The White Poet Wants to Know Why I Don’t Write More Arab Poems

 

Because, while a war blooms at the margins

of the other country that claims me, still

 

I am here with my ordinary grief and its language.

 

Because every time I open my mouth

I am an Arab opening my mouth

 

and the poem is, and isn’t, responsible.

 

Sometimes I have to shake

the sand from my story

like a shoe by the side of the road.

 

I have lost nearly everyone I love, and all

to mundane tragedies.

 

I have never felt in my bones a bomb’s

radius of light.

 

The truth is I can only write about God

so many times

 

before he starts listening.

 

The truth is, like you,

some days I am struck

 

by pleasure so simple and insistent

I can’t resist—the sun offering indiscriminate

 

brightness against my window, on the table

an empty glass glittering

 

—or sometimes, too, I am unwilling

to mention the wild

 

flowers staked in the field like flags.

 

Leila Chatti is a Tunisian-American poet and the inaugural Anisfield-Wolf Fellow in Writing and Publishing at Cleveland State University. She is the author of the chapbooks Ebb (New-Generation African Poets Series, Akashic Books) and Tunsiya/Amrikiya, the 2017 Editor’s Selection from Bull City Press. Individually, her poems have appeared in Ploughshares, Tin House, the American Poetry Review, and elsewhere.