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from the September 2014 issue

Exile is Born at This Moment

Oh, my love,
while you are in my breath,
I am a statue of snow
at the entrance to Damascus,
with eyes closed,
nose breathing anger,
ears tuned to the noise of death,
mouth speechless,
trying to say:
when blood is exiled,
nothing binds it to the race.

With you in my breath,
my every moment is absurd.
Uselessness rehearses images in my mind.
On the screens I watch
Metal snow falling.
Ink is a dimming light.
Eyes do not see
yet fill with images.
Oh, eyes,
you are also covered
by the snow of these times,
these roads.

The door we knock on is always closed,
and when it is opened,
we glimpse another that is closed.
We linger inside
darkness injected with the opium
of what is glowing there.

The postman tosses newspapers in front of doors,
opening metal boxes meant to hold
white envelopes, inside of which are flakes of words.
A carriage on the sidewalk leans on metal legs,
snow crumbling under its feet.
Whiteness rends its dues from the city.
The words open neither doors nor windows,
piercing them with invisible bullets instead,
filling the boxes with milk.   
The children drink indifferently of snow.
The postman’s back is bowed.
In his face are messages meant for no one,
of anger, or maybe acceptance,
of the burden he bears on two shoulders.
He knows that he will vanish
like a snowflake in the street.

A man rehearses running.
His feet leave prints on the sidewalk.
He daydreams.
His head leaves
his shoulders for another country,
another country that is but
a heap of snow,
coldness in my bones,
a light waiting in line at the door of darkness,
the blade of a knife flashing in the moment of shock.

I think of my heart and what it loves,
of blood flowing in my veins,
my life buried under the snow of absence,
loss that tastes of a city,
an extension of the map
burning itself,
the map of childhood drawing figures
on torn paper,
destroyed walls and charred furniture.
Childhood, you are but 
a flake of oblivion.

Here is the snow.
I will not forget its whiteness,
the way it blankets everything with its one idea.
I wait for the snow inside me to melt.
So, emptiness remains confirmed,
and the abyss spacious.
Whiteness burdens boughs.
Nakedness avoids the embrace
in the park’s horizon.
The faces creep white,
dreaming vainly
of a larva of light,
or a vein of warmth in the desert of snow.

It is the snow
in my inherited soul,
in the words I sucked in,
in you, the warmth of childhood
under the fading trees.
It is the snow
of friendship and love,
of holding one another in leased houses
and closed neighborhoods,
The snow
freezes me.
I am the burdened one. 

The snow blows against windows and doors in dreams,
accumulating in front of houses,
setting traps,
reminding the passerby of his and her depths:
Is my inner world a prairie of snow,
where silence is the only bird that flutters its snowy wings?

In you, oh, river dividing the city in two.
nothing passes except the summer
that built fires on your banks,
whose laughter climbed the ladders of the ships.
Women competed to trade places with each other’s faces.
Men talked about their business,
submitting their eyes to their eyes.

It is the snow
in your heart, stranger!
while you descend the stair toward an idea in your depths,
lighting candles with what you remember,
swings that rise and descend nowhere  
but in the closed horizon of the Mediterranean.
You continue down the stair
arriving nowhere.
You believe your life is trapped
where snow accumulates
and where dreams melt or flake in the gray sky,
along a line of frozen wings.

Exile is born at this moment.
It can be read in the features of the alien walking
without enabling images
to possess his mind,
wanting to dig a road in the snow,
to make sure his pulse is not a flake of ice.
His sorrows melt with the horizon,
undressing its whiteness,
wearing the light of the sun
when spring emerges,
rising with its mad vegetation.
There’s a cry from the throat of the earth,
a melody played by the roots
of the city, which does not listen
but talks and talks,
flows and flows,
builds mountains of oblivion.

I see whiteness,
dust of whiteness
eyes stumbling in the light,
not seeing the light.

It is the snow of March
predicting your footsteps, stranger
who hauls a bag of sorrows
from one train station to another
with a look cast down
on dawn’s crossroads.  
You, who wonder which road to take,
feeling the tremor of desiring suns
inside you
while listening to the sap
singing in the veins of trees,
the music of the veins
on the beaches of the Mediterranean.
Violent snow falls.
Blood spoils the whiteness.
Mourning snow accumulates.
It’s a dawn without expectation,
where the bloody country folds shut
the future’s book,
opening other books
full of prayers
for the bodies that feed
paradise’s cemetery.

Oh, snow—
Oh, whiteness—
Whiteness of the covered dead,
whiteness of five prayers.  
The Mediterranean is blue static.
The horizon line is a wound
separating us from the world.
We are left to our cries
the whiteness of the coffins,
prayers that open roads
toward other cemeteries.

But the voices in the throats
of the cities and the countryside
will hang their sun in the horizon
with two hands made of light.

I will not beg light to guide me.
I will not clap to the sun of words.  
I will leave the doors open
and face my face in its mirror,
where winds blow
in all directions
housing lost voices
of the exiled, giving oblivion
a lovelier name.

My life knocks at the door of a new place.
It climbs barefoot up the walls searching for buried suns.
Oh, confused captain, my dream,
oh, eternal immigrant, my imagination,
Has one of you a balsam for my despair?

© Osama Esber. Translation © 2014 by Osama Esber. All rights reserved.

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