Mar. 21, 2009
Poem on a Line by Anne Sexton, 'We are All Writing God's Poem'
Today, the sky's the soft blue of a work shirt washed
a thousand times. The journey of a thousand miles
begins with a single step. On the interstate listening
to NPR, I heard a Hubble scientist
say, "The universe is not only stranger than we
think, it's stranger than we can think." I think
I've driven into spring, as the woods revive
with a loud shout, redbud trees, their gaudy
scarves flung over bark's bare limbs. Barely doing
sixty, I pass a tractor trailer called Glory Bound,
and aren't we just? Just yesterday,
I read Li Po: "There is no end of things
in the heart," but it seems like things
are always endingvacation or childhood,
relationships, stores going out of business,
like the one that sold jeans that really fit
And where do we fit in? How can we get up
in the morning, knowing what we do? But we do,
put one foot after the other, open the window,
make coffee, watch the steam curl up
and disappear. At night, the scent of phlox curls
in the open window, while the sky turns red violet,
lavender, thistle, a box of spilled crayons.
The moon spills its milk on the black tabletop
for the thousandth time.
It's the birthday of Syrian poet Nizar Qabbani, (books by this author) born in Damascus (1923). His father owned a chocolate factory, and he gave money to support the resistance of Syrian guerillas, so he was put in prison on various occasions. When Nizar Qabbani was 15, his older sister committed suicide rather than marry a man she did not love. After that, he devoted his writing to championing romantic love and urging women to break the constraining bonds of the traditional roles Arab society set out for them. He said: "Love in the Arab world is like a prisoner, and I want to set it free. I want to free the Arab soul, sense and body with my poetry."
He published his first book of poetry, The Brunette Told Me (1944), when he was 19 years old. Its erotic poems created a controversy in conservative Syrian society. He went to law school and then became a diplomat, serving in Cairo, Istanbul, Beirut, Madrid, London, and China. He continued to write poetry. He wrote many love poems, like "My Lover Asks Me":
My lover asks me:
"What is the difference between me and the sky?"
The difference, my love,
Is that when you laugh,
I forget about the sky.
His wife was killed in Beirut in 1982 by a bomb set off by pro-Iranian guerillas during the Lebanese civil war. He was devastated, and he blamed "the entire Arab world" for her death. Qabbani left Beirut, moved to Europe, and never remarried.
He continued to be a prolific poet, publishing about 40 volumes over the course of his 50 years of writing. He died from a heart attack at the age of 75.
Light is more important than the lantern,
The poem more important than the notebook,
And the kiss more important than the lips.
My letters to you
Are greater and more important than both of us.
They are the only documents
Where people will discover
And my madness.
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®