Poetry: “One Thing” and “The Lay of the Land”, by Omar Sabbagh

One Sole Thing

 I know what it’s like, a lemon wind up from your guts,
 To scramble around, searching a way to unravel the knot,
 And you on the floor there, groundless and falling
 Through the notion you had you couldn’t be wrong.

 I know what it’s like to feel that sad constriction, alone,
 Of what in you appears, a fey kind of womanhood, more brazen
 With lack than the gender stood, stacked in its normal pose –
 A mirror in the way of the light, and a self you never chose
 You have to live with, as you have done, as all women
 Must and do.  I know the ways of the barren tree, the panic you
 Lose by: I, too, once mad with ghosts like this, lost in a blue blue 
 Had never known, I’d thought, sky, sea, say – but then this woe…

 But with me, through my small acidic time, I’d never the inkling
 That to cure myself I’d need to stamp a stamp or two,
 I’d need a school of bulls to rumble from my lips, a garish 
 Reed – pivotal, pointless words: I’d never wished
 Harm on another this way, knowing the while the fish
 In the fishiness, knowing the while just how wrong I was.

 You have a problem which I fear I cannot solve; this
 Cussing dream in which you seem to walk, reducing
 The many works a man might do to one sole thing.

 It’s obvious, dear, what the fear is: that if I were to breathe
 Through many transpirations, my many thus beyond the need
 Or scope of you, it would be, in short, long: a catastrophe.
 Before this one true case, you’d find yourself a beggared mind
 And be a heart (once so sure of its readiness to be kind
 At last, simply) failed.  So, it never happened, that generous lie
 In you.  And it’s one thing, it seems from my eyes’ wise keeps
 Keeps you from seeing eye to eye: for from those mad lips
 Nothing but the big bad bluff of an eye beneath an eye.


By Omar Sabbagh- 09/12/2020

The Lay Of The Land
Look at the way the land curves here,
Undulant in parts, fluid and like water,
But holding, too, these dim and tiny crevices
Where a sure foot may slip and then desist
From being what it was, one sure foot of two.
Look at these smallish plots I try not to use
For ground, while my head, and mind, stay and stay
Above it – and that, for however long they may.
Look at the ways of this strange cartographer:
She maps it all and for all to see; all, that is, except for her.
By Omar Sabbagh, 17/10/2020

Dr. Omar Sabbagh is a widely published poet, writer and critic.  His first collection and his fourth collection, are, respectively: My Only Ever Oedipal Complaint and To The Middle of Love (Cinnamon Press, 2010/17).  His 5th collection, But It Was An Important Failure, was published by Cinnamon Press at the start of 2020.  His Beirut novella, Via Negativa: A Parable of Exile, was published with Liquorice Fish Books in March 2016; he has written many award-winning pieces of short fiction, and his Dubai novella, Minutes from the Miracle City is forthcoming with Fairlight Books in July 2019; and a study of the oeuvre of Professor Fiona Sampson, Reading Fiona Sampson: A Study in Poetry and Poetics, was released by Anthem in 2020.  He has published scholarly essays on George Eliot, Ford Madox Ford, G.K. Chesterton, Henry Miller, Lawrence Durrell, Joseph Conrad, Lytton Strachey, T.S. Eliot, Basil Bunting, Hilaire Belloc, George Steiner, and others; as well as on many contemporary poets.  Many of these works are collated in his essay collection To My Mind, Or, Kinbotes: Essays on Literature (2020). He now teaches at the American University in Dubai (AUD), where he is Associate Professor of English.

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