Short of History by John Asfour

We need history in all of this,
need accumulated memories,
friends to gossip about
and stories to exaggerate. We need time

to walk the streets of the city
itemizing shop windows and ducking the traffic,
time to shelter in cafes,
read remnants of discarded newspapers
and solicit the waiter to fill our cups.

There’s a certain politics we missed
in being on either end of the sidewalk
and a culture of acceptance to identify,

a dinner to cook together
and the smells of bread in a shared kitchen.

There’s a need to go from one room
to the next looking for objects and misplaced items,
exchanging random words or phrases.
Why do I sit here, at the edge of the bed,
watching you apply your makeup,
adjust a strand of future,
press your lips
trying to catch what is left of life,
file it under your arm
and walk with it. Most of us

live inside our heads
and very little of what we feel or think is
in our speech.
We try to find joy in one incident or another
in what touches or moves us. We try
to bridge what we missed or reconstruct
the years into an agreeable present.
How I seek you
ready to change my reality, ready to be
a part of yours. All the books I love to read
are hidden in your eyes and I would
exchange a culture, amend a belief,
if I only could make this possible.


John Asfour is a Lebanese-Canadian poet, writer, and teacher. He is the author of 5 volumes of poetry in English, and two in Arabic, he has selected, edited and translated into English the landmark anthology: When the Words Burn: An Anthology of Modern Arabic Poetry and co-authored with Alison Burch a volume of selected poems by Muhammad al-Maghut entitled Joy is not my Profession. His new volume of poetry: Blindfold, has been nominated for a Governor General’s award, and a new anthology he edited was launched on June 12 at Visual Arts Centre in Montreal. John’s new translation of Arabic poetry will be published next winter.


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