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from the April 2006 issue

Jameel Bouthaina, and I

We grew older, Jameel Bouthaina and I, each
alone, in two separate eras . . .
It is time that does what sun
and wind do: it polishes us then kills us whenever
the mind bears the heart's passion, or
whenever the heart reaches its wisdom

Jameel! does she grow old, like you, like me,

She grows old, my friend, outside the heart
in others' eyes. But inside me
the gazelle bathes in the spring that pours out of her being

Is that her, or is that her image?

That's her, my friend. Her flesh, her blood,
and her name. Timeless. She might stop me
tomorrow on her road to her yesterday

Did she love you, Jameel? Or did she like being a metaphor
in your songs, a pearl . . . whenever she stared
into your nights and welled up, she rose easterly as a moon
with a heart of stone?

It's love, my friend, our chosen death
one passerby marrying the absolute in another . . .
No end for me, no beginning for me. No
Bouthaina for me or me for Bouthaina. This
is love, my friend. I wish I were
twenty doors younger than myself

for the air to be light on me, and for her side-profile

at night to be clearer than a mole
above her navel . . .

Did you seduce her, Jameel, contrary to what
the narrators have said about you, and did she seduce you?

I married her. We shook the heavens and they streamed
milk on our bread. Whenever I came to her my body
bloomed flower by flower, and my tomorrow spilled
its wine drop by drop into her jugs

Were you created for her, Jameel,
and will you remain for her?

I was ordered and tutored. I have no concern
for my spilled presence like water on her grape
skin. And no concern for the immortality
that will follow us like shepherd dogs.
I am only as Bouthaina created me

Would you explain love to me, Jameel,
to remember it one idea at a time?

People who know love best are the most perplexed,
you must burn, not to know yourself, but
to illuminate Bouthaina's night . . .

Higher than the night, Jameel flew
and broke his crutches. And leaned into my ear
and whispered: If you see Bouthaina in another
woman, make of death, my friend,
a friend. And glitter over there, in Bouthaina's
name, like the nûn in rhyme!

Read more from the April 2006 issue
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