Poetry by Omar Sabbagh



Dubai at Evening


The five honed senses of the wiser animal

are strange for them: gaudy masks at a carnival –

the flesh like a drum with no body.


The blue circuits of a felled and falling world

ambulate like a mind that’s stifled, calmed –

a way of being free where none are free.


His magic is a forlorn gift

riven by testy waters tending to nothing,

not a single particle.


The sun’s electric hammer has given up,

finding no anvil, no new enemy

to pound upon, no sinew worthy to wrestle.


The very mountains of our futures, steel and inviolate;

all the pleasures in the munching universe:

we’ve no more of that; all turns in vacant, vacant blue,


and the sky is sucked: a weirdly guilty periwinkle.

And evening, for the resting-earth, becomes its metonym.

And the gamboling is finished for us, numbered without luck.



Inveterate, or, Historical Materialism

In memory of Walter Benjamin


My dream sped past with a tragic plot –

the foremost villains, and those who were not.


It was a land of buttery ghosts there, of slipshod visions;

I was a doubtless scholar there, of sleep-drawn indecision.


So, the bone-old man in me starts to build his makeshift tent

in a wooded patch in a wooded world, kneeling and bent


with vigor at his task; his rickety knees groan and moan and rasp –

but an old man’s nothing to answer, and nothing to ask.


Here, in a land built with muscle over sparse, wan desert,

I lick my wounds and hear the heart, sounding aimless autumn, leafless hurt.


There’s nothing noble in any of this, this waning hour.  There’s

nothing heroic either.  I’m a serf, and how I inch-away, how I cower


in a feudal fief filled with feudal fare.  Capital’s yet

to come, to land its lunging loans – lean and sour – loans that may correct


misplaced bets, where no green fields are lush with licit pasture.

The shepherd weeps at the emptiness: of all this spent disaster.





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