Taproot and Cradle

Khaled Mattawa - 1964-

Evening coffee, and my mother salts
her evening broth—not equanimity,
but the nick of her wrist—

and my mother bakes bread,
and my mother hobbles knees locked,
and my mother carries the soft stones of her years.

Fists balled in my pocket,
riding the century’s drift,
I carry a wish and a wound.

It's raining a noisy frost,
the inhabitants' cruel happy laughs,
their sighs and curses,

small upheavals that slide
from their bellies,
down to their freezing toes..

And the city trudges, and night
loosens its reins, a stolen bulldozer,
a tank full of clowns.

Who’s calling
my name
from the window now?

She touches her hair—
She caresses her beauty
like the coffin of a child.

O pen of late arrivals.
O knife of darkened temples.
O my scurrying, my drunken snakes. 

I wash her hands with summer rain.
I remember the killed enemy.
I remember my good friends.

More by Khaled Mattawa

Ecclesiastes

The trick is that you're willing to help them.
The rule is to sound like you're doing them a favor.

The rule is to create a commission system.
The trick is to get their number.

The trick is to make it personal:
No one in the world suffers like you.

The trick is that you're providing a service.
The rule is to keep the conversation going.

The rule is their parents were foolish,
their children are greedy or insane.

The rule is to make them feel they've come too late.
The trick is that you're willing to make exceptions.

The rule is to assume their parents abused them.
The trick is to sound like the one teacher they loved.

And when they say "too much,"
give them a plan.

And when they say "anger" or "rage" or "love,"
say "give me an example."

The rule is everyone is a gypsy now.
Everyone is searching for his tribe.

The rule is you don't care if they ever find it.
The trick is that they feel they can.

Lyric

Will answers be found
like seeds
planted among rows of song?

Will mouths recognize
the hunger
in their voices, all mouths in unison,

the ah in harmony, the way words
of hope are more
than truth when whispered?

Will we turn to each other and ask,
how long
has it been...how long since?

A world now, a world then
and each
is seeking a foothold, trying

to remember when we looked
at one another
and found—A world again—Surely

what we long for is at the wheel 
contending.

Surely, we'll soon hear 
its unearthly groan.

Airporter

Yardley, Pennsylvania, an expensive dump
and the van seats shake their broken bones.

Duty-free liquor and cigarettes,
the refineries and the harbor's cranes.

The moon digs its way out of the dirt.
The branches of an evergreen sway.

She's nice
the woman you don't love.

She kisses you hard and often
holding your face in her big hands.