Interior of an Old abandoned Farm House is a photograph by Randall Nyhof
Ode on a Abandoned House

Wind and rain, here
 are the keys
 to the house—
 a missing door,
 two broken windows.
 Birds, for you a room
 with a view—the bedroom,
 which once held
 the moon and stars
 out of sight.
 Ants and worms,
 such sad witnesses,
 the grass uncut,
 the yard overgrown
 are again yours to inherit.
 And you, the leaves whirling
 across buckled floors,
 please take
 my father’s voice
 May you live forever,
 may you bury me.
“The phrase ‘may you bury me’ is a translation of the Arabic colloquialism تقبرني, which expresses a fervent wish for loved ones to outlive the speaker because of how unbearable life would be should those loved ones die first. Mothers, fathers, grandparents, and adults in general use it as a term of endearment with children. As for the abandoned house, it is the one in which I grew up, in Detroit.” (Hayan Charara)
Ode aan een verlaten huis

 Wind en regen, hier
 zijn de sleutels
 van het huis -
 een ontbrekende deur,
 twee gebroken ramen.
 Vogels, voor jullie een kamer
 met uitzicht - de slaapkamer,
 die ooit
 de maan en sterren
 onzichtbaar maakte.
 Mieren en wormen,
 zulke trieste getuigen,
 het gras ongemaaid,
 de tuin overwoekerd
 wordt weer jullie erfenis.
 En jullie, bladeren dwarrelend
 over de gesprongen vloeren,
 gebruik alsjeblieft
 de stem van mijn vader
 Moge je eeuwig leven,
 mag je mij begraven.
Hayan Charara is a poet, children’s book author, essayist, and editor. His poetry books are Something Sinister (2016), The Sadness of Others (2006), The Alchemist’s Diary (2001), and the forthcoming These Trees, Those Leaves, This Flower, That Fruit (2022). His children’s book, The Three Lucys (2016), received the New Voices Award Honor, and he edited Inclined to Speak (2008), an anthology of contemporary Arab American poetry. With Fady Joudah, he is also a series editor of the Etel Adnan Poetry Prize. His honors include a literature fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Lucille Joy Prize in Poetry from the University of Houston Creative Writing Program, the John Clare Prize, and the Arab American Book Award. 
 Born in Detroit in 1972 to Arab immigrants, he studied biology and chemistry at Wayne State University before turning to poetry. He spent a decade in New York City, where he earned a master’s degree from New York University’s Draper Interdisciplinary Master’s Program. In 2004, he moved to Texas, where he eventually earned his PhD in literature and creative writing at the University of Houston. 
 He has taught at a number of colleges and universities, including Queens College, Jersey City University, the City University of New York-La Guardia, the University of Texas at Austin, Trinity University, and Our Lady of the Lake University. He currently teaches in the Honors College and the Creative Writing Program at the University of Houston.
 He is married, with two children. 
Foto door Charlotte May

 What did we think sitting there
 on the front porch, without fear, none at all,
 no surprise or shock,
 barefoot, slow breathing, the sun

 unyielding even under elm and maple,
 thirty-five years ago,
 I wasn’t yet twelve, my sister not ten, the city
 months from the riots after the World Series?

 Two men ran down the middle of the street,
 the one in front yelling
 (how far he made it—
 the ice cream parlor, the diner, the liquor store, the bowling alley—

 I can’t say), and the other one,
 chasing after him, aiming a shotgun, he looked at us
 and smiled—
 I saw all his teeth.

 Wat dachten we toen we daar zaten
 in de veranda, zonder angst, helemaal niet,
 geen verrassing of schok,
 blootsvoets, trage ademend, de zon

 onwrikbaar, zelfs onder iep en esdoorn,
 vijfendertig jaar geleden,
 Ik was nog geen twaalf, mijn zus nog geen tien, de stad
 maanden van rellen na de World Series?

