Monthly Archives: September 2012

David Bowie e Catherine Deneuve, durante as gravações de The Hunger.


By the East River and the Bronx
boys were singing, exposing their waists
with the wheel, with oil, leather, and the hammer.
Ninety thousand miners taking silver from the rocks
and children drawing stairs and perspectives.

But none of them could sleep,
none of them wanted to be the river,
none of them loved the huge leaves
or the shoreline’s blue tongue.

By the East River and the Queensboro
boys were battling with industry
and the Jews sold to the river faun
the rose of circumcision,
and over bridges and rooftops, the mouth of the sky emptied
herds of bison driven by the wind.

But none of them paused,
none of them wanted to be a cloud,
none of them looked for ferns
or the yellow wheel of a tambourine.

As soon as the moon rises
the pulleys will spin to alter the sky;
a border of needles will besiege memory
and the coffins will bear away those who don’t work.

New York, mire,
New York, mire and death.
What angel is hidden in your cheek?
Whose perfect voice will sing the truths of wheat?
Who, the terrible dream of your stained anemones?

Not for a moment, Walt Whitman, lovely old man,
have I failed to see your beard full of butterflies,
nor your corduroy shoulders frayed by the moon,
nor your thighs pure as Apollo’s,
nor your voice like a column of ash,
old man, beautiful as the mist,
you moaned like a bird
with its sex pierced by a needle.
Enemy of the satyr,
enemy of the vine,
and lover of bodies beneath rough cloth…

Not for a moment, virile beauty,
who among mountains of coal, billboards, and railroads,
dreamed of becoming a river and sleeping like a river
with that comrade who would place in your breast
the small ache of an ignorant leopard.

Not for a moment, Adam of blood, Macho,
man alone at sea, Walt Whitman, lovely old man,
because on penthouse roofs,
gathered at bars,
emerging in bunches from the sewers,
trembling between the legs of chauffeurs,
or spinning on dance floors wet with absinthe,
the faggots, Walt Whitman, point you out.

He’s one, too! That’s right! And they land
on your luminous chaste beard,
blonds from the north, blacks from the sands,
crowds of howls and gestures,
like cats or like snakes,
the faggots, Walt Whitman, the faggots,
clouded with tears, flesh for the whip,
the boot, or the teeth of the lion tamers.

He’s one, too! That’s right! Stained fingers
point to the shore of your dream
when a friend eats your apple
with a slight taste of gasoline
and the sun sings in the navels
of boys who play under bridges.

But you didn’t look for scratched eyes,
nor the darkest swamp where someone submerges children,
nor frozen saliva,
nor the curves slit open like a toad’s belly
that the faggots wear in cars and on terraces
while the moon lashes them on the street corners of terror.

You looked for a naked body like a river.
Bull and dream who would join wheel with seaweed,
father of your agony, camellia of your death,
who would groan in the blaze of your hidden equator.

Because it’s all right if a man doesn’t look for his delight
in tomorrow morning’s jungle of blood.
The sky has shores where life is avoided
and there are bodies that shouldn’t repeat themselves in the dawn.

Agony, agony, dream, ferment, and dream.
This is the world, my friend, agony, agony.
Bodies decompose beneath the city clocks,
war passes by in tears, followed by a million gray rats,
the rich give their mistresses
small illuminated dying things,
and life is neither noble, nor good, nor sacred.

Man is able, if he wishes, to guide his desire
through a vein of coral or a heavenly naked body.
Tomorrow, loves will become stones, and Time
a breeze that drowses in the branches.

That’s why I don’t raise my voice, old Walt Whitman,
against the little boy who writes
the name of a girl on his pillow,
nor against the boy who dresses as a bride
in the darkness of the wardrobe,
nor against the solitary men in casinos
who drink prostitution’s water with revulsion,
nor against the men with that green look in their eyes
who love other men and burn their lips in silence.

But yes against you, urban faggots,
tumescent flesh and unclean thoughts.
Mothers of mud. Harpies. Sleepless enemies
of the love that bestows crowns of joy.

Always against you, who give boys
drops of foul death with bitter poison.
Always against you,
Fairies of North America,
Pájaros of Havana,
Jotos of Mexico,
Sarasas of Cádiz,
Apios of Seville,
Cancos of Madrid,
Floras of Alicante,
Adelaidas of Portugal.

Faggots of the world, murderers of doves!
Slaves of women. Their bedroom bitches.
Opening in public squares like feverish fans
or ambushed in rigid hemlock landscapes.

No quarter given! Death
spills from your eyes
and gathers gray flowers at the mire’s edge.
No quarter given! Attention!
Let the confused, the pure,
the classical, the celebrated, the supplicants
close the doors of the bacchanal to you.

And you, lovely Walt Whitman, stay asleep on the Hudson’s banks
with your beard toward the pole, openhanded.
Soft clay or snow, your tongue calls for
comrades to keep watch over your unbodied gazelle.

Sleep on, nothing remains.
Dancing walls stir the prairies
and America drowns itself in machinery and lament.
I want the powerful air from the deepest night
to blow away flowers and inscriptions from the arch where you sleep,
and a black child to inform the gold-craving whites
that the kingdom of grain has arrived.

