Read the introduction, "The Horse Is Always Running" by Monica Sok.
Personal Political Poem
Around midnight I stalled
outside a police station
in Henry Ford’s hometown.
The cops told me to keep
walking. A mile later
the Arab gas station attendant—
his shirt said Sam—he talked
and talked and talked.
He asked if I recognized him.
He said when we were young
we knew each other.
He’d been to the house
I grew up in. His father
loved my father, his mother
loved my mother.
He said he was sorry
about what happened to her.
He said we’re all dying
but we should get to grow old
and just like that shouldn’t be
how a life ends. He said
he was at the funeral.
Seeing me carry the casket
made him imagine
one day doing the same.
I said it was late, I needed
to get back, the cops
were going to tow my car.
He showed me a newspaper.
He said he was the guy
who pulled a drowning girl
from a crowded pool.
He pointed to the mayor
shaking his hand. He said
the mayor was the kind of guy
who would jab his finger
at your chest and say,
You don’t look like a Sam.
He said, No wonder
the mayor still hates us.
There was something better
out there, he said. He knew
there was. For him. For me.
I told him it was true.
He did not look like a Sam.
Self-Portrait with Dog, Possum, Newspaper, and Shovel
From the fence and from the possum
with the deep gash across its neck, I drag the dog.
And when, the temperature
steadily climbing, I come back close enough
to tell its left eye is punctured and its back broken,
the possum hisses.
The dog did this as a game
or else being what she is, a thing
of unthinking and sometimes violent force,
which is right for a dog.
I hear her now, tied up
behind me, growling, snarling, whimpering
for the kill, and over the possum’s head
I lay the newspaper with its everyday, everywhere
reminders of always something—
a blindfold cinched, a bomb
among tomatoes and cucumbers, another animal
forever passing through our lives—
and raising the shovel high
I think this is right,
but it is also hard—
the first blow does not finish the job,
and I come down again,
which is harder.
All These Questions You Ask
I know traps. I caught a pigeon
when I was a boy. In the age
of Kodachrome, I posed with a rifle
for a black and white photograph.
I thought I looked like a young
Paul Newman. You were thinking
Omar Sharif, weren’t you? In Syria,
Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Egypt, and Libya,
men with smooth hands
stamped my passport, served me
mint tea, rolled cigarettes, recited
poetry, and joked about their wives,
their presidents, their Gods.
In the name of God, I have cursed a thousand times
the name of God. Once,
I paid for a prostitute. It was Amsterdam,
I was young, she taught me
not to be ashamed. I bought her
a sandwich, she read me
Hemingway. Her name,
she would not tell me her real name.
Fair enough. I told her mine
is Haboob. Do you not understand
the joke? I heard we gave up
on irony after that Tuesday morning,
the sun shining brightly, the people
below. Do you need me
to say it was terrible. Once,
I bought Broadway tickets
and walked to Canal Street
for a Rolex. Of course it was fake
but I paid $10 and can you tell?
My brother died in a taxicab.
No one took responsibility. My neighbor
wrote a blog, wildly popular
and widely criticized. For months
no one has seen him. I don’t know
what happened to everyone else.
My mother saw Nina Simone
in Antibes. She sang her to me
the day she died. Even where you live,
how popular do you really think
is “Moon River”? You can, if you wish,
easily memorize “Quds al Anika.”
I grew vegetables on my windowsill.
I drew a map of my country
before you arrived. My wife can speak
for herself. My sons—do you see sons
behind me? Real or imagined,
my sons and daughters grow
tall as redwoods. Frankly, I don’t care
for Sinatra. Once, I studied the law.
Eye for eye, bone for bone, was written
a thousand years before Moses.
It sets a limit. My bones were always worth
as much as yours.
Hayan Charara is a poet, children's book author, essayist, and editor. His poetry books are Something Sinister (2016), The Sadness of Others (2006), and The Alchemist's Diary (2001). His children's book, The Three Lucys (2016), received the New Voices Award Honor.