Thursday 5 November 2015

4 Poems by Emma Moughabghab

City in the East

At the center, upon the peak of the grey hill,
you hold the beating heart of the gyroscope;
it goes round and round and back again:
surrounded by fleeting shadows of multiple lives,
it melts in the summer heat in an iridescent simulation
of the shimmering lights and whispering voices of the city.

The rooster’s crow rises with the morning call to prayer,
incongruous among the waking sounds, slithering through the alleys,
it echoes in the winding ways between shouldered buildings;
bears upwards in a spiraling maze of plastered bricks,
through bending roofs, laden monuments and innumerable breaths.

As the city rises blanketed by the daring rays of the sun,
the rainbow canopy of skin and sound pours into the streets,
welling up in the morning vibe, it seeps into nooks and crannies,
trampling stone and tarmac to the beat of stirring life.

God’s Backyard

They are lined up, their heads bowed, their hands bound,
muttering the right words to the wrong god
they fall asleep by the next shot;
blinded by humanoid reflections, by images of ghosts
splattered with blood from necks, from inviolable folds
bent and towed to Friday market.
Their crooked fingers forced toward unforgiving skies,
they are marched through lands that they once tilled—
they are branded with expunged initials.
Relegated to the unforgiving dirt and a paper sun
they wait for exploding water: Dead on Arrival.

Those who remain, extend molded hands beneath dirty linen
for sawdust crumbs and a pitying gaze,
contrived smiles and silence;
and the few who push off with nothing to take back,
they brush off, the doors behind them ajar,
rotting in the barren earth and smoke.
Swapped and swapped again they mutter the right words
to the wrong god until the next round
when they too fall asleep by the next shot.
And a few many years later,
tourist sandals trample cracked mosaics
beneath walls silenced of their bartered songs,
now relegated to the needs of a mightier good.

How Not to Make it Through the Door
Words suspended in space around my eyes
are written in invisible ink that my mind colors blue.
The car won’t start and it’s far too dangerous to bike
but neither are the problem.

There’s always the front door with its steel handle,
steel frame and dead locks, all nine of them.
I could just make up sentences right here on the couch;
edit them, polish them, type them up and call it a day.

Yes, there’s hope—
The kind that is spurred by boredom and laziness.
Just enough of each to patch up a nice pair of curtains
to mask all the bars on all the windows, refract the light
upon request or snuff it out completely, also upon request.

I drool at reality on TV and attempt to shake my head loose
but slam it against the wall instead and see stars for my trouble.
I had tried screaming into a pillow, once, and it was quite enough
to understand that pillows are only sound proof in the movies.


We surf through swindled lives
where cats wear paper scarves
and dance for us in cancerous heat—
Like a humming-bird’s flight in the creeping sunshine,
we deliberate about the pope over our morning coffee
and take pride in lies hidden in vacuum,
when our tears would bathe, as rain,
the despised ocean.
Still, as our mouths bend in smiles
like tulips heavy with blossom,
we longingly whisper grains of dreams
of cherry trees that penetrate the snow,
of desert winds that hail in the Spring.


Emma Moughabghab is a Composition and Rhetoric Instructor as well as the Coordinator of the Writing Center at the American University of Beirut, Lebanon. Her research focuses on interdisciplinary analyses of the visual arts and literature, the intersections between media and literary theory, mediation, and the networks of power in poststructuralist literature. Her academic work has appeared in Studies in the Humanities and her poetry is forthcoming in Rusted Radishes: The Beirut Literary and Art Journal where she serves on the editorial board.  Her paintings have been exhibited at the UNESCO palace in Beirut, Lebanon.

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