 Twee mannen renden in het midden van de straat,
 de voorste schreeuwt
 (hoe ver hij het heeft gehaald-
 de ijssalon, het eethuisje, de slijterij, de bowlingbaan…

 Ik kan het niet zeggen), en de andere,
 achter hem aan, een geweer op hem richtend, hij keek naar ons
 en glimlachte-
 Ik zag al zijn tanden.

 The dirt, damp with rain, is older than the sprouting grass.
 And shadowing the grassy spikes, the oak trees
 with brittle limbs that never fall
 on the mailman walking across the lawn are older
 than the house, and the house,
 in a neighborhood once a forest, is older than the boy and girl
 refusing to eat green beans—
 they love candy, but less than they love their mother.
 The girl is older than the boy,
 the boy older than the cat, and the cat,
 which cannot communicate what it knows
 about age, hates the cactuses on the windowsill—
 a conqueror in the night, he paws and paws,
 and breaks, then marches
 into the bedroom, across my stomach, and halts
 on my chest—his warm breath and wet nose
 young as the new moon, barely a crescent tonight,
 twenty-two years after you died. O,
 mother, I am older now than you ever would be.


 Het vuil, vochtig van regen, is ouder dan het ontkiemende gras.
 En in de schaduw de grasstekels, de eikenbomen
 met broze takken, die nooit vallen
 op de postbode die over het gazon loopt, zijn ouder
 dan het huis, en het huis,
 in een buurt die ooit een bos was, is ouder dan de jongen en het meisje
 die weigeren sperziebonen te eten-
 ze houden van snoep, maar minder dan van hun moeder.
 Het meisje is ouder dan de jongen,
 de jongen ouder dan de kat, en de kat,
 die niet kan communiceren wat ze weet
 over leeftijd, haat de cactussen op de vensterbank-
 een veroveraar in de nacht, hij poot en poot,
 en breekt, marcheert dan
 de slaapkamer in, over mijn buik, en stopt
 op mijn borst - zijn warme adem en natte neus
 jong als de nieuwe maan, nauwelijks een sikkel vanavond,
 tweeëntwintig jaar na jouw dood. O,
 moeder, ik ben nu ouder dan jij ooit zou zijn.
Foto door Sornbhakkanut Boonprasop
I’m not sure about poetic techniques, but the first step for entering into a conversation, poetic or otherwise, must be to listen. Don’t talk. Don’t write. Just spend time with what others are saying or have been trying to say—let them speak. Often, my poems come out of such a circumstance. My whole life I’ve heard stories, experiences, and arguments from the people in the various communities that I belong to that I hardly hear anywhere else. Another way to say this: in coffee shops, in the homes of friends and family, on front porches, in community centers people are talking about things that are mostly absent in the larger conversations taking place on TV or film or the stage or in newspapers, novels, or poems.

 O father bringing home crates
 of apples, bushels of corn,
 and skinned rabbits on ice.
 O mother boiling lentils in a pot
 while he watched fight after fight,
 boxers pinned on the ropes
 pummeling each other mercilessly.
 And hung on the wall where we
 ate breakfast an autographed photo
 of Muhammad Ali. O father
 who worshipped him and with
 a clenched fist pretended to be:
 Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.
 O you loved being Muslim then.
 Even when you drank whiskey.
 Even when you knocked down
 my mother again and again.
 O prayer. O god of sun.
 God of moon. Of cows
 and of thunder. Of women.
 Of bees. Of ants and spiders,
 poets and calamity.
 God of the pen, of the fig,
 of the elephant.
 Ta’ Ha’, Ya Sin, Sad, Qaf. 
 God of my father, listen:
 He prayed, he prayed, five times a day,
 and he was mean.
Foto door Elias Tigiser
I lived in a violent home, where at any moment chaos often erupted, where an uneventful moment could easily, inexplicably, suddenly turn into one dominated by fear, anxiety, and terror. One consequence of living with someone who brings chaos to nearly every aspect of your life is to exert control—any kind possible—over the few areas that aren’t (yet) chaotic. That’s what I did. I found a number of ways to “escape” the violence and, more significantly, to control (even if it was mostly imaginary) the unpredictability and uncertainty of my father’s world. Poetry was one of those escapes—not because it allowed for catharsis or was therapeutic, but because I could impose control onto a poem in ways that I could not on my own life. Today, decades later, this survival mechanism is evident (to me, at least) in the way I control the imagery in my poems, the language, and obviously also what I reveal or obscure.
Foto door Olya Kobruseva
The symbolic life

