Poetry Walk

Feb 15, 2019

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.”

Poetry Walk
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.