one, but several words, maybe even whole sentences in edgeways. It doesn't make for controlled writing. And maybe it's not even just language but a whole swathe of cultural baggage. First culture interference, more like.
I can see for myself that the above is based loosely on the principles of the ghazal, the radif motif in the repetition at each stanza-end, but the question is what am going to do about it? Will it get better if I fiddle around with the structure? Will I be able to tweak it even if I wanted to? Write it as it comes is less of a goal and more of a compulsion, how does one begin to change that?
Last month I heard an established senior Arab poet say of a younger poet, that he writes in English but his Arabic shows, and the senior's tone was one of regret - as if it's a loss if a non-native speaker of English writes in a language other than his mother tongue. As if it's a loss for both Arabic and for the individual. But people are the way they are, poets are the way they are, may be poems are the way they are too, who knows? And it's probably best to leave them like that instead of prodding them into being something else.
Happy Mother's Day to all mums here, and to those who parent even though they may not be biological ones.