They kept showing up, for days,
 dead on the windowsill,
 and for days I did nothing about the ladybugs
 except to ask if their entering the house
 unnoticed and dying before I saw them
 was symbolic.
 Thinking so was easy.
 They symbolized birth and death,
 change and rebirth.
 It was also possible the tiny beetles
 embodied an inborn need
 to show themselves,
 to turn up in every and any place,
 even as the dried-out remains of the once lively.
 Or they stood for the burden of being one thing
 relieved by becoming another,
 which all the world’s children suffer.
 This went on and on, and could’ve gone on
 forever, so finally I opened the window
 and blew them into the wide open
 because everything and everyone should get a chance
 to be mourned, and they got theirs,
 but first they had to die, which is life,
 not symbolism.
Foto door Pixabay
Het symbolische leven

Ze bleven maar opduiken, dagenlang,
 dood op de vensterbank,
 en dagenlang deed ik niets met de lieveheersbeestjes
 behalve ze vragen of hun binnenkomen in het huis
 -onopgemerkt en stervend voor ik ze zag-
 symbolisch was.
 Zo te denken was makkelijk.
 Ze symboliseerden geboorte en dood,
 verandering en wedergeboorte.
 Het was ook mogelijk dat de kleine kevers
 een aangeboren behoefte belichaamden
 om zichzelf te laten zien,
 om overal op te duiken,
 zelfs als de uitgedroogde overblijfselen van het eens levendige.
 Of ze stonden voor de last om één ding te zijn
 opgelucht door iets anders te worden,
 waar alle kinderen van de wereld onder lijden.
 Dit ging maar door en door, en had eeuwig door kunnen gaan
 tot in het oneindige, dus uiteindelijk opende ik het raam
 en blies ze de wijde wereld in
 omdat alles en iedereen een kans moet krijgen
 om betreurd te worden, en zij kregen de hunne,
 maar eerst moesten ze sterven, wat leven is,
 geen symboliek.
Prayer for the living

Go to the mother,
 to the father, to the house
 where no trees grow,
 to the bedroom, the door
 closed, to her fear
 and to his fear,
 and their shame,
 their longing, and to their bodies,
 their bodies young,
 their bodies separate,
 their bodies together.
 How far must you
 go back? Her womb.
 Her child body
 and his child body.
 Go to first hairs.
 To flesh, chests, arms, faces,
 buttocks, and stomachs.
 There, a wrinkle.
 There, color,
 nipples, and bellybuttons.
 Go to the eyes,
 see what she sees
 and what he sees.
 To the fingertips,
 which want what
 the eyes have made
 their own. Go to want,
 to love, to what wants
 more than love.
 Go to sins.
 What are your sins?
 Go to where the mother
 is not mother, the father
 is not father, and kiss her lips,
 and kiss his mouth.
 Do not be ashamed
 or afraid.
 The past is a strange land.
 Go because you can.
 Go because you can
 come back.
In my own work, at least when I’m aware of what I’m doing, I try to negotiate the differences between these poetic and personal considerations. On the one hand, I think of myself as a frank poet—I speak my mind, without fear or worry, without hesitation. On the other hand, though, I try to be as serene a person as possible (obviously I sometimes fail), but the attempt sometimes means saying or doing things in such a way as to mediate conflict or confrontation. To put it another way: the impulse of the poet comes up against that of the person. Every poet must come to terms with this conflict.'