Thursday, January 25, 2024

GAS Featured Poet: Holly Day

 Holly Day’s poetry has recently appeared in Slipstream, Penumbric, and Maintenant. She is the co-author of the books, Music Theory for Dummies and Music Composition for Dummies and currently works as an instructor at Hugo House in Seattle and at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis.



If I try hard enough, I can see myself standing outside

talking to neighbors, maybe going out for a beer.

We all smile at each other and wave as we pass

make plans to get together at the park with our kids.

I like seeing that version of me outside. 

I like seeing that version of my neighborhood. 


I sit on the deck and listen to the neighborhood children 

all playing in their back yards, squealing on the playsets

hastily erected by parents determined to shelter their families 

from being bored and isolated


they sound like they’re on vacation, I hope they think they are. 




Then there was that one day when everyone who came to see the fortune teller

had a super short lifeline, like they were going to die in the same bus accident

or maybe an explosion, and she was so curious about the extent of the disaster

that she kept trying to read people’s palms even after she left her parlor.


But it’s hard to read people’s palms

when they’re carrying bags of oranges, their hands wrapped around loafs of bread.

It’s hard to find an excuse to make someone stick their hand out for a palm reading

when they’re fighting to get their kids in the car in the parking lot

or trying to make a phone call. 


And later, at the bar, where she usually ended her night

she could almost see the life lines of the people sitting in the next booth over:

the tall, handsome guy watching her from the bar through half-lidded slits, 

the bartender himself, his hand mostly obscured by washcloths and bowls of peanuts

almost, but not quite. Around closing, wobbling drunk, she decided


she’d probably just predicted the end of the world, that everyone’s hands

spelled doom and destruction and some horrible fiery end.

“I’m not going to read my own palm,” she said aloud as she fumbled with her keys

let herself into the front door of her home. “I’m not going to look

because I don’t want to know.”



 In the Merry-Go-Sorry


Time wobbles and stretches until the years don’t really mean anything

we’ve been friends for five, ten, fifteen, twenty years, but nothing means anything

there are wives and husbands and lovers and distance that separate 

as time snaps like a rubber band and current events become bright and clear

for seconds that last longer than decades of correspondence. 


There are photographs that mean time has passed and when I find these pictures

it’s like a door opens in my heart and I’m there again, but it doesn’t mean anything

we are just two people who happen to remember each other’s names

for so many years we might as well be trees with placards nailed to our bark

we are just two people who can pick up a conversation dropped twenty years before

go on like no time or space ever separated us at all. 

Thursday, January 11, 2024

GAS Featured Poet and Translator: El Habib Louai

 El Habib Louai is a Moroccan poet, translator, musician and assistant professor of English at Ibn Zohr University, Agadir, Morocco. His research focuses on the cultural encounters, colonial discourse and postcolonial theory and he worked the Beats’ archives at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as a Fulbright grantee. He took creative writing courses at Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University, Boulder, Colorado where he performed with Anne Waldman and Thurston Moore. His articles, poems and Arabic translations of Beat writers appeared in various literary magazines, journals and reviews such as Al Quds Al Arabi, Al Moutaqaf, Jadaliyya, Arabli Quarterly, Al Jadeed Magazine, Al Arabi Al Jadid, Al Faisal, Al Doha, Middle East Online, Ragged Lion Journal, Big Bridge Magazine, Berfrois, Al Markaz Review, The Fifth Estate, Lumina, The Poet’s Haven, The MUD Proposal and Sagarana. Louai’s Arabic translations include America, America: An Anthology of Beat Poetry in Arabic, Michael Rothenberg’s collection of poems entitled Indefinite Detention: A Dog Story both published by Arwiqa for Translation and Studies, Bob Kaufman’s The Ancient Rain published by Dar Al Rafidain, Giorgio Agamben’s What is an Apparatus and Other Essays and Diane di Prima’s Revolutionary Letters, both published by Dar Al Libiraliya.  He also contributed with Arabic translations to Seven Countries: An Anthology Against Trump’s Ban published by Arroyo Seco Press. Louai published two collections of poems:  Mrs. Jones Will Now Know: Poems of a Desperate Rebel and Rotten Wounds Embalmed with Tar which was a finalist for the 2020 Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poetry.

