Thursday, August 28, 2008

Iqbal Al-Qazwini - _Zubaida's Window: A Novel of Iraqi Exile_ (61)

"She searches for a place to sit, but finds none until someone leaves, when she rushes to the cold wooden bench and breathes in relief. She produces a small book from her purse, opens it, and tries to read. The letters dance over the lines at first, then slip over the space of the glossy white paper, leaping eventually to the platform, and running to hide in the empty Coca-Cola cans scattered here and there. Some letters climb onto the heads and shoulders of passengers; others squeeze between the small bags and luggage. Zubaida observes the small black creatures without surprise, as they make fun of her, cackling away and filling the platform with a hubbub that no one hears. She is used to this game. For years now, Zubaida has thought that this is their revenge against her, for these crooked, twisted shapes have experienced her lack of seriousness and her inability to concentrate. Perhaps they have realized that Zubaida has been captivated by a fever to travel, that the idea of departure has enveloped her being and crippled her. Still, it is a fever that has transformed her into a creature who resembles a suitcase ready to be shipped inside a train or on a ship for a distant destination. In reality, she has not left this city for ages and feels incapable of deciphering the secret of her phenomenal patience."

Fake Empire

So I'm hanging out, watching the DNC on CNN because I just finished _Zubaida's Window_ (post on that to come). Please tell me I'm not the only one who noticed the Twilight Zone moment that they were playing The National's "Fake Empire" as they went to break.

For those not familiar, the lyrics:

Stay out super late tonight
picking apples, making pies
put a little something in our lemonade and take it with us
we’re half-awake in a fake empire
we’re half-awake in a fake empire

Tiptoe through our shiny city
with our diamond slippers on
do our gay ballet on ice
bluebirds on our shoulders
we’re half-awake in a fake empire
we’re half-awake in a fake empire

Turn the light out say goodnight
no thinking for a little while
lets not try to figure out everything at once
It’s hard to keep track of you falling through the sky
we’re half-awake in a fake empire
we’re half-awake in a fake empire

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Mahmoud Darwish, 13 March 1941 – 9 August 2008

"He is terrified of becoming an orphan again. He is afraid we will forget him in the rush of these endings."
- Mamoud Darwish, _Memory for Forgetfulness_ (133)

Mahmoud Darwish was born in 1941 in al-Birwa, a small village in Western Galilee. He published eight books of prose and more than thirty books of poetry. He spoke several languages fluently, wrote in Arabic. Most of his work has not been translated into English.

Though I feel certain I had heard the name before, I did not come across one of his books until earlier this year when I picked up
_Memory for Forgetfulness: August, Beirut, 1982_, which chronicles "Hiroshima Day" of the Lebanese Civil War and opens with a wish for five minutes of respite from bombing so the narrator (Darwish) can make a cup of coffee. From the second page:

"Three o'clock. Daybreak riding on fire. A nightmare coming from the sea. Roosters made of metal. Smoke. Metal preparing a feast for metal the master, and a dawn that flares up in all the senses before it breaks. A roaring that chases me out of bed and throws me into this narrow hallway. I want nothing, and I hope for nothing. I can't direct my limbs in this pandemonium. No time for caution, and no time for time."

I learned today that Darwish died August 9 three days after undergoing heart surgery. He was 67. Well-respected worldwide, he received the Lannan Foundation Prize for Cultural Freedom in 2001, and was regarded as the Palestinian national poet. Well worth looking up for the beauty of his work and for a different/literary way in to the study of Middle Eastern history and politics, a recent article about his life/death and influence can be found here:


"In other cities, memory can resort to a piece of paper. You may sit waiting for something, in a white void, and a passing idea may descend on you. You catch it, lest it escape, and as days roll and you come upon it again, you recognize its source and thank the city that gave you this present. But in Beirut you flow away and scatter. The only container is water itself. Memory assumes the shape of a city's chaos and takes up a speech that makes you forget the words that went before." (Memory for Forgetfulness 91)

"I didn't say 'I love you' because I didn't know if I loved you so long as I kept hiding my blood under your skin and shedding the honey of bees gone crazy in the capillaries of the holy sacrament--the sacrament that so absorbed me that my body was in a moment of continuous birth." (Memory for Forgetfulness 120)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Reading in Seattle tomorrow night!

This Thursday night at 7:00pm, Kathy Fish and Claudia Smith will be reading from the collection "A Peculiar Feeling of Restlessness" at University Book Store. UBX is at 4326 University Way NE.

I wish I could go, but heading south on Friday, plus kickass class Thursday night prevents me. Had I heard more than two days out I could have rearranged my schedule. Oh well...

It's a pretty fantastic little book. Four chapbooks of short short stories by four women. Claudia Smith won Rose Metal Press's first contest for the form. And Kathy Fish's work does an excellent job of describing the circumstantial magic of childhood, often capturing things missed by eyes focused on the American Dream. (This last line taken from my as-yet-unseen review of the book... which was supposed to appear on Her Circle Ezine before the editor decided to jump ship and abandon the site for grad school in Europe. I've been lax in finding a new home to review in.)

And if you can't be there, you owe it to yourself to order this book from Rose Metal Press:
click here to do a good thing for yourself

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Knockout contest

This is the most readable journal to come out in years. Support them, support yourself, and please enter...


Knockout, a print literary magazine that publishes a 50-50 mix of work
by LGBTQ and straight authors, announces its first poetry contest.
Judge: James Bertolino. Winner receives $100 gift certificate to
Powell's Books (redeemable online) and publication of their winning
poem. All poems submitted considered for publication in Knockout.
Submissions of up to three poems of any length must be received by
August 31, 2008. $5 entry fee per submission. Multiple submissions
allowed. Simultaneous submissions allowed (with prompt notification if
accepted elsewhere). For complete guidelines and for more information
about Knockout, visit

If I haven't called you back it doesn't mean I don't love you.

Once again the task of everyday living has backed communication up for miles on my interstate.

The other day in town here, on our little stretch, an SUV driven by an 80 year-old man went the wrong way in morning traffic on the highway. We don't have rush hour like other places, we're not that big, but being 20 miles from the border on the most used conduit in the state to get to Canada, we're kind of busy all the time. He narrowly missed much before careening into a motorcycle. No one died on impact, but there was much hospital to be had. Traffic was backed up for hours while they cleared the wreckage of that and other minor accidents it caused.

Yesterday at 10pm someone found a boy sleeping in a parking lot. He'd fallen off his bike and bruised his head. Folks, please wear your helmets.

I used to wear my bicycle helmet in the car with Leigh Ann.

I received word this morning that Exquisite Corpse, a fantastic little journal that's been pushing great work for more than 20 years has picked up my "Unsaddled." Now I will feel compelled to put it back in the manuscript. It didn't quite fit anymore, but I think I may make it. Anyway, it's one of my favorites and you can find it here:

They keep a count of how many hits each piece gets and you all know how I love a number. Make me proud.