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Calligraphies: IV

Eight in the morning.
The old woman down the hall
is playing Fairouz.

Gray rain stains these slanted roofs.
Beirut smothers in sandstorms.

The drunkard implores
his neighbor's pretty daughter
not to forget him

in the grand old woman's song.
Down the hall, she sings along.


A hall of closed doors
locked on possibilities,
a hall of mirrors,

each reflection is grotesque.
Frontiers are rediscovered

and fenced with barbed wire.
My grandfather's language and
the one I plug at

shouted at each other, un-
comprehending. Mirrors, doors.


The morning mirror
is a window on the rain—
early October

like winter in this city.
At the desk in pajamas,

sorry for yourself,
with dictionary open
to hopeless desires,

you write a word, close your eyes,
hear footsteps diminishing.


Diminishing light—
still dark at six, six-thirty,
beige gauze blinds down.

The cafe has its lights on
as it did five hours ago.

Read for half an hour
in bed, or grab a sweater,
run a bath with foam,

then coffee, newspapers where
daily the darkness augments.


My bald friend augments
the ages of all women
his age or older,

writers, teachers, his colleagues.
"She must be at least eighty."

"No, she's sixty-eight
if that makes any difference."
"No, she's not sixty,

she's fifty-four, like you are."
(And his girlfriend's twenty-two.)


Two surtitle screens,
English and French. The actors
act in Arabic:

the sack of Ur; scribes, tablets,
the scholar martyr who read

and translated them.
Rasha knows half the actors,
slips back toward real life

amidst gongs, lamentations,
murdered words resurrected.


Resurrected day—
July's late afternoon walks
to reconsider

the unfinished, unstarted,
all the way to the canal.

Three more hours of light:
you could start, you could finish ...
That was then. Now dusk

deepens before seven, and
late afternoon becomes night.


Bright fall afternoon
to walk to the Mairie with
a sack of towels,

shirts, three backpacks, for the bin—
collection for refugees.

You wouldn't offer
your friends two-year-old cashmeres.
In cafés, they won't

let you pick up the bill, and
say "Next year in Damascus ... "


At this time of year
new classes take their form for
teacher and student,

proofs to read for Spring issues
while mailing the just-printed Fall.

I emigrated,
mark the seasons without a
work permit. So I'm

a student again, translate
three ways, begin forever.


Whoever you were,
I'll get used to your absence.
Dinner companion

of a decade and a half,
her wit silenced at ninety;

loves of my life who
decided otherwise, now
something else, or gone ...

yesterday's brown eyes or green,
yesterday's future now past.


Now, figs in salad,
cut up, or figs in labne,
green Italian figs,

and blue-black Provençal figs
from the three brothers' fruit-stand.

Remember figuiers'
branches overhanging stone
walls, or the time we

climbed a ladder to the roof
and picked the late figs of Vence.


Vence in September:
on the terrace with Marie,
we heard the ravine

murmur its prelude and fugue
to our reticent breakfasts—

coffee, bread and jam.
She was fifty-nine, and I
was thirty-seven,

that is, almost the same age
as we turned to our day's work.


A sonnet turns from
affirmation to question,
landscape to closeup,

a routine doctor's visit
from a chore to a verdict.

The week-old child turns
in her safe wooden cradle
on a Kurdish rug

where a stork feather weaves its
distant song through her morning.

Marilyn Hacker

The Hopkins Review

Fall 2016

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