Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Grumpiness; Darwish

Glum this morning, or at least exhausted. My son up most of the night, my daughter from 1-3, my wife afflicted with kicking, twitching nightmares. I blame Hillary, although I suppose the real culprits are the start of school (for the kids) and a slough of new client work (for the missus). Either way, I'm done in, and it's scarcely 9 o'clock.


After 17 days of heaven in Ireland, earlier this summer, the rest of the season has been hard. Too many projects (heard that before?), too little sleep, a summer class that thrilled me while I taught it, but had me scrambling to keep up with my own syllabus, reading-wise, for the past five weeks. I have until the 10th, thank God, before my own courses begin, but so much to read, write, think about before then, it's a bit harrowing.

I've also been suffering from a serious case of the blues these past few weeks--unusual for me, and a bit disconcerting for the wife & kids, as well as for me. I blamed the work, my insomniac family, and other outside sources, but the real culprit, I've since decided, was my ill-conceived notion that to deal with all this stress I had to cut back on caffeine. En vacances I could get away with little more than mugs of Irish tea, but trying to do that here at home left me in a horrid state. Since I ramped up the dosage, I've been feeling better. Embarrassing, how easy that was--a tribute to how little the conscious, deliberative self is really in charge of one's life.

"Not I, not I, but the joe that blows through me," as D.H. Lawrence would say.


So, anyway, I need to go work. Here's today's poem--actually a few parts of a longer poem, but the work comes in numbered sections, and although it's best as a whole, each part works well on its own. The poem is "Ruba'iyat" ("Quatrains") by the recently deceased Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish; I don't know whether the original Arabic followed the AABA quatrain form, but the translation I have in hand, done by Noel Abdulahad and collected in The Adam of Two Edens, leaves that Persian form aside and gives us free verse stanzas like these instead.
I've seen all I want to see of the field:
tresses of wheat combed by the wind.
I close my eyes:
this mirage leads to the music of Nahawand--
this silence leads to a blue twilight.

I've seen all I want to see of peace:
a deer, a pasture, and a stream.
I close my eyes:
the deer is asleep in my arms--
his hunter is asleep in a faraway place
near his children.

I've seen all I want to see of death:
in love, my chest splits open
and the white horse of Eros bolts out of it,
gallops above infinite cloud,
races with the eternal blue.
Don't stop me from dying!
Don't return me to an earthly star.

I've seen all I want to see of poetry:
we used to wear garlands of flowers
and follow the funeral processions
of our martyred poets, then come back
safe and sound to their poems.
But in this tabloid age of cinemas and loud buzzing noises
we jeer as we bury their poems in heaps of dust
then see them waiting in doorways
when we get home.

I've seen all I want to see of people:
their nostalgic desire for anything and everything,
their slow pace going to work,
their fast pace coming home,
their incessant need to hear the words:
Good morning!
I love that last one, so deliciously grumpy. A good poem to get this morning out of my system, so that I can get some work done--or at least begun.


RfP said...

Thanks for sharing the Darwish. Reading his grump lessened my own this morning. Writing bile with style is so much more productive than my garden-variety bile.

Laura Vivanco said...

Being the deeply caring, empathetic (and extremely humble) person that I am, I've been refraining from nagging you about anything. That's my contribution to staving off your grumps/blues. I suppose I could also send you some virtual caffeine, but I don't think it would be much help.

Hope you all get to bed early and have lots of sleep and sweet dreams tonight.