Today’s poem is “Poetry Walk” by Sharif S. Elmusa, who lives in Arrowsic, Maine and Washington, D.C. He is co-editor of the anthology Grape Leaves: A Century of Arab-American Poetry and author of the poetry collection Flawed Landscape. His poetry and translations from Arabic have been published widely in anthologies, print magazines and online, both in the U.S. and internationally. He is Palestinian by birth, American by citizenship.
He writes: “Many of my poems are about place. This may seem ironic at first glance considering that I am a placeless person. But it is what wandering, placelessness, and lack of a permanent address does. It makes one attached deeply to places, even if fleetingly.”
by Sharif S. Elmusa
As I walked up the path
of Beech Hill Preserve
I kept thinking of the snail of Issa
climbing Mount Fuji,
till a sharp stone warned my left foot
Don't step on me, else you will trip.
As far as the eye could roam the land
was many shades of green
flecked with red and yellow, white and blue,
was countless kinds of trees and shrubs,
pine and oak, spruce and maple,
raspberries, blueberries and honeysuckle;
with their mouths pressed to the ground,
they blossomed and multiplied,
without gadgets, despite the pompous popish names,
Populus grandidentata, Pinus strobus, Quercus prinus.
Lichen is the language of granite,
said the guide.
Only the trunks of trees
seem to grasp this tongue.
This is why I was overjoyed
to hear the whispers of the little wood-lily
I am in full bloom,
therefore I am,
or the fog that crowned our walk
and veiled the lake and mountains
declare, as if it were an oracle
After I lift,
and I lift when I please,
don't think what you see
is what you see.
The future stirs where the chipmunk hides
in the secrets it hoards.
Poem copyright © 2016 Sharif S. Elmusa. Reprinted from Mizna: Prose, Poetry and Art Exploring Arab America, Volume 17.2, 2016, by permission of Sharif S. Elmusa.