I Am Practicing Now,
turning sleeves and glands of your language
through the back of my throat and kissing black edges.
So many syllables saturated with flavors of mourning.
The sky is clear again today. Nihna Awadim: we are human.
********Long shadows fall against windows.
****************No spots, no secret intentions. Hel aan I say,
and “now” means the name of this country.
Now is where you try again, find days on either side,
straight and without betrayal.
When you were in the old country, in the inventory of cousins,
each cluster of hours simmered from minutes.
Now, your real language tongued by chance
********writhes and rises from you. A reliance on the throat,
****************the region wet and thick. Such wreckage.
To my ear, the rough places are beautiful, nourishing.
Say anything. Never stop saying anything.
These fugitive words are all surface and passage,
all fraction, animal-fragment and brutal.
I half expect what doesn’t come:
********assa, hozn, ghadan. Which of these is right?
You never tell me –
but when you speak it, your face lifts.
Nihna Awadim. Suddenly I want the bulges and bulk.
I want to eat one by one the rectangular sounds.
You taught me tamarh hinde, tamarind, my short lesson in Arabic,
********swirling the pen right to left on a napkin in a plastic booth
at McDonald’s. Anyone looking at our particular posture
that day would know the sticky brown pulp of the word
didn’t interest me. But now I believe I was waiting.
Uthraan. Uthraan. Ani ma af-hem. Ana
ma atkalam Arabee.
I’m sorry. I don’t understand. I don’t speak Arabic.
There are plenty of days I cannot undress.
And days of helicopters. And clatter, acid and tenderness.
Words don’t stick right. They emerge mournful and curled,
as if stirred in the wrong pot.
Lauren Camp is the author of two volumes of poetry, most recently The Dailiness, winner of the National Federation of Presswomen 2014 Poetry Book Prize and a World Literature Today “Editor’s Pick.” Her third book, One Hundred Hungers, was selected by David Wojahn for the Dorset Prize, and will be published by Tupelo Press. Her poems have appeared in Brilliant Corners, Beloit Poetry Journal, Linebreak, Nimrod, J Journal, and elsewhere. She hosts “Audio Saucepan,” a global music/poetry program on Santa Fe Public Radio, and writes the blog Which Silk Shirt. www.laurencamp.com