30 November 2006

Cardboard City

I wrote this poem circa 1995, but it is so befitting now, don't you think??

Like the poem posted just before it (Wail From my Exile,) Cardboard City was written from the perspective of an expat who suffers from separation from and longing for the homeland.

But I re-dedicate it here to the people of Lebanon, all: the innocent bystander, the partisan duelist in the street, the greedy, exploitative politician/warlord, the news junkie, and the occasional artist who tries to meander through all the confusion to find a morsel of truth.



For years I sprinted to find the other wall in the
.....infiniteness of my confinement
In its darkness I did not sense the shadows that
.....persisted to surround me
Like groves of trees

Those were the standing shoulders of my ancients,
Once wandering desert Bedouins

For years I sprinted to fall on the other wall
In the infiniteness of my confinement


I stood in your eyes, fields of lilacs
Their flesh wall permeable like dark gates into caves
I’ve Journeyed to their other side since a time

Since a time unremembered,
The skull of head had been open from above,
Vulnerable, to the wind and to your voice

Its delicateness caused pepper tears to swell in me
.....and descend,
Spilling as the stars of a solemn night,
Smelling like the sweet scratchings of green walnut

My arms pulled down, embedded into the asphalt of
.....my confinement,
Their branching roots stretching under
To follow my running like a trail of connected regret


It is all I know
This it is, my city from whom I scream,
My city wherein I run
Her grey walls taste of bitter history like my tongue

I breathe within me jasmine breaths
Chants that hover to her breast
She hears then, my objections, but proceeds to
.....scratch me then lick me face to foot

These are the shrieks of a runaway slave
Whose hair is the traintracks on which the wretched
Whose heart is the simple orange they peel
Whose fingers of dirt they suckle
For fragments of taste in their lives

I’ve slept in the belly of the gorge of the city
My lashes are her forests of grey weary men
My raw hide is her asphalt, stretched out like a dead field
My eyes shatter their brown,
In the dispersing of moths to her street lamps

In the pulp of their hour,
Brothers spear for each other’s faces
With identical battle cries


These nights, I am a kingdom of charred plastic children
That lay in the streets disregarded

These nights, I abandon for you my words,
Juicy red petals,
In the rubble of puddles

These nights,
My heart is untame in my breast, lusting to learn love
My fear is for my poor heart,
That it may grow rusty grass on its side,
If left neglected
That my heart’s fingers are left to decay,
To flake like demolitions

I have never ignored the faint shrills of the dead in the
Them I do not comprehend
Listen only for the blue and green in their music

In my meaningless strolls these nights,
The heavy Earth feels painful when I step on her
Soil and stone ruins collapse onto each other in her
.....circular motion
In a perpetual longing for the surface of a lonely moon

These nights,
I no longer know the taste of hope
Souls burn with a lust for sorrow

Tragic is my fleeing that runs to die in the beautiful Earth
Under lightning dagger stabs that permit no rest

Love becomes a slowly learned betrayal


Mere assassinings, Your simple drizzles
My love left squandered,
Weeping blood into mud

The thirsty cardboard of our lungs,
Scraping between the distant exhaustion of us both

Longing in the prolonged sorrows that are born in these
Longing for the voice that persuades away the tension of
.....clasped hands
Longing for the eyes that widen to gaze at the lover

Who shall command my own eyes
Who shall pluck the lilies of my teeth beneath the
.....watchful moon

When all other Earths have failed me,
I plant my shadows between the evening rocks and your
.....sad freckles
I sleep in the lost capacity of your skin

Copyright © IbnBintJbeil 1995


Khawwta said...

I’m speechless..
It’s a very emotional poem.. I’m really impressed..
Mannak hayiin Ya IBJ

izzi said...

That's very beautiful. Thanks for sharing that. I love poetry.

Anonymous said...

"Cardboard City" has taken on a new meaning for me since reading for the first time a year ago. I guess what I trying to say is that the emotions behind the words ring true to me, not to say that I earlier thought they were pretentious, but that I almost feel like the narrator in a way. Although not an ex-patriot, I identify with the "rootless cosmopolitan". Besides the emotional impact that I get from your work, I think that your ability to weave written words into intense, concrete images is incredible!
I hope that this was the kind of criticism you were seeking, because my experience in writing poetry is limited.
By the way, I don't know if I've ever mentioned this to you, but I had an idea to do a "graphic poem". This would be perfect for it.

Anonymous said...

Very beautiful - thank you for sharing it .

Solomon2 said...

It's beautiful, but I'm greedy and want more: do you do poetry readings? Or at least recordings?

Ibn Bint Jbeil said...

no secondsolomon, sorry i dont regularly do public readings, and no recordings. but i will be posting other poetry soon. Thank you for all who read and commented.

abbas said...

I thoght that "Cardboard city" evoked the presence of distraughtfull tangibility. this is most preciously evoked by use of such images as, "I plant my shadows between the evening rocks and your.....sad freckles I sleep in the lost capacity of your skin". This distraughtful tangibility is understood gradually as the slowness of the poem mirrors the morrose of life experienced by the narrating presence. From examination to examination, the narrating presence orates the beauty of eloquence and exactly nothing else--as the narrating presence grows tolerant to the city examined city scape.

Anonymous said...

Great resource. keep it up!!Thanks a lot for interesting discussion, I found a lot of useful information!With the best regards!

Golaniya said...

i had to read it twice to get the images! you have the capability to articulate ya Ibn Bint Jbeil...keep it up!

poshlemon said...

Ibn Bint Jbeil,

this is the first poem I read for you. Tomorrow, I will return to read it yet again and read the others. I am speechless. You are not like the rest of us, throwing words here and there, sometimes words that make no sense, just in the name of "poetry". You write real poetry, and it is poetry that has a meaning, a flavour and so many images and stories. It is poetry that speaks for itself.

This poem is beautiful and the part I love the most and may decide to quote from you sometime (I'll come back for your permission) is the following:

"It is all I know
This it is, my city from whom I scream,
My city wherein I run
Her grey walls taste of bitter history like my tongue"