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'Laurie Sadly Listening' by Lou Reed

Laurie if you're sadly listening
The birds are on fire The sky glistening
While I atop my roof stand watching
Staring into the spider's clypeus
Incinerated flesh repelling
While I am on the rooftop yearning
Thinking of you

Laurie if you're sadly listening
Selfishly I miss your missing
The boundaties of our world now changing
The air is filled with someone's sick reasons
And I had thought a beautiful season was
Upon us

Laurie if you're sadly listening
The phones don't work
The bird's afire
The smoke curls black
I'm on the rooftop
Liberty to my right still standing
Laurie evil's gaunt desire is
Upon we

Laurie if you're sadly listening
Know one thing above all others
You were all I really thought of
As the TV blared the screaming
The deathlike snowflakes
Sirens screaming
All I wished was you to be holding
Bodies frozen in time jumping
Bird's afire
One thing me thinking
Laurie if you're sadly listening
Love you
Laurie if you're sadly listening
Love you

Written for The New York Times Magazine on Oct. 6, 2001


A poem by Suheir Hammad

1. there have been no words.
i have not written one word.
no poetry in the ashes south of canal street.
no prose in the refrigerated trucks driving debris and dna.
not one word.

today is a week, and seven is of heavens, gods, science.
evident out my kitchen window is an abstract reality.
sky where once was steel.
smoke where once was flesh.

fire in the city air and i feared for my sister's life in a way
never
before. and then, and now, i fear for the rest of us.

first, please god, let it be a mistake, the pilot's heart failed,
the
plane's engine died.
then please god, let it be a nightmare, wake me now.
please god, after the second plane, please, don't let it be anyone
who looks like my brothers.

i do not know how bad a life has to break in order to kill.
i have never been so hungry that i willed hunger
i have never been so angry as to want to control a gun over a pen.
not really.
even as a woman, as a palestinian, as a broken human being.
never this broken.

more than ever, i believe there is no difference.
the most privileged nation, most americans do not know the
difference
between indians, afghanis, syrians, muslims, sikhs, hindus.
more than ever, there is no difference.

2. thank you korea for kimchi and bibim bob, and corn tea and the
genteel smiles of the wait staff at wonjo smiles never revealing
the heat of the food or how tired they must be working long midtown
shifts. thank you korea, for the belly craving that brought me
into
the city late the night before and diverted my daily train ride
into
the world trade center.

there are plenty of thank yous in ny right now. thank you for my
lazy procrastinating late ass. thank you to the germs that had me
call in sick. thank you, my attitude, you had me fired the week
before. thank you for the train that never came, the rude nyer who
stole my cab going downtown. thank you for the sense my mama gave
me
to run. thank you for my legs, my eyes, my life.

3. the dead are called lost and their families hold up shaky
printouts in front of us through screens smoked up.

we are looking for iris, mother of three. please call with any
information. we are searching for priti, last seen on the 103rd
floor. she was talking to her husband on the phone and the line
went. please help us find george, also known as adel. his family
is
waiting for him with his favorite meal. i am looking for my son,
who
was delivering coffee. i am looking for my sister girl, she
started
her job on monday.

i am looking for peace. i am looking for mercy. i am looking for
evidence of compassion. any evidence of life. i am looking for
life.

4. ricardo on the radio said in his accent thick as yuca, "i will
feel so much better when the first bombs drop over there. and my
friends feel the same way."
on my block, a woman was crying in a car parked and stranded in
hurt.
i offered comfort, extended a hand she did not see before she
said,
"we're gonna burn them so bad, i swear, so bad." my hand went to
my
head and my head went to the numbers within it of the dead iraqi
children, the dead in nicaragua. the dead in rwanda who had to vie
with fake sport wrestling for america's attention.

yet when people sent emails saying, this was bound to happen, lets
not forget u.s. transgressions, for half a second i felt resentful.
hold up with that, cause i live here, these are my friends and fam,
and it could have been me in those buildings, and we're not bad
people, do not support america's bullying. can i just have a half
second to feel bad?

if i can find through this exhaust people who were left behind to
mourn and to resist mass murder, i might be alright.

thank you to the woman who saw me brinking my cool and blinking
back
tears. she opened her arms before she asked "do you want a hug?"
a
big white woman, and her embrace was the kind only people with the
warmth of flesh can offer. i wasn't about to say no to any
comfort.
"my brother's in the navy,"i said. "and we're arabs" "wow, you
got double trouble." word.

