blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsFall 2010  Vol. 9  No. 2
print version
translation by Ghassan Nasr with Joseph Heithaus

Numerical Conjecture

These are not numerical symbols
They are not dates of defeats or chronicles of victories
and not
a language for measuring the calendar’s arithmetic
or for marking an early punishment or a delayed reward
My memory is betrayed
by monotonous math classes
with their yawning lessons
and me leaving through the bolted window
without the teacher sensing anything
except the unruly winds
the source of which she fears
I surrender my withered body
to the surprises of the number six
Days not yet titled
Names the angels
have not yet heard
A universe coming into existence all at once
Mountains not yet arched from the ground or chiseled out
Fresh hearts not yet worthy of betrayal
Soil where blood has not been spilled
Prey not yet caught
A moon whose beauty hasn’t been defiled by metaphors
A bride who hasn’t been snatched away
A sun so new it has never set
Pride that has not been humbled
And no sooner do I reach seven
than the seventh day arrives
Friday night or Sunday morning appears
announcing a time of rest
forbidding any wandering in regions beyond the week
One sudden current follows another
and pacifies my fears of the shudder of discovery
Slowly, slowly
what is known in my blood coagulates bit by bit
almost transforms into encumbering custom
I stretch my body on grass dulled
by the rolling of lovers
I start a morning with a sunrise
exhausted from the repetitions of a summer
I collide with a night wrinkled by ages of sleep
I ask for water and a glass
comes to me smeared with the rouge of lips
I travel and the horizons are blocked
by checkpoint gates
and at those edges I am hounded
by the curse of my olive skin
The teacher hooks me by the waist
with her fishing rod of numbers
and pulls me up without me being prepared
The exam:
Recite the multiplication tables
A pregnant woman screeches
as her labor pains have come
Valleys spill from the narrows of her pelvis
I shake a palm tree
Its roots are only in my memory
A new existence dawns to destroy my previous experience
The unknown mocks what I had imagined to be
answers new questions
I start back to school again
and begin pronouncing the ABCs
sensing joys I hadn’t known
I try writing with the ink of my mother’s milk
Six days
Seven skies
Nine months  end

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