So finally, atop the fender of a tank,
lounges Walt Whitman.
Finally he observes the streets of Baghdad.
He sees above him birds of paper.
He ponders how the caliph’s palace was constructed
and how airplanes destroyed it.
Walt Whitman is not afraid of rivers.
After all, he drowned there before.
Walt Whitman is not afraid of palm trees.
After all, he let a palm tree approach and enfold him.
Walt Whitman is not afraid of a woman’s abayas,
not afraid of perfume, rouge, or camisole
because he never loved a woman.
Those who accompany Walt Whitman
will disperse before sunset.
Those who make Walt Whitman’s dinner
wish he were a vegetarian.
Those who dislike Walt Whitman’s poems
write secret poems
about what robots think
and what they like to do,
and write more poems about how valleys breathe,
the songs of wood cutters,
the sweat of plants.
Walt Whitman met Lorca at the cathedral in New York.
He met him near the casement
and on the lake, in front of the altar.
He met him in the hallway.
He met Lorca before he ran away.
Walt Whitman met al-Mutanabbi behind the Statue of Liberty.
I met Walt Whitman as I was mixing
charcoal, moss, fruits, grains and roots
to cook up something good to eat.
I met him as I lifted the translucent cover from my face.
Some wanted to kill Walt Whitman.
Gibran stabbed him with the wooden cross.
Al-Hussein planted in his heart a wilted rose
seven thorns
and a tortoise.
Mahdiyya, daughter of the Mahdi, wore a white dress
and a headscarf.
She danced on his grave.
After reading Leaves of Grass the Virgin Mother wiped her mouth.
The Virgin Mother embraced her own image in the hand mirror.
and became aware of the fingers of sleep rubbing the little ponds
and black elder
and the grass.
The concubines are looking at the mute waiter.
The concubines are the lucky ones.
Yet despite glory,
despite the song of memory,
no one reads the Old Testament.
Walt Whitman spread out on his thighs the Song of Songs
and ordered the cardinals out of the graveyard.
Everything is futile, mere grasping at the wind.
Walt Whitman is no longer lonely.
Walt Whitman is still looking for a lover who resembles him.
Here’s what his lips should look like,
and his eyes
his eyes, his chest, his legs, his feet.
The senator said to him Search among the pilots.
The pope said to him Search among the angels.
The police said to him Search for the Bedouins.
The novelists advised him to go back to the Mississippi
or travel to Tangiers.
The soldiers shouted in his face:
The boss‘s wife smiled and removed her mouth from the picture.
The minister of defense told him that the earth was spacious and black,
that the sky was spacious and blue.
Walt Whitman was not surprised.
He knows that his abode is in the earth,
that his house is waiting in the sky.
Walt Whitman requested that a mulberry tree keep him company everywhere he goes.
So finally, atop the fender of a tank,
lounges Walt Whitman.
Finally he observes the streets of Baghdad.
When he rests, he looks at himself
and at that tree.
Sometimes he does not see himself.
Sometimes he sees that tree as a wild boy,
sometimes he sees it as his twin sister,
sometimes he sees it as a tall ship,
the tall tower
and the tall gallows.
Walt Whitman is still dreaming.
The tree is still a tree.
His fingers still avoid pressing the buttons of nightmares.
Walt Whitman frees himself from the months,
April, May, June, etc.
Walt Whitman squats in homage before Abu Nuwas,
in front of al-Rusafi,
in front of al-Jawahiri.
He never asks about Nazik al-Mala’ika.
He passes without stopping under the statue of Badr Shakir al-Sayyâb.
He strips himself of hours, of minutes of seconds.
He ends up naked.
He shivers.  He can’t find the pages he’s read all his life,
he shivers and can’t find the ceilings he slept under,
he shivers without a glance at the opposite shores,
he shivers.  He can’t find even one of his enemies.
Walt Whitman climbs the mulberry tree.
He puts his neck between its branches.
Walt Whitman dangles there.
He’s afraid his fingers will press the buttons of nightmares.
The carpenters are preparing a coffin for Walt Whitman.
The grave diggers are looking for an unused plot
suitable for Walt Whitman’s corpse.
The children are thinking up a game to quiet his soul.
Christ is composing desperate, unruly hymns.
The poets receive condolences.  They write elegies.
The sun grows sad and leaves.
And night with its heavy weight falls upon the earth
and strips itself of time,
plucks Baghdad up by the roots.
Walt Whitman’s corpse turns green and then it rots.
It rots while the songs from virgins’ mouths sing
“Rise from the grave Whitman,
rise from the grave Walt.”
Walt Whitman died.
He turned into the fender of the tank where he was sitting.
The streets of Baghdad rose into view.
The paper birds reappeared
as black shoes.
smaller than the soldiers’ feet,
smaller than the cold.
And the air can hardly disturb them.
The air is thin like sewer lines,
like gas lines,
like chemical fertilizer.
And Walt Whitman stretches out on red earth.
He looks at his own corpse with its soiled hair.
He looks for a long time.
He notices the place the gun fell,
the corner where the camera appeared,
and he notices what’s left of the desert.
He finishes dying
without taking in it the slightest pleasure.
Abdel-Moneim Ramadan. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2012 by Michael Beard and Adnan Haydar.
“Funeral for Walt Whitman” speaks for itself, but it might be worth knowing that the poet, like many Egyptian artists and writers, has provided a prominent voice to the national dialogue in post-Mubarak Egypt. Ramadan has spoken against the notion of the poet as a spokesperson for others and argued that the individual body is the most authentic reference of poetry. Nonetheless, “Funeral for Walt Whitman” establishes a dialogue with its own historical tradition. Beyond the clear influence of Federico Garcia Lorca (especially his Poeta en Nueva York) and the prominent classical Arabic figures Ramadan cites by name (Abu Nuwas, al-Mutanabbi, Kahlil Gibran), the reader may not recognize the Iraqi poets Ma‘ruf al-Rusafi (18751945) and al-Jawahiri (18991997), as well as the early Iraqi modernists Badr Shakir al-Sayyab (192664) and Nazik al-Mala’ika (19232007).—The Translators