El Habib Louai
I Hope They Will Allow Me to Play Monk in Prison
It is not what you think in moments of delusion
It is what O’Hara’s kids believe in late evenings
surrounded by post-expressionist aficionados
in apartments overlooking the Hudson
I am stranded again in the subway
counting contrived smiles on worn faces
of sexagenarian ladies on their way to
beautifully run-down launderettes on Bleecker Street
I think of you Paul Klee, O, Paul Klee!
what happened to all the dots that went for a walk?
Does a misplaced sincerity matter
when stuffed bosoms overflow?
Does your contagious humanness matter
when children are washed ashore in a forsaken town?
Does your unconditional generosity matter
when you insist on squeezing your tits for the system?
Let the rich ensconce themselves in mahogany chairs
& drink all those panaceas in their well-lit lounge
There are many who are preparing their Molotov Cocktails
I am unable to adjust to every man’s reality
despite all these sudden poetic flights
but wherever I happen to be in this world,
it is here that my sacred ram will be redeemed
I only hope they will allow me to play Monk in prison.
The End as I Imagine It
They break you into smaller pieces
They say emphasis must be
not artistic expression
But what about silence?
And the thing that follows
the unexpected arrest?
Numerous elements get lost
easily inside, in such a closed setting
as an institution, a class, a prison
as a cell within a cell
Can you signify in the void?
Visions become ephemera
Dreams are beads strewn in space
The guard is actually a prisoner
& nothing matters after that.
The Current Plan
For Michael and Cosmos Rothenberg
The current plan
against death and loss
is to be awake,
willful and warned
It’s to cry like a baby in the arms of a new beloved
God, whose bad decision was it to snatch a flower in its prime?
Was it a murder? A crime? Or mere coincidence?
I imagine you standing in front of the lake, blank
I stand with you, my dear friend, from afar
I hold you in my heart
I turn off the dim lights of the southern night
I let a few stars shine above
& I try hard to invoke a godly providence but
I reckon I know nothing about bad decisions
My friend, I strive to glean something from death
to remake a reality that refuses to be real
& I direct my tears to infinite skies above me imploring—
Who is this God who wastes too much of his blood, sperm, and breath?
Who is this God who composes flesh to be eaten?
Who is this God no longer knows what life is about?
A Prayer to End the War
I shall refuse to argue or shout:
“My loss is greater than yours!”
Or even complain trivially:
“My pain is more valuable!”
As if we have not dodged the same bombs together
As if we haven’t looked the same enemy in the eye
I will not marry the empty bed
in the empty corner of the empty shelter
our dry skins and worn bones
that survived immeasurable distances,
that outlived sickness unto death
will unite in eternal embrace
& I shall eat you with kisses
Death Certificate For Another Life
For Anne Waldman
After all these years spent in solitary confinement,
The expanse of public gardens offers no relief in spring,
Their invisible borders imprison me
I am fed up with too much sun,
bedazzling and causing me to squint
My departing day
will be another casual sunny day in May
Babies with rosy cheeks will smile on their mothers’ backs
when they bend to pick the scorched ears
The ambulant vendor pushes his cart of watermelons past the guards
I will cruise on memory ships to my birthplace
The Arabian Bustards flying over trenches protecting invisible frontiers
The Barbary Falcon hovering over little countryside chickens
who refuse to lay their eggs in the wastelands of Middle Atlas
The Desert Wheatear shall greet me at the bus station to nowhere
Who are those waiting near the ramparts for another decade of late tidings?
I shall withdraw in an orderly fashion as if on a routine bird-watching tour
What shall I take with me now after so many decades of dispossession?
Nothing— I shall ask only for their spit of approval on my death certificate!
El Habib Louai: "I am a Moroccan Amazigh poet, translator, teacher and musician. I took creative writing courses at Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University, Boulder, Colorado. I published articles and Arabic translations of poems by Beat Poets such as Michael McClure, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Diane di Prima, Anne Waldman, Bob Kaufman, Joanne Kyger, Amiri Baraka and many others. My poems, translations and articles have appeared in international literary magazines, journals and reviews: Big Bridge Magazine, Berfrois, Charles River Journal, Militant Thistles, The Fifth Estate, Al Quds Al Arabi, Arrafid, Al Doha, Lumina, The Poet’s Haven, The MUD Proposal, the Dreaming Machine, Sagarana and Istanbul Literary Review. I have published three anthologies of poetry: America Americ: An Anthology of Beat Poetry in Arabic published by Arwiqa for Translation and Studies, Seven Countries published by Arroyo Seco Press and an Anthology of Contemporary Moroccan Poetry published by Big Bridge. My first collection of poems is called Mrs. Jones Will Now Know: Poems of a Desperate Rebel.