Re-humanization

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i read recently, a short piece of prose by the Palestinian poet Ghassan Zactan, about his mother’s memories of a Jewish girl she liked, which led him to talk about his friend & fellow Palestinian poet, Mahmoud Darwish. Zactan, explains that just as his mother after years of occupation could still allow the memory to be un-corrupted by all the terrible things that had happened to her, that she could still humanize the enemy, so in his poetry Darwish had continually given the enemy “character traits”, which humanized them.
The article made me rethink what an enemy is. The original title for this poem was Enemies. This is not just a poem about Palestine, it just so happens a Palestinian poet helped me see differently. This poem applies to every marginalized people who are shadowed & in those shadows dehumanized into a dangerous mythology.It sickens me that even after all that has happened in the history of man, we are still led to these conclusions about entire peoples, because of how susceptible we remain to ignorance & rhetoric.

Re-humanization

First of all, if you want to overcome it,
you’d best give it a name; transparency
gets under the skin with the word a mother feeds
& loves, a friend puts at the start of sentences.

Once unraveled from the itchy thicket of it,
the name requires a body, something to cast shadows;
eyes that couple the sun, hair that gathers dew;
breath visible on January afternoons.

Mahmoud Darwish made clarity with enemies,
wrote their angle in space, the strait of time
& rendered forms from monstrous figurines
born of a thousand terrors, hidden in sounds.
The failure to meet such silence head on,
is to distend the story-making spleen of men.

i never had an enemy
— what do i know of them?

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14 Comments Add yours

  1. “The failure to meet such silence head on, is to distend the story-making spleen of men…” that is REALLY profound! You deserve to have your work in one of the Norton Anthologies!!!!

    1. Thanks. Such a lot happening in that line. The image of the ‘spleen’ implies the ‘story-making’ as myth. i was & remain heavily influenced by Northrop Frye’s ‘Anatomy of Criticism’ which in short shows the limitations imposed by narrative structures & thus why we are recycling the old myths in our stories. i like that. i also recall reading somewhere that the spleen was the humor of anger. This is why i write poetry, to pack a line with so much. Kenneth Burke in his Philosophy of Literary Forms wrote an essay called Literature as Equipment for Living, which essentially explains how any great work of literature can be reduced to an apothegm, such as “If a stone hits the pitcher or the pitcher hits the stone, it’s bad for the pitcher.” So lines like the one you quoted makes me happy, because i write them to stick out, because i had all these influences accumulate so i could write them, i am overjoyed when people pick them out & i get the satisfaction that i am doing something right. So thank you. Fingers crossed for Norton, haha. i am finishing up a narrative in poetry of about 30 pages, which i am hoping is going to get me a first publication as i really am hoping it is going to appeal to a Press, fingers crossed again.

      1. This is why what you write works. You write with the gravitas of Harlan Ellison’s work ethic, intense effort and thought and revision to create maximum honesty (which has maximum impact).

        If you don’t end up in one of the Norton collections eventually I would be VERY surprised…

      2. i make little room for anything else in my mind.

      3. Your mind is not for this world, clearly. That it must be forcibly washed daily in the complete nonsense of the rest of humanity must be very very very very demoralizing at given moment! LOL!

      4. That is an ironic thing to say give this poem’s subject. Haha. i have my coping mechanisms which get annexes now n’ then. i take a lot from what i read & see even if i can’t remember well.

      5. I think Jeju is a great place for you right now: an island apart where you can sculpt and fortify your soul for any/all future studies in Korean, teaching creativity writing, and continuing to rescue the written word from becoming it’s current status as a blunt and wicked vehicle solely “appropriate” for selling Coca-cola and insulting immigrants.

      6. We must rescue poetry from Boris Johnson.

      7. … and rescue reality from American politics…

      8. …& people from the lethargic cyclical maddness of consumerism…

  2. kvennarad says:

    [No comment this morning – bad migraine, can’t think straight.]

    1. Don’t let me exacerbate that for you then. Hope you are on the mend.

    1. Words pack a punch, i am still learning to use them this way.

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