It Shall Rise Again When we are Gone 

You could sketch it all

On a tiny thumbnail, 

The story of the Son of Man

We ran out of insurance 

served in timely doses by unseen Gods

We ran out of decent chunks of land

we used to grow food

Now we grow pesky briars, brambles 

and some basil in worn-out auto-tire casings

we expose to sunlight in balconies of the garden of life

While fish and reefs perish under poisoned waves

While poor animals suffer and die that we may live

Who do we think we are after all?

Nothing but mere Lone Rangers disguised as prophets. 

Some gunslingers pretending to be peacemakers.

A vigilante model of justice with many silver bullets? 

Haven’t we enough?

Haven’t we abandoned the whole world

for nothing at all?

Haven’t we plucked all the flowers

leaving them crumpled at the curb’s edge?

For what purpose, but the mere greed,

The mere triumphant pleasure of leaving a trace

of what we call human progress 

Disguised in shameful disgrace 

Then we speak of a common tone

Something we call love

Yet we know nothing of love or its heartaches

We speak of it against our reasons

Because it is all we can do when we fail in old age

We are losing light and it is getting late

When we are gone, when we are done with

The sun shall rise and shed its beams

as it has always done

As if it was the first day of the world! 

Under the Yoke of Overdeveloped Consciousness 

After the death of his father, my father ended up

in a post-independence Casablanca where

he trimmed bureaucrats' Christmas trees and toiled

in a clothing factory for two or three dirhams a week

He had to send some dough to build a shelter in the village

NOW, he seems to be proud of his only son

I who is deranged by the fake prosperity of my academic position 

I drive early in the mornings behind Diesel stinking-buses

& imported French cars to teach Mallarmé, 

Rimbaud, Pound, Eliot and Stevens to haggard students with empty bellies

Occasionally, I meet locally known professors in stiff suits,

Clean Zara trench coats and tailored corduroy pants

Strolling in half-deserted corridors discussing Mayakovsky 

They like to wear their hair grey without looking older

They still chew on “power to the people,” whoever they might be

They like to drink stale beer in gloomy Medina bars   


Late in the evenings, I drift to my bachelor’s apartment  

whose rusty keys are always under the mat

I eat cheap macaroni and drink papaya juice to save time 

Wishing to avoid any complications of indigestion 

I tell myself I have no children of my own to feel sorry for,

but I remember I am the bread-winner of my widowed sister's

I have to make a living that is not properly my own 

While I suffer under the yoke of overdeveloped consciousness

The Sounds of War

The anemic skin, the creamed skin, the anointed skin, the skinny skin

 cannot shed itself of cuts and scars, scrape and scrape!

Reality is bitter around puffy eyes

And truth is not simple wiser words

You cannot wash the lies and heartbreaks away

Memory shall always remind you, 

No victory in the business of death

My grandmother, Hajjah Fatima

Suffered from anemia, but was not amnesiac 

She was deaf in her left-ear

She said it was worse than losing insight in times of blight 

She never liked the sounds of war

Late in quiet evenings, she would say

The sounds of war always, always

Sound far away till you realize how many were killed

You’d think you’ll never hear about them

But there is the antipathetic presenter 

On big plasma screens shoving it up your face

And with that you’ll pretend to forget the sorrows, 

the compunctions, the original guilt of Man

The sound of doves at dawn

The sound of little lambs in the backyard 

The sound of children tossing daisies at each other in muddy streets

The sound of harvesters’ ballads in the cornfields

The memory of all that will not save you,

Will not help you find peace they say is everywhere

The anemic skin, the creamed skin, the anointed skin, the skinny skin

 Cannot shed itself of cuts and scars, scrape and scrape!

