Cx72 Poetry: Philipe AbiYouness
November 28, 2020
I feel worse about killing flies lately.
A living thing is a living thing. Who am I
to assign a price to one or the other?
The flies are trapped in the window.
They map a course, unaware of their situation
in the long tradition of hope and being vigilant with it.
Shebak il shibak. We resemble what we understand
of their legacy more and more every day.
Sometimes I speak Arabic when I’m alone
just to feel my mouth swim and be rinsed.
It’s a brittle antidote. I know. Somehow
I was once the ocean, but never its coolness.
This relief is young. I am sure I love the sound of
my mother’s throat crescenting for the ع in
3aleh rahsak. Shebak, shibaak. Baab il shamas,
il shamas, Il Ibn, Il Rou7 Il Koudous.
To be fiercely in love with everything is to not know
how to be anything else, even when you have fallen
out of love with everything, which happens.
I don’t know how to love anyone I love anymore.
They are saying Beirut will resemble Aleppo
by the end of this year, and I am troubled
by cities becoming shortcuts in our lexicon.
And cities so far, I might accidentally mythicize
their destruction. My gratitude feels like a sin and
my mind shadowboxing will do no good.
Maybe some for the flies, who I might have been
in one life and so unlift my vigilant hand.
Joanne believes in past lives and also Jesus.
I am sure I made up all my fears
and they did the same to me.
I watch the windows steam when the world is
colder than the inside of my kitchen and measure
safety by way of all my worldly things.
Who can say what winged empire or acid love
came before this? We watched the psychic on
New Year’s Eve say nothing pretty and know
the outskirts of powerlessness. Call the bloodshed
by name and it will know yours. Come close enough
to anything and risk it reflecting in your eyes.
I am asking you: look how our choices live in bodies,
necessitate empty vessels. How water enshrines
poison like a skeleton, resuscitates the mighty
inventions who harbor untellable disregard for this
smallness: cold hands with the means to make
and unmake a smattering of us.
I wrote a letter to myself and said a city swept by wind.
I said distance where direction wasn’t.
Radiant unspooling. Rational mistakes crowd my closet and hike up the rent.
I can no longer afford this life building.
A resume will not keep my mother’s blood pressure down.
Said: leaves still green.
Said: clutch until it all crumbs,
a ruin in my lap.
My mother sold all her jewelry for this?
I trade adventure and lift up food in my brother’s mouth.
I wrote a letter to myself and said everything ____
Everything ____ without imagining.
يا ماما ! for Natural Disaster
You know, in some countries, earthquake
unfolds into tsunami unfolds into
you better run for the mountain!
Look at this. They put a whole destruction
on Facebook. They say Jbeil was sunk seven times
before anyone dared to count. I am not talking
about tragedy anymore, but surely
my good years were nothing
but a wave’s eye, aftermath of an earthquake
barreling towards me now. This is the problem:
I like to swim but I don’t know how
to swim. I left my heart in a salt body,
romanced by everything that falls away
and inches back. I will remain amazed forever.
We know in a war, if you see a plane coming
you run and hide, but who could predict the moods
of water or wind? How scary
are the many hands with which the earth
can hold us? But, you know?
My grandmother doused our heads
with coffee grinds to stop the blood
gushing where the neighbor kids threw rocks,
and still, I spill home everywhere I struggle
for the words. Don’t run, habibi.
Every voice rioting the street to its knees
is all your loved coming for coffee.
The red sky means you need to sleep more.
The burning is burning, but look
how it glows, look, how it runs from our hands.
Philipe AbiYouness is a first-generation Lebanese-American poet and educator. His work can be found in Muzzle Magazine, Porter House Review, Fugue, and elsewhere.