These poems are part of a dual-language collaboration in which each pair of poems, written in response to the same photograph, appear to be translations of each other, but are not. Ultimately, the project reckons with notions of translatability and how language is shaped in both foreign and domestic spheres. In 2018, Indolent Books will publish the collaboration, entitled: Translucence/ بين قارّتين.
Friday. July. I have gotten out of bed, and though I should be confronting my demons (or, at least, cleaning something, emailing someone), I stare instead at a photograph of a baby deer. I would like to rub the softness of its ear. I would like to have a whole garden of lamb’s ears and for the years to be less like years. I would like summer squash, and to not be lonely, or to be lonelier. The body is grass and bruises, a collection of what it has and/or hasn’t consumed. On Saturday, we wrapped the dead rabbit in a soft cloth. My husband hung the American flag above the garage. The girls burned their marshmallows, and we told them they were better that way. O tongue, you are a dirty thing.
In the country, my daughters drop a farm egg into a jar of white vinegar and call it an experiment. Beyond the trees, a storm builds, and waiting for something to happen, we pass the hours reading a How-to-do-Everything book: how to banish imaginary monsters, prune a rosebush, rim a glass with salt. I have been trying not to drink too much. How to fake an exposed bone, fit out a foxhole radio, tell time with a potato. The book recommends folding panties in thirds for travel; harnessing a cloud’s power; adorning bouquets with satin ribbon. There’s a two-page spread on how to identify male facial hair. How to cut a mango, walk safely in a swamp, disarm a homemade bomb. My husband says he can hear me ticking. I imagine him sticking his fingers inside me to try to find the right wire to cut.
Eva says the eclipse makes her feel guilty. Bodies in front of bodies. Bodies between bodies. Bodies on bodies. O body, I dreamed I dragged a bucket across the desert and tried to drown you. All week I have been itching. Twice, my friend has checked me for lice, and twice she has found nothing. I feel guilty about everything: the strawberry jelly I let my daughter eat from the jar, last night’s falling star, the rice, the rain, the funeral parlor, hating the sound of words coming out of mouths, the crush I had on a boy who thumbtacked a Dixie flag above the dirty sheets of his never-made waterbed. How long does it take for one self to eclipse the other? Self as woman at kitchen table, as thief, whore, white trash, hick, bitch. Self in bed. Tea, honey, wine. Dirt, air, pine.
I read a story once of a mother who, with a broken hand, went into her kitchen in the desert to warm a cup of milk for her grown daughter. Do you know it? Or the one of the man in China who could not bear the sound of his wife’s chopsticks knocking against the bowl when she ate her morning rice? A sore on the spine. I have put away ten thousand spoons since I met you. Or the same spoon ten thousand times. Or five spoons each two thousand times. Ten, one. Have I changed? Do we ever? Ever not? Evergreen. Nevermind. This is the story of a straight white line, the story of animals that are blind, of bodies in boats, of the statue that was felled, of my flag and your flag, your father and mine. It might as well be 1949. To ourselves we must be kind.
Nicole Callihan’s books include SuperLoop (Sockmonkey Press 2014), and the chapbooks: A Study in Spring (2015), The Deeply Flawed Human (2016), Downtown (2017), and Aging. Her poems have appeared, or are forthcoming, in Muzzle, Sixth Finch, Painted Bride Quarterly, The American Poetry Review, and as a Poem-a-Day selection from the Academy of American Poets. Find her on the web at www.nicolecallihan.com.
Samar Abdel Jaber Is the author of Wa fi rewayaten okhra (And There Are Other Accounts; Malameh Publishing House, 2008); Madha law konna ashbahan (What If We Were Ghosts; Dar Al Ahleyya Publishers, 2013), winner of the Palestinian Young Writer of the Year Award granted by the A.M. Qattan Foundation; and Kawkab mansey (The Forgotten Planet; Dar Al Ahleyya, 2015), published through a grant from SELAT, Links Through the Arts project, organized by A.M. Qattan Foundation and the Prince Claus Fund. Samar participated in the 2008 Arab Female Poets’ Festival in Damascus, Syria. In 2012, she won a prize granted by the Danish Institute in Damascus for the best poems that reflect the status of Arab societies after the Arab Spring and its effect on youth, and thus participated in the Copenhagen Literature Festival that year. In 2016, she participated in the Khan Al Fonoun Festival in Amman, Jordan. Samar holds a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering from Beirut Arab University (2008) and is currently working in Dubai. She blogs at www.summerblues.blogspot.com and tholatheyyat.blogspot.com.