Words like Bombs

The introduction to this week’s Poem Worth Reading is taken from Bart Schneider’s forthcoming novel, the highly Minneapolized The Man in the Blizzard:

"Sometimes I wonder why Americans are as afraid of poetry as they are of al-Qaeda. Screw the ones who’ve decided that poetry’s an effete enterprise. Let ‘em party with the homophobes. It’s the others who concern me, the folks who claim they don’t get it, who think they’re too dumb to read poetry. Thing is, they’re not willing to be dumb enough. That’s their problem. If you want to get inside a poem, you need to dumb down your senses. That’s where the receptors are. You need to accept that you don’t know. Why should you know? What’s the matter with a little mystery? They think the poem’s a theorem. If they can’t solve it, if they can’t control it, then they’re afraid of it. It’s so American to want it all or nothing. If you can’t conquer it, what good is it? Americans have become so frozen with fear, they’ve lost their sense of play. It’s time to lighten up and lower our expectations. It’s time to rediscover our basic fluency. If a man’s not fluent, if he ain’t got flow, what chance does he have to converse with his soul?"

Isn’t that kind of great?

And now the actual poem. This week’s Poem Worth Reading is by Mohja Kahf, whose stuff I recently accidentally came across in a back issue of The Paris Review. The brief bio goes: She’s Syrian-American, and kicks the ass of any stereotype that might be affixed to her. This one’s from her latest collection, E-Mails from Scheherazad. She also has a novel, The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf, which is probably worth checking out. Bladao.

"Hijab Scene #7"

No, I’m not bald under the scarf
No, I’m not from that country
where women can’t drive cars
No, I would not like to defect
I’m already American
But thank you for offering
What else do you need to know
relevant to my buying insurance,
opening a bank account,
reserving a seat on a flight?
Yes, I speak English
Yes, I carry explosives
They’re called words
And if you don’t get up
Off your assumptions
They’re going to blow you away