Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Sand Opera Lenten Journey Day 35: If I speak in human and angelic tongues (Love Potion #42)

Sand Opera Lenten Journey Day 35: If I speak in human and angelic tongues (Love Potion #42)

If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing…. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known. So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
--Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians 1:13

In our dialogue for Los Angeles Review of Books, Fady Joudah wrote, “Sand Opera is ultimately a book about love, its loss and recapture, and the struggle in between. Many will completely misread it as another political book of poems, in that reductive, ready-made sense of ‘political’ which is reserved for certain themes but mostly for certain ethnicities. So part of that misreading is due to the book’s subject matter or its Abu Ghraib arias, and also because it is written by an Arab American.”

I wrote back: “I love the fact that you read Sand Opera as a book about love. The longer I worked on the book, the more I felt compelled to move past the dark forces that instigated its beginnings, forces that threatened to overwhelm it and me. Love, as much as I can understand it, thrives in an atmosphere of care for the self and other — the self of the other and the other of the self — through openness, listening, and dialogue.”

How do we move into the mystery of love, its delights and terrors? Last night, Kiese Laymon shared the first chapter of his forthcoming memoir, Heavy, and spoke of the relationship between sexual violence and racial terror; you could hear a pin drop in that room as he explored the hardest things in his own life, in the life of his grandmother. How hard it is to love ourselves, how hard it is to love others. How hard it is to be vulnerable and open. Don’t we have to deal with our inner abysses even as we trust-fall into the abyss of love?

This is for Amy Breau.

Love Potion #42 (from Sand Opera)

Before you, I slept on a bayonet. 
Bided my time in clothing. Neither experience
nor innocence kept me

from bleeding. Before you, I held
an invisible sign: please touch this abyss. 
How pleasing to have you sieve me

through your lungs, leave me essential
dregs and seeds. Since there’s no place
a grain of sand cannot hide, deserts

and strands now travel the world
with us, in shoes. Let me kind you in two
tongues. Habibti, two decades ago,

we fell off a cliff, each holding a wing,
each holding a hand, and have yet to land.


Maureen said...

Such tenderness in your poem, the final lines especially.

Perhaps another way to frame the thoughtful questions: What is it that keeps you from loving yourself and sharing love with and for others? The answer is within and once found is so freeing.

Phil, is the dialogue you mention in your commentary available online? (I'll look for it?)

Philip Metres said...

Thanks, Maureen. You've added some wonderful questions to my list--maybe more direct and pertinent!

The dialogue is found here: https://lareviewofbooks.org/interview/borders-tongue

Maureen said...

Thank you for the link, Phil. Much appreciated. Will head over to read now.

Therapy teaches such reframing; it forces the questioner to look inward, rather than respond with a yes or no or speak generally, and the answer, of course, opens up to more questions and greater discovery.

Philip Metres said...

For sure. Learning every day!