Monday, June 18, 2012

Sunday's poem: "The Blind Pianist in Forrest Place, or The Trackless Shadow" by Afeif Ismail

"The Blind Pianist in Forrest Place, or The Trackless Shadow" by Afeif Ismail (poet, writer, playwright activist)
The following excerpt from the poem The Blind Pianist in Forrest Place was read  by Afeif Ismail* at the World Refugee Day Rally in Forrest Place, Perth on Saturday June 16 2012.
The newly arrived refugees are strangers
more lost than any other strangers;
they are all in between, in limbo;
tearless, they stand on the edge of crying;
a bleeding nostalgia is in their eyes
for the impossible,
and a burning yearning for Immortality!

Is Eternity enough to compensate them
for the blossom of their stolen youth
and their uncertain, mysterious future?
They live with two halves of their memory:
half here,
and the other half in a far-off land.

Always unsuitably dressed for the climate,
eagerly they follow the global news
like someone who wants to change the world
even though,
the headlines threaten them
so they miss the weather forecast,
get wet, wandering in the streets,
shivering like orphaned birds;
the barbed wire of their confusion surrounds
and disconcerts them;
they hurl their dumb damnation
at the strange sky that without dark clouds
warning of thunder or lighting
suddenly rains!
They return with their half-memory,
chewing the cud of the damning vicious circles
that pulled them
from under their sky of assurance
which they knew
like the back of their own hand.

That brown-skinned Samson
is a descendant of the Gods of the Great Nile;
he is the son of his grandmother's "second sight",
her perfumed incense
and her primitive memory;
he knows places by their perfumes
and smells the people's fatigue
when they pass in front of him.

When his fair-haired girlfriend
speaks of unknown fruit
he imagines them to be exotic tropical delicacies;
if she tells him about a beautiful skirt
he imagines it to be colourful,
like her spirit
which is his crutch in this strange land!
Woe, to the stranger without love!
Only the stranger befriends strange spirits.

He listens with his eyes
and sees with his ears;
he images all things with his half-memory,
and his new language is coloured by this,
so that, on hearing it, he cannot write it,
the sounds are too much alike for him!
When she waves with her left hand and says:
"We are going to meet next Friday,
at 3pm in Forrest Place,"
the stranger imagines with his tropical memory
that he is going to hug her in a forest,
greener than his mother's heart.

On Friday afternoon
he finds Forrest Place to be not green,
a dismal desert
where concrete grows out of old rocks.
When he reads the sign "Forrest Place"
all thoughts of oasis flee his mind;
his wish
to meet her in a verdant forest evaporates;
in Forrest Place there is no Eden for them.
* Afeif Ismail is a Sudanese poet, playwright, writer, translator and human rights activist  who lives in Perth. Afeif arrived in Australia in 2003 as a political refugee from the Sudan  where he was a successful playwright and poet who suffered political persecution and imprisonment by the regime for his political activity and human rights activism. In Australia he has self published 2 books of poems Mum! This World Lies to Us (2009) and Bet of the Argil (2005), in addition to more than half a dozen books and monographs published in Sudan and Egypt.

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