by Christine Fojas
after Mahmoud Darwish's "And we have countries..."
And we wish we had countries without borders, like our idea
of home, sharp and ambiguous-- countries whose maps
are free of thorns; we walk through them unwounded
in their labyrinths: We know you and are known.
Countries that grow by saltation, feast
after feast, so as to forget
the ones that wither, a river running lower
and lower until it ceases to flow. Countries where bridges
are built to beget poems, where promises keep,
where the shadows are full of peace.
But everything dies with the rising sun;
dreaming is an inherited dis-ease.
Geography emits sacred texts.
And what is sacred requires edges we must defend.
The exile tells himself: I will return.
To what? The sun's constant fire, the vanishing birds,
a house with a stranger's scent, a gravestone
under a tree--maps are always obsolete,
here but to contain memory's terrain, the only true place.
Everything distant coalesces into paradise,
as if the earth is an Impressionist painting
hanging on a black wall. I say: These are the countries
that bear us over and over; these are the cords
that tie down our souls. How long til the womb lets us go?
And how do we emerge whole?
prompt: poem remix