Mohja Kahf’s ‘Copulation in English’

We are going to dip English backward
by its Shakespearean tresses
arcing its spine like a crescent
We are going to rewrite English in Arabic
(Arabic script: how sweet, how sweet)


and all the languages of our blood
We are going to give English the makeover of its lifetime,
darkening the rims of its eyes with Hindi antimony,
making it blush Farsi roses
(Arabic script: the night, the night)


We are going to make English dizzy
until English vomits its history,
Norman, Saxon, Celtic, down
to its Druid dregs
We won’t stop playing with English
We are the new bullies in the schoolyard
and we like the merry-go-round of nouns and adjectives
and onomatopoetics and objective correlatives


We will bewilder English in Aramaic of Jesus
(Arabic script: My Lord, my lord, why have you forsaken me?)
We know its biblical heart better than it knows itself
and hold the blades of these lilies-of-the-valley
against its jugular vein


We are going to make English love us
And kiss us and explore us with its tongues
Then we will play hard-to-get
and English will have to phone
and leave a message after message of desire on our machines
English will have to learn what to say to please us:
(Arabic script: “I humbled myself until even me enemy wept for me.”)


English has never tasted anything this purple,
Seen mangos this bursting, trickling down its poems,
pomegranates spraying the tart red seeds
over its stories like white white linen
English has never smelled the cardamom this ecstatic
or breathed rhetoric this thick with love


English will come to us hoarse with passion
we will have taught English to have
and English will never be the same and will never regret us
Although, after this night of intense copulation,

we may slaughter English in its bed and redeem our honor,
even while pregnant with English’s bastard
(Arabic script: “Here comes the dawn upon us like a fire.”)

And On The Day After Christmas

you see:
a heel fastened to a throat
a friend twisted inside out
the piano flirtations you wrote
postpone another cage you own.

a traditional kiss falls flat
with an ornament of prejudice.

last night, we slept with the bends
just a day after christmas
your syndrome maps another pointless atlas.

have you learned the horns of your disease?
the kisses that sink my submarines.
and what after that do you have to give?
the cry of a vacant embassy.

you spill another jack & coke.
the hospital prayers we broke
if i had the strength
id pull the curtains away
tell you
you only had one more day

maybe two more days
and anyway
the curtains stay.

April [8/15]

Now, New Year Things

On the east coast,
we reconvene a drunken yesterday.
sighs sift the seaboard
snow flings unwanted decor on the pillared houses
we head to bed
before the world changes.

We’ve left the eviction notice up
the hate mail sits still in the yard
We’ve chosen the next stage of life
before sleeping it off
and deciding again.
She says we can’t know the length of a river until we’ve reached the end.
Mightiness is heir apparent.

All else culls together tonight
— we believe in our cult or else
we wouldn’t be here —
even if it hangs in question.

We’re all set to be in love with the new year
whether it’s really new
or not.

April [7/15]

Clouds The Sky

all ships are eager to isolate.

here, where you are secretary to sea cadence —
a plaintiff for land down under.

And you begin to miss green & spring
two things the ocean leaves behind. variations
on land heartbeat. Where to roam right away
is innocuous enough. Here, one must matronize
the sea for any influence.

You are mapping categorically with pictographs of clouds
for it is sin to build a map out here.
Only of memory they say. You will be without
even knowing for some length of time.

You set sail to a cirrus woodblock and end
with wings drifting apart. What does Cupid do over the ocean?
Later you throw an anchor out in the shadow of a heavy cloud, bruised
itself of faraway desert dust. It collected languages
before slipping off the coast. It remains naked now
and impossible to draw.

You brought 43 pens and are down to 6.
One day you decide clouds are Rorschachs and make stories. Some are lifted
mythologies, you know that, but you don’t know from when or where
or what gods.

Some days there are no clouds. One cannot just look at patch of sky
and pretend any meaning. But the whole sky is a great snake
stretched by gods you named, and then its dressed of sun so bright
it must mean blindness.

When you dock months later you hitchhike to the airport and
buy a ticket for the longest flight available.
You want to reach out and touch the snake and thank
it for not leaving you alone.

April [6/15]

Scenes Of A Side Table

He is scared

to love the side effect.

He does not come

to dashing spirals anymore.

Gothic thunder rattles

our space — nearing ground.

Some species holiday

scalped mop&bucket tense.

The future is fad

we go through together.

All there is to it

patch up & leave the center.

April [4/15]

One Tragedy

One tragedy is to try.
The frost on the window stays while it thins,
but you do so on foot.

Soon, your abdomen wilts into just an approximation of a frame.
We are unlikely architects, creating something
from an ever increasing nothing.

I begin to hear you only in outline,
the recipe but not the substance.
Even the mosquitoes can taste the wilt.

Release, for me, the other tragedies
of intimate arrivals. Be a jailbird
for your capability,
strong, central, and in accord.

Allow my arms and my words
to be counted as hinges to hand onto
in the plithe of your seedy background.
I invite you to tower over your own argument now,
gather the new postures from falling

April [3/15]

On The Right Side Of A Postcard

Rarely do the good smiles record right. As rare as full moons lighting up calendar squares. You must be hanging off the wall so much or else you’d want to come and see me. Well, windows understand me here. Pulling light in as I wish. It is the opposite of your museum, which can only bring things out from walls. Do you remember Oaxaca? The thin clothes we drank in, shadows burglarized by night by cobblestone thieves. The best part of re-seeing things is choosing the memory you take from there. And then you can wonder if something ever was.
OK, well I’ll go now. The begonias are bursting and becoming. Playthings for my eyes. I am running out of —



April [2/15]

Memorizing Rilke, Reciting Mallorme

Pooling together what we know is first order.
We move forward in each others languages
or not at all.

I am memorizing Rilke, not so far up the shore.
You recite Mallorme over my nervous meditation.

Together, we are mincing the obtuseness of our genetics,
while I down a million heartworms. Later,
we can pillage the rent of other fabrics
aside from language, form, semantic obliteration.

Read another passage out loud, I say,
neverminding the words being lost as tickets. I realize
I am only here
to hear

Let’s stop being those people right now
paradies of promise
pioneers steering away from pnemonic pasttime.
It’s time to retire these sinking alphabets and not crumble down with it.

One day, when I am
old enough, rich enough, stable enough
with fame that marks my face another poetic geography
I’ll return these messages to you

And the pooling will no longer be a delusion
but togetherness I’ve founded
that’s easy
and bare.

April [1/15]