5. one more person ask me if i knew the hijackers.
one more motherfucker ask me what navy my brother is in.
one more person assume no arabs or muslims were killed.
one more person assume they know me, or that i represent a people.
or that a people represent an evil. or that evil is as simple as a
flag and words on a page.

we did not vilify all white men when mcveigh bombed oklahoma.
america did not give out his family's addresses or where he went to
church. or blame the bible or pat robertson.

and when the networks air footage of palestinians dancing in the
street, there is no apology that hungry children are bribed with
sweets that turn their teeth
brown. that correspondents edit images. that archives are there
to
facilitate lazy and inaccurate journalism.

and when we talk about holy books and hooded men and death, why do
we
never mention the kkk?

if there are any people on earth who understand how new york is
feeling right now, they are in the west bank and the gaza strip.

6. today it is ten days. last night bush waged war on a man once
openly funded by the
cia. i do not know who is responsible. read too many books, know
too many people to believe what i am told. i don't give a fuck
about
bin laden. his vision of the world does not include me or those i
love. and petittions have been going around for years trying to
get
the u.s. sponsored taliban out of power. shit is complicated, and
i don't know what to think.

but i know for sure who will pay.

in the world, it will be women, mostly colored and poor. women
will
have to bury children, and support themselves through grief.
"either you are with us, or with the terrorists" - meaning keep your
people
under control and your resistance censored. meaning we got the
loot
and the nukes.

in america, it will be those amongst us who refuse blanket attacks on
the shivering. those of us who work toward social justice, in
support of civil liberties, in opposition to hateful foreign
policies.

i have never felt less american and more new yorker - particularly
brooklyn, than these past days. the stars and stripes on all these
cars and apartment windows represent the dead as citizens first - not
family members, not lovers.

i feel like my skin is real thin, and that my eyes are only going to
get darker. the future holds little light.

my baby brother is a man now, and on alert, and praying five times a
day that the orders he will take in a few days time are righteous and
will not weigh his soul down from the afterlife he deserves.

both my brothers - my heart stops when i try to pray - not a beat to
disturb my fear. one a rock god, the other a sergeant, and both
palestinian, practicing muslim, gentle men. both born in brooklyn
and their faces are of the archetypal arab man, all eyelashes and
nose and beautiful color and stubborn hair.

what will their lives be like now?

over there is over here.

7. all day, across the river, the smell of burning rubber and limbs
floats through. the sirens have stopped now. the advertisers are
back on the air. the rescue workers are traumatized. the skyline is
brought back to human size. no longer taunting the gods with its
height.

i have not cried at all while writing this. i cried when i saw those
buildings collapse on themselves like a broken heart. i have never
owned pain that needs to spread like that. and i cry daily that my
brothers return to our mother safe and whole.

there is no poetry in this. there are causes and effects. there are
symbols and ideologies. mad conspiracy here, and information we will
never know. there is death here, and there are promises of more.

there is life here. anyone reading this is breathing, maybe hurting,
but breathing for sure. and if there is any light to come, it will
shine from the eyes of those who look for peace and justice after the
rubble and rhetoric are cleared and the phoenix has risen.

affirm life.
affirm life.
we got to carry each other now.
you are either with life, or against it.
affirm life.

suheir hammad


Topicalimerick

Dan Foster

There was a young Shiek named Osama
His Pop's courtesan was his Mama
To cope he went far
with the Mullah Omar
To make the West pay for his trauma.

***

THE LAND OF PLENTY

from Leonard Cohen: Ten Songs (Columbia CD)

Donít really know who sent me
To raise my voice and say:
May the lights in The Land of Plenty
Shine on the truth some day.

I donít know why I come here,
Knowing as I do,
What you really think of me,
What I really think of you.

For the millions in a prison,
That wealth has set apart Ė
For the Christ who has not risen,
From the caverns of the heart Ė

For the innermost decision,
That we cannot but obey -
For whatís left of our religion,
I lift my voice and pray:
May the lights in The Land of Plenty
Shine on the truth some day.

I know I said Iíd meet you,
Iíd meet you at the store,
But I canít buy it, baby.
I canít buy it anymore.

And I donít really know who sent me,
To raise my voice and say:
May the lights in The Land of Plenty
Shine on the truth some day.

I donít know why I come here,
knowing as I do,
what you really think of me,
what I really think of you.

For the innermost decision
That we cannot but obey
For whatís left of our religion
I lift my voice and pray:
May the lights in The Land of Plenty
Shine on the truth some day.

***


copyright (c) New Yorker

***

September 1, 1939
W. H. Auden

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.

Accurate scholarship can
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.

Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.

Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse:
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
Imperialism's face
And the international wrong.

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.

From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come, Repeating their morning vow;
"I will be true to the wife,
I'll concentrate more on my work,"
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the deaf,
Who can speak for the dumb?

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

From Another Time by W. H. Auden, published by Random House. Copyright © 1940 W. H. Auden, renewed by The Estate of W. H. Auden.

***



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