Moustafa Bayoumi

Hurry Up, Please, It's Time


my dad once helped turn a refugee into a man

he wasn't always a refugee, but he never stopped being a man
it's hard to remember that when you're disguised like a bag of onions

and your daughter a small sack of potatoes

he was a kurd, a father, a farmer
until the cia said see i ain't

good for nothing

the father lost both his hands
and proved that you don't need hands to hold
on to that thing we used to talk about

i kant hear you

what do you call it? dig

he called it his daughter, his son, his wife

but you need hands to be a farmer, and he had none
so he took dignity disguised as vegetables

to the frontiers of experience
places, i'll bet, none of us has traveled

the ends of the earth

strange customs with false declarations

until they made it to canada

if he had come here
he'd have to be fingerprinted


the occupation forces
talk about making deserts bloom

did you see the picture
of the blindfolded man

sunk into the earth?

human-sized holes in the holy land
full with a life, is this what they meant all along?

how long can you bury history before it comes back to life?

they hold them there for hours and hours and hours and hours
their insides can't hold it any longer

could yours?


it's too easy

like food metaphors and dreaming of winning the lotto

but sometimes, I can't resist

because he's just stupid enough to believe his own stupidity

we fall for it, thinking that's what makes him dangerous

even though it's not a new war

but a not-so-instant replay

of mossadegh,
yikes, it's sykes-picot

or maybe it goes back to cecil rhodes, who loved to say

         i'd annex the planets
                if i could

gravity held him down
so he had to settle
for precious metal

in southern africa

poor man

not rhodes, of course, but the rest of us

life was a gas for him

just like gas is life for the sheriff of texas

who thinks universal
means remote control

of other people's lives

and deaths


but after all the crimson dishonesty and seven-seven ovations over the state of the empire, after all the stuffed jowls and the blinking powells and post manipulated annans, runny rummys with wet dreams of precision guided cannons that they can finally test fire, liars--all of them--i can feel something trembling in the air, because we see through you, this time, sirs, please and thank you.

do you really think attacking evil with greed can work? 1848 is lurking, even if they want to make atoms of us all, but we are buzzing, and connecting, in leaves of grass and grains of sand, i traveled to cairo last night and then to rome to see us dance, and i found us in d.c. and porto alegro, so, if you're smart you'll put aside world historical missions, sir, please and thank you.

what is it nawaal calls it? neoliberal religious fundamentalism? only connect.

last night i dreamed dick cheney was working in a sweatshop sewing glitter beads on nikes (he was very slow!), and they locked the doors so he couldn't take his pill. so sorry, mr cheney, but we have a quota. you understand. go back to your station now, please and thank you.

today i saw a war begin, and i died.

and tomorrow i saw palestine on 6th avenue, because you can only hold traffic back for so long. i saw iraq in rome and liberia in lebanon. paris was fully phnom penh, and a couple of angry senior citizens were stuffing the imf into a dumpster behind the un.

i grinned at them. they flashed me the sign

i turned the corner and a jamaican man held a panamanian baby girl in his arms, her kashmiri brothers running in a circle around them, laughing, while a laotian woman curved to us all, and in her best king's english, said, hurry up please. it's time. thank you.


Mohammed Mossadegh:(1880-1967) was a widely popular and democratically elected nationalist leader in Iran. As prime minister, he nationalized the Iranian oil industry in 1951. In 1953, the CIA engineered a coup that overthrew Mossadegh's government and reinstalled the Shah to power.

Sykes-Picot: On May 9 1916, during the First World War, Sir Mark Sykes of Britain and George Picot of France drafted a secret agreement for imperial rule over the collapsing Ottoman empire. The agreement, which divided the Arab world into French and British zones of control, contradicted promises of independence made to Arab leaders for their support during the war. After the war, independence was thwarted by the League of Nations, which granted mandates to Britain and France to rule the region. Britain was awarded the mandate over Iraq and Palestine, and France was given control over Syria and Lebanon.

Moustafa Bayoumi is an associate professor of English at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York. He is co-editor of The Edward Said Reader and has published widely on topics ranging from jazz to architecture, and religion to literature. His essays have appeared in such journals as Transition, The Yale Journal of Criticism, Souls, Interventions, and others. He is also a columnist for the Progressive Media Project, which distributes op-eds nationwide on a variety of topics, and he was recently elected to the National Council of the American Studies Association. His essay "How Does it Feel to be a Problem" was published in the book Asian Americans and War, and another essay, "Letter to a G-Man," appeared in the collection After the World Trade Center, which was named one of the best books of 2002 by the New York Times.

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