El Habib Louai

Many Are Drinking to Drown Their Sorrows

Nothing changes but
It isn’t as bad as it might be!
It is another foggy day as usual
Life is being wasted here as elsewhere
between endless hours of sleep and shit
By and bye! There goes Haj Mubarak leaning on his cane
pharisaically mumbling some archaic prayers
in the hush of the night. Who do I think of?
Lalla Aicha who was so kind to us
she never heard any insults
She was deaf like a stone!
Bousslam who passed away
in his only Jellaba inherited from his blind grandfather
Here we learn as we grow up
the best work one can do is breaking the bones
of the poor once they start to open
their eyes to a different reality!
The city hall representative and his disciples never heard of
Rilke, Heaney, Mandelstam, Brodsky, Mayakovski or Ginsberg
They did their best to put outside the flame
Those who raised their voices
and waved their grips high in the sky
were blown out like a weeping candle in the dark
What remains are the ashes in the clay brazier
in the blackened corner where the skinny cat
burned her tail accidentally
Like many, Ahmed gave up and played
the game to get away with it
his only ambition is to be the not-yet dead
and he did his best to dodge all the blows
I look through my people’s watery eyes to slums
and shopping malls which join starving mouths to each other
Nobody grieves on minimum wages here
They are all comfortably satisfied with less
Abdullah has not shaved for a month
preparing for a visit to the neighborhood psychiatrist
he hopes will convince to sign
a long term medical certificate
Another teacher has just hanged himself
Many are drinking to drown their sorrows!

Death Certificate For Another Life

After all these years spent in solitary confinement,
The expanse of public gardens offering 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 May day
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 little 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!

     For Ashraf Fayadh

They want you to
wear your cleanest robe
do your ablution slowly
trim your moustache attentively
grow your beard patiently
respond to every call readily
& like a stray dog follow a trail
which may not lead anywhere!

I imagine you sitting
inside me alone
I imagine you trembling naked
one eye tired, drooping
the other awake, but lost its focus
your mouth still half-open
from not having barked enough at power
& those who wield it with rosaries

I imagine them all in their turbans and robes
fighting laboriously
to make definite statements about matters
that are still shaping up in the air

In whose God’s name do you
evacuate the immigrant tenants?
to which God goes the glory of slitting
another lost Bohemian’s throat?
to whose mercy you pray when you
whip another runaway lover?
in whose honor you behead another
Humanistic connoisseur of words?


Where is the rest of all the shame?
Whose guilt is lighter? Whose is heavier?
Who forged the jangling keys at the waist of the jailer?

Whether you kill him
Or choose to spare him
There will always be so many
Who find silence hard to bear
Though there are more who will sell you out

Sardine Tagine

I'm so much in love with the world
I watch it from my window

here you don't pretend falling asleep
the breeze sweeps gently the sorrows
Open your sealed windows
& overlook the fountain
it flows from your heart

here amongst the hermits
you do not need money
A smile in the face of those you cross
in the narrow lanes of the medina
welcomes you to the shrine for ten decades

it is almost dusk on the Atlantic shores
surrender, fly in the bubble of smells
relish in sardine tagine in cosmic cafes
where the goats come to greet you

I'm so much in love with the world
I watch it from my window

Against a Blinkered Pony Vision of World

I would certainly
be mistaken
if I say now
Proust had
indeed a bad memory!

My parents concentrate
on the received rituals
they shun unnecessary
discussions on death and Resurrection
they never wished to visit Paris
it reminds them of Death on The Installment Plan
& Camus's mother in her brown apron
Certainly, they never wished to stroll
in Haight-Ashbury late in July
they survived their age in joints smoked
by their posthumous unmarried children
they do not care so much about fashion or fitness
they shun fattening foods not because
they swore to die losing weight,
but because they cannot afford paying for things oversized!

My parents never heard of
New York Poetry School,
Black Mountain School
or San Francisco Renaissance
they never went to Reed College
they never met Joplin or shook hands with Patti
they never thought of poisoning the water of a native land
or of taking magic buses on chemically enhanced roads to God
they think the whole world lives on soup and dates for Ramadan

I grow thinking love is in trouble
& I listen to requiems though I ignore
what they ceaselessly lament
my parents do not know O'Hara though
they listened to me feeding on Lunch Poems
one thing I am sure of,
they would never care if I tell them
he was an enlightened gay!
they never cherished a blinkered pony vision of the world!

El Habib Louai is a teacher, poet, musician and translator from Morocco currently on a Fulbright grant at UNC-Chapel Hill to do research on the Beats.
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