In my other life, when I was a Polar explorer,
the cold was penetrating—like the way air enters
an accordion. Being raised by bears
though, I was used to it. I would wait at the rim
for something to move in the blue-black shimmering,
then drop a paw into the frigid surface,
pressed under my own image for a fish.
Sometimes I pulled up scales,
You wait at the water in all that cold.
Then you hear a kind of music
on the wind, as if it were schooling all around
and you hear it.
You’re inside the music, everything
immediately around you, which in that moment
feels like everything there is. Then you are back
on your haunches, in the near silence of thought,
or the absence as you let go—
of memory, and it swims back toward that unlit quarter
beneath the frigid rim of something you
will never understand, even though it is quite familiar.
I want to place a river / In the prison. I want to steal the cells / And throwthem in the sea — Riad Saleh Hussein
Deaf, you could find a dog whistle
Inside your mind
And ignore it
Because you were writing a poem then.
On the streets of Damascus,
Coffee shops in Aleppo
There is a shadow
Walking around shouting at officials.
Who would erase smoke
With their hands, who would banish
Words for choking
And the way they get inside you
Like aspirin? You wanted
To be an earthquake and shake
Idle hearts. Thieves
Stole your bed, have hidden it
Inside a cloud.
I am stealing you
Right now. The mist
Lingers over Asia, extends
All the way to Aleppo. Over your stolen grave,
It refuses to leave,
Denies the wind
Its place in the world—
Cigarette smoke from his lips,
The kiss he gave everyone,
And one last wish for a life
Blown out of his lungs.
Scott Minar is consulting translations editor at Crazyhorse, the author of four books of poetry (two of which have been translated into Arabic), and author or editor of three textbooks on poetry writing. His essays and poems have appeared in Poetry International, The Paris Review, Ninth Letter, The Newfoundland Herald, Alquds Al-Arabi (Arabic Jerusalem/London), and other journals.