April 9, 2024

Tragedy of the Blue
A poem by Zainab Hussein
Tragedy of the Blue

Is existence valued in Fahrenheit and Celsius and oil? 
Will we know in the language of measurement? The meniscus? Of dams? Of amounts and evidence? Of proof? Of the dogs barking through the long night? Their sudden silence? In what unit? Is? The pain of loss? To the tragedy of the blue? Of the planet? Of the tree? Of the coconut? Instead to the earthquake and the typhoon? If we place it in the World? On the google earth? The map? Can it then be known? What was lost? So long ago? 
        The dead who are not dead, who we only do not see, they remember. 
        Quietly they say: It will crumble, yes. The tragedy is elsewhere. 

        What if there was a hole? Pierced into the earth? The google map? What if this was not a hole but an opening? To imagine? Something else? Much else and better? But we cannot remember our dreams, no more.
         An innocent echoes: Where are the believers? Where are the Muslims? It arrives                                before sleep. Where are the Muslims? 
        We reply: Please, but what is the formula for remembering your dreams?

        Big shame. Sick, sick, man, and his white beard. In the bed stretched across the map. Muselmann. Prostrating, barbaric, resigned. Here, categories collapse in an accordion. We see everything through blue. Pictorially speaking. 
        As in lay the fig tree down in winter. Cover it in a white shawl and tie it with strings and
say goodbye every morning before work and the distant word up the nose. Pictorially speaking.

         As in the hallowed eye bone. Muselmann. Only through layers of space and surface.
Layers of blue. My sandwich. I eat it on all fours like a rat. I do not share, on my own I eat it.
        The prison is a metaphor six times over. 

        There is the ghost of knocking on the door, we have this chance as long as it lasts. 
        The dream begins in a hole, an opening.  
        Where are the Muslims? An innocent asks from a neighboