Muhammad Afifi Matar – searchable text

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Recital

This sun wears a live chemise of blood.
A wound gapes from its kneecap, wide as the wind
And horizons gush blood-springs revealing birds and palmtrees.
Peace, it stays until nightfall . . . Peace
The river women rise:
Anklets of grass twist circles of
Silver and silt, desire wet with the water’s foam;
The river women call to the birds,
With shawls wipe the glass horizon.
They weep, they shed newly warmed sorrow.
Peace, it stays until nightfall . . . Peace.

The fields folded their knees.
The ploughsocks softened, relaxed.
The serpents slept.
A pall of peace piles up: Downy hay and plume.
The bulls, standing, slumbered.
In their absent phosphoric eyes, night stars shatter.
Peace; that mask of merciful night.

The living half unawakened, the mortal half slept.
This earth seemed empty.
When the night’s prayer was recited and the dream angels came,
When sleep like the sun rose with its green radiance of rebirth, its sign of illumination,
Then, by His mercy, I shed the diurnal limbs and opened a window in the mortal half;
I enfolded myself in the living half
And the vision erupted:

I stepped out of the sheets’ patterns and the pillows’ perfume.
Have the covers left their bold arboreal designs on my face?
My face’s become flying leaves, falling fruit, sprouting twigs.

An imperial mare rises in my father’s house:
Space is folded for her.
The silver, the flashes of her hoofs are the lights of Granada and those lands beyond the River.
The mercury and kohl of her eyes mirror a blaze of royal ruins.
My form floats from my dream’s body. I glow.
Trees spread through my face like traceries,
Freshly green tears inscribe springs and crescents of water on my features.
My form floats from my dream’s body:
The star Canopus looks a trembling flower in the eyelet of the heart.
Life’s blood-dimmed springs are loosed.
Horses rise from the Amma of the Book,
The circumference of the earth expands.
Peace, it stays until sunrise . . . Peace.

My knees grip a lodge on the horizon’s ledge.
In my face crowd the lightning of writing, green leaves and water,
(The letters, a nation among nations, are addressed and entrusted.)

The birds broke out from the dome of the wind as a well breaks out.
I remember . . . it’s the horizon’s divan.
My body is a lodge. I reign in what’s not mine, what’s not others’.
I remember . . . beneath me runs that river of living images;
And the springs sported as I wished.

I remember . . . the earth’s globe approached and the heavens came to me. They exchanged garments.
The mixing of memory’s creatures and the marriage of what’s not male with what’s female; what’s not female with what’s male,
And the joys of earthly powers
Gave me the strength to conjure with the sources of memory’s shattered images.
I conjured delicacies, images and chants as I wished.
The pause in the Be of the Book lingered.
Joy filled with tender questions,
And the foliage of the face dropped with fresh fears and the buds of discovery’s bewilderment.
I knew I walked the way of Ascension. I dwelt in the lodge of ultimate certitude.
The circumference of the earth expanded.
The heavens appear as garments ripping at the waistline of the living river,
A window beneath the garments of the oceans gapes open.
The Oriental Sages, the Hermetists and Gnostics partake of the banquet of luminous dialogue.
Al-Suhrawardi breathes in the fullness of space, divides bread and the silvery fish of the Nile. He eats in the plentitude of anarchy and drinks in the profusion of ceaseless emanation.

The Hermetists weave the cape of chants and enchantments. They unfold it for the noble tribe, the beasts and the birds as a resting, sheltering space for initiating and linking creatures twice, thrice, four times and up to the last number memory may retain.

Rising from sleep the river women reveal bronzed legs, silt and earthy grass.
Peace, it stays until sunrise . . . Peace.

A mare whinnies in my father’s house.
My father’s house is a nomad in my dream’s body.
The two Euphrates read like a book of rising blood
And the Nile is a book.
The Ocean pulls off the garments of diffused blood.
Then the desert’s dressed, the large land and the cracked ruins adorned by the splendor of lightning, by the green life of fire.
The sun penetrates the flanks of night with purple gloves and stockings of hammered and unhammered gold.
It rises and falls.
He descends to the murmur of vermin, the clinging of insect, the slither of reptiles.
The steps shorten.

I wrapped myself in the tatters of the diurnal half.
The smell of nocturnal sleep spread
And the woolen covers heaved.
The wet cotton covers collapsed.
Peace, a spider of blood, clothed by the features’ similarity . . . Peace.
Water drains from the body.
Memory drains from the water.

From Quartet of Joy, Second Prelude (p. 2-3)

Forty doors…
circles looping out upon circles
and corridors meshing,
and the trees of stairs branch up
and down…

My friend Zeno of Elea surprises me
by showing me the space between the arrow
and the horizon
and fills the void of paper
with the savagery of the race
between me and the tortoise of beginning
and the word of revelation.

And my friend al-Niffari surprises me
with the rose of crimson water
and the glare of sea
and taste of salt air…
I end up craving bread,
and wait for time
and the childhood
of evening talk
and the disclosure
and the moment that stuns.
I who am born of forty women,
I look out for the ravings of memory
and the defiance of forms,
for the earth is arched over
the harvests of death
and the decanters of aged thirst.

From Quartet of Joy, Air Joy (p. 63)

I become light; you become light;
Neither are you from you,
nor I from me;
we have ripened into one blood…

—One dead,
how will death be split into two corpses?

—It is one corpse.

—What if the kin fought to fill
two dust holes with one dust
gathered by love in the prostration
of passion?

—Soft is the clay step in the clay;
beneath us the earth gathers into a carpet,
dust flinging upon dust;
and in the passion prostration
the blood of the man prostrating
does not reveal the blood of the woman prostrator;
one blood runs aground in the darkness
of the earth
beneath the hand of God,
then tossed by the wind
in the hand of omnipotence;
it rises lightly, taking its course
in the radiant mystery
of its nocturnal journeys,
largely, as the frame
of the universe exacts,
narrower than the sigh of spirit
in spirit.

Between heavens and earth
the wind was tempted by us,
for it steps along our steps,
and we step along its steps…