Monday, March 14, 2016

Sand Opera Lenten Journey Day 34: Saying to the Prisoners: Come out! (Black Site I) + Marwa Helal and Angele Ellis

Sand Opera Lenten Journey Day 34: Saying to the Prisoners: Come out! (Black Site I) + Marwa Helal and Angele Ellis

Saying to the prisoners: Come out!
To those in darkness: Show yourselves!
Along the ways they shall find pasture,
on every bare height shall their pastures be.
            --Isaiah 49

“Black Site (Exhibit I)” by Marwa Helal


poems do the work journalism can't and dreams do the work only dreams can do. i dreamed a dream within this poem: the fly wishes for the prisoner's freedom at the exact moment the prisoner sees the fly and wishes for its freedom. imagining it slipping underneath the door. in waking, i skim the headlines. one reads: guantanamo detainee refuses offer of release after 14 years in prison. the one who wrote it, his name is "savage." which is real? and which is dream?

the unlikely is likely in reality and in dreaming. journalism is the work of those who are sleeping. poetry is the work of dreaming and dreams do the work of awaking. we each arrive in the same dream with slight variations: a boy dreams the fly goes unnoticed and his mother dreams of swatting it splat on the door, it crumples in another's hand but the fly is now free as the prisoner is awakening in his sleep. shhh. the prisoner has become a poet and you've walked into the unacknowledged legislator's dream.

--Marwa Helal's poetry has appeared in Day One and The Offing. Her other writing has been published in Poets & Writers, American Book Review, Entropy Magazine, and elsewhere. More at: or @marwahelal

Scene II: Another part of the island. / On “Black Site: Exhibit I” by Angele Ellis

Finger a page of vegetable vellum, tender as the hide of a stillborn calf. Every cell points towards Mecca. Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises… Open, sesame: near the floor, at the ceiling. Close the opaque camera eye, the slop bucket that is a perfect circle, a silent scream. …Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments…

Open the chain near that thin rectangle of mattress, invisible manacle tethering an ankle, unmarked collar prisoning a fungible neck. Open air between steel bars. Open moon and sun over relentless artificial light …Will hum about mine ears, and sometime voices… Open nine steps paced by seven. Open black boxes, black ops, and blackened names, unlabeled containers of sacred ashes, unmapped territories of rendition.

Welcome o thousand-eyed fly, panopticon of mind over mind, a single pair of vellum wings and searching tongue. …That if I then had waked after a long sleep… Joy in this smallest thrumming heart, unsought companion captured and released with hands transparent as a fasting saint’s. …The clouds methought would open and show riches… Liberate the space bar and the meter, and then leave so you may live …when I waked, / I cried to dream again.

Angele Ellis is author of Arab on Radar (Six Gallery Press) and Spared (A Main Street Rag Editors’ Choice Chapbook). Her poetry, fiction, and reviews have appeared in over fifty publications and ten anthologies; she is a contributing editor to Al Jadid Magazine. She lives in Pittsburgh. Note: Lines in italics are spoken by Caliban in Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” Act 3, Scene 2.


Angele said...

I am struck by the symmetry and synergy between Marwa Halal's "dreamwork" and my "Scene II: Another Part of the Island." The evocations of dreaming and waking, the blurred lines between almost unimaginable reality and fantasy...the fly in the hand, freed whether crushed or released...the prisoner refusing release in Marwa's piece being named "savage," and Shakespeare's Caliban making his way into my piece.
Each day's meditations in "Sand Opera Lenten Journey" have guided my own admittedly unconventional Lenten journey. Thank you, friends and cousins. Thank you, Phil.

Philip Metres said...

Thanks for your parts in it, Angele! I seem to be struggling toward the finish line (yesterday I had a thousand things to do), but it's been a good discipline. It helps to know others are on the way as well.