For National Poetry Month: "Days of Valentine," "Forgiveness," "Dark Notes I," "Dark Notes II"

By Fady JoudahApril 24, 2014

For National Poetry Month: "Days of Valentine," "Forgiveness," "Dark Notes I," "Dark Notes II"


In their faraway land in the year of their death
or on the month of their maiming
they were children

The war there hadn’t ended but mass killing mass
graves had stopped and the war there is a here

What’s mass equal to?
my daughter asks from her upstairs room

I say if you don’t remember it still figure it out
through the units marauding by in the question

I said in their faraway land
in the year of their death
and on that time of the month
they were children good art and good masses

And you and I are a freak show
who might solve the riddle of headaches swallow

the Tylenol sword which would be long
before it’s over-their-counter

So many teenagers look under age
and look well

Get the fuck out I said don’t come back
without a guardian

We are of age the children said we rear bear
siblings arms and I said where where
is your pubic hair and birth certificates 

As if pubic hair were all that
as if the cutoff is our Oliver Stone syndrome

The poem says I’m here to praise
the poem says Henry Miller and the plague the poets
whose songs we sing in marches are all dead

And mass is still mass
greater minds and greater failures

and women sneak out of tenderness
to equal rights to units in the machine

First come women and children
second come women and children
third come women and children

and then I wake up
a boy cornered by gunfire

and like the gentle shift
of a water hose on car in driveway
or sprinkler over grass

under a forget-me-not sky
gunfire soaks me and my father

The next day is balanced
declaring its bloodied palms

shouts a doctor in the doctors’ lounge

but I once shocked a man out of fatal rhythm
just before unconsciousness reached him
and it hurt him like hell

I could hear it in his scream 

I wake a child up
and trust the world then say

Good morning sweetie
good morning



He was in Iwo Jima
now at home hospice for emphysema
on oxygen with lower-limbs edema

I’m your one and only
Arab Muslim friend I said
He said pour Gold

Label on my grave quench my thirst
through your kidneys first
and laugh and laugh we did



Because you and I were thrown a thorn not a throne
a butterfly bone in the mind

And weather whether smoke
in the rain is awn of the rain or glume for plume
is the truth we tell xanaxed

Beauty is black in the black and roses are deep in the red
but karyotype aside

what one does with the towel
is how one makes cancer history

Hours coming like waves jumping rope
one Mississippi
two Mississippi



What I needed was skin other than that
of a bacteriophage and other than that

mist was falling like a mirage
on Rothko’s chromatography or electrophoresis

I needed a lucency that isn’t a lysis but a list
of ester hints we seat

on neural bulb tips
chocolate there and plums and berries

symphonies of earth extracurricular
A kiss

is free of a people free
of a nation or the discipline of saliva’s substrate

A kiss is bread like bread we kissed
as balcony knives lit our trail

My heart’s a doe’s
a doe’s made for running away


Fady Joudah is a Guggenheim fellow in poetry. He received the Griffin International Poetry Prize in 2013.

LARB Contributor

Fady Joudah's most recent poetry collections are Footnotes in the Order of Disappearance and Tethered to Stars, both from Milkweed Editions. He is also the author of the poetry collections Alight and Textu, both released by Copper Canyon Press. He is the recipient of the Griffin International Poetry Prize in 2013 and is a Guggenheim fellow in poetry.


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