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
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
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
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
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.
Opinions expressed in Terra Incognita are not necessarily shared by all or any of the editors.
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