Thursday, August 30, 2012

Zein El-Amine's "How to write a poem"

Split This Rock 
Poem of the Week - 
Zein El-Amine                                                                 
Zein El-Amine 
How to write a poem, according to Souha Bechara

Sit in their circle.
Don't let your eyes linger
on any object in the room.
Extract yourself
from your body. Watch
the man with the hairy hands
describe the rape of your body
to the body. Watch him
as he begins to beat the body.
Focus on the arc
of your liberated lower molar
and make it everything:
try to guess where
it landed, crawl to it,
find it, save it for later.
Think about putting it back
in one day. Ignore
the wheeling of the cart.
Ignore the stripped cable
dangling above you.
Find the tooth.
Make solitary confinement
your longed-for-solitude.
Climb the walls:
Press your palms on one
wall, fingers pointed
to the ceiling. Press
your feet against the other
wall. Build the pressure,
step up with one foot
and up with one hand.
Repeat until your back
is to the ceiling. Now
survey the room. Do this
once at mid-morning
and once at mid-afternoon.
Repeat daily. Do this
for a decade.
Make that crack
under your door
your world: Lie down
and face the door. Look
past the roaches,
the fleas, and the lice,
into the compressed light;
wait for it to be
interrupted. Study the soles
of your captors.
Match the voices
with the soles
match the soles
with the names.
Catalog them:
the pigeon-toed,
the limping soles,
the canvas ones,
the wooden ones.
Delight at new soles.
Now find a piece of graphite.
Separate your toilet paper
into plies. Stretch
your scroll on the floor.
Prostrate yourself.
Grab the graphite
between thumb
and forefinger.
It will feel crippling
at first, your words
will be undecipherable,
but you will
eventually write
your tiny words
with smooth curves.
Set your intentions.
Don't think of meanings,
think of the time
it will take to write
your microscopic epic.
After all, this is about time
not about metaphors
or similes or such.
It's about rhyme
and meter.
So limit hope to the word,
then extend it to the line,
then to the stanza,
then reach out for the winding night.
Now write your first faint line.

-Zein El-Amine  

Used by permission.

Zein El-Amine was born and raised in Lebanon. He has an MFA in Poetry from the University of Maryland where he teaches Global Literature and Social Change and Arabic. His poems have been published by Wild River ReviewFolio,Foreign Policy in FocusBeltway QuarterlyDC Poets Against the War AnthologyPenumbraGYST and Joybringer. His short stories have been published by Boundoff and Uno Masmagazines. Zein lives in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of DC and is a member of the Ella Jo Baker Housing Cooperative.

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