Reality is bitter around puffy eyes

Truth is not simple wiser words

You cannot wash the lies and heartbreaks away

Memory shall always remind you, 

No victory in the business of death

Some Want the World as it is to become Eternal 

Some want 

                   The world as it is 

                                To become eternal 

While they doodle

In the margin of a life begetting death

Every single day, being is being 

Merely a result of an event

I am pestered by semi-finished resort hotels

I have seen them everywhere

They are all alike

Every time I thought I’d enjoy

An interval of lucidity with myself

In a journey to the edge of the world 

They show to blur my vision

Soon we will have more tourists than travelers, 

Soon will have more wasteful luxury,

Soon will have more junior executives with prestigious badges  

There are too many of them here now,

They came on private jets from Kafkaville

They still seek exotic lands, some tropic hellholes 

With brown and dark-skinned fellas creeping on them

They are after buried treasures in deserted shrines,

Gold, diamonds, drugs, pussies and asses

Or something they call the secret of life

Some want 

                  The world as it is

                                To become eternal 

Those who came last grapple with a different reality, so grim

Then grab the goods and hightail it home

How much should I care about this conundrum? 

How much does home care cost?

I am still looking for “socialism with a human face”

I abhor the pieties of bourgeois decorum

I still seek liberation from consumerism

The shackles of gender abuse, religious zeal, and military nationalism

I still believe reason can save me from self-inflicted tutelage to

false beliefs in authority and traditions 

I am against the prophets of deceit, empty promises, 

Unconditional charity to scapegoat immigrants

I strive to finish the month

Put some processed cheese in my white loaves,

Treat myself to some papaya juice and look through the window

I still hope to write novels that would not please, but tease

Those who avoid the cold look of the real,

My heroes and heroines will not be young, beautiful and tanned, 

They will not “glance at the vermouth bottle briefly 

while pouring the juniper distillate freely"

They will not have fast cars, 

They will not spend holidays in Cote d’Azure 

They will receive paychecks and deposits 

in fragmented time distilled from their lives

The fatigue shall overtake them,

As they head towards similar failures 

Some want 

                  The world as it is

                                To become eternal 

For the Amazigh People Struck by the Earthquake 

They will not be able to arise

On their first morning

In their newly built adobe house

They will not be able to gaze out the window

At the barn on the left,

At the Argan trees on the right

At the fissured minaret in the bleak distance

As there will be no house, no window

There will be no untended gardens overgrown with weeds

There will be no vegetable or fruit patches to irrigate

There will be no agoras for virtuosos to chant at

There will be no carnivals for peddlers to sell their wares at  

There will be no tracks to ancestral shrines  

There will be no corn, wheat or oat fields beyond the walls

There will be no walls adorned with warm welcomes 

There will be no fences opening onto the scrublands

There will be no trails to the bush

There will be no beating around the bush  

There will be some traces and much debris 

There will be some survivors sifting through the debris

There will be tears in the remaining trails 

Many will be walking dumb-stricken, many will be drifting    

Humans and their objects shall flicker in the void  

The Trade of Delusive Impostors 

Isn’t this a menagerie where we have been

hiding from each other,

in disguise, in fear of hidden deities fond of 

exhibitionism and atonement

We are but a herd of wild animals foreign to each other,

We like to pretend we aren’t in nature anymore

So, we build walls between us as we go and say 

“Stay where you are until our backs are turned!”

We like to think we are the masters of fire,

We like to burn trash and eat sardines from cans,

We like to stand near the shed

& throw grain to overexcited chickens

We like to tease the rabbit out of its hiding place

for the lingering wolves and whining dogs 

When Aissa decides to open up to his friends,

they sold him out to the weekly market crowds

When Youssef spoke frankly to his family, 

they deprived him of a land that survived

in his mother tongue and flavors he craves

When Ayoub was explicit with his spouse,

She abandoned him

When Brahim decides to confess to the Imam,

He was charged with unbelief

When Moussa spoke with sincerity to the authority,

He was sentenced to ten years in the dungeon 

What are we supposed to do 

on the surface of these flat lands?

Shall we create personas and wear masks,

Anticipate and deceive by telling pleasing lies

We like to hear and laugh at our follies,

Should we still believe the universe revolves around us?

Is God a central government or

The soul of the soul of this world of ours?

Have we been inducted into the secrets of the trade 

Of delusive impostors?