It is the intensity of longing for the Guest that does all the work.
- Malik Kabir
Yes, you think as you pile up the dead leaves
in the yard after a heavy rain.
We’ve had nine Pacific storms this season,
no letup, each one more devastating than the last.
You want to believe, too, in some great sound
beyond hearing, perhaps
a rattling of bones coming together, what dreamers
and prophets, in another realm, somehow heard.
Instead, the bones in the dug up rice field randomly
bleach white in the careless sun,
and the widow in the Chinese graveyard washes them
relentlessly every day
with rainwater in the afternoon light.
She doesn’t know she teaches you patience,
or how terrible you are at it, that you falter
and complain, stubbornly pray
the broken apple branches sprawled around the cabin
will again explode into blossom.
Your neighbor says you are crazy tending the yard
the way you do, you’re wasting your energy—
he hollers, as he jumps into his convertible.
But you see the dry roots of the sapling surfacing
under the wild canopy, so you flood them with a pail of rainwater,
then pile the rotting leaves, shining wet gold, over them.
In the late afternoon light, you prune the Fishtail palms and
the dying swords of the Queen Emma lily,
their scattered blooms having gone pale too soon, you think.
Then there is the insistent warbling of the shama thrush
in the hovering banyan singing his heart out anyway—
When he flies off into the trance-blue sky
you think of your remote village on the other side of the Earth,
Hasroun, the Rose of the Mountain,
surrounded and well-strengthened, your people say,
its pears, pomegranates and water fountains
a splendid and ready welcome for any wanderer.
You long for that place again
but more, for the Beautiful this darkening afternoon,
even more for the trembling inside of it,
the kind the mystics talk about:
within the beautiful the whole person trembles,
be a slave of that intensity, they say,
want the spirit of the thing, not the thing itself.
O, if you could bear so close an embrace,
you would fall on the neck of the guest
should he ever come. You would listen for
a gust of wind, a rattling sound
after some terrible storm, when the exile in you might
finally surrender the requiem’s impaling adagio—
and with the heart’s opening,
its giving way, you would rush to
set your kitchen table with bowls of pears and pomegranates
and fling your door wide open.
“A rattling sound” comes from Ezekiel’s vision of a valley of bones coming together in life again:Ezekiel 37:8;
“Within the beautiful, the whole person trembles” from Hans Urs Von Balthasar;
Hasroun, mountain village in the valley of Qadisha, Northern Lebanon.
Adele Nejame has lived in Hawaii since 1969. Her parents were both born in Beirut. She visited Lebanon for the first time in 2009 which she says was a longed for homecoming. She has published four books of poems, including Field Work (Petronium Press 1996), Poems, Land & Spirit (Sharjah Art Foundation, United Arab Emirates & Bidoun Press, 2009), and The South Wind, (Manoa Books & El Leon Literary Arts, 2011). Her work has appeared in many international journals including American Nature Writing, Ploughshares, Nimrod, Denver Quarterly, Poetry Kanto and Hawaii Pacific Review as well as in Arab American anthologies, including Inclined to Speak. Her poems were recently exhibited as broadsides at the Sharjah, United Arab Emirates International Biennial. She has taught poetry and literature at the University of Hawai’i-Manoa, the University of Wisconsin-Madison (as Poet-in-Residence); she currently teaches at Hawaii Pacific University. Her literary honors include a Pablo Neruda prize for poetry Academy of American Poets’ prizes, the Elliot Cades Award for Literature, and a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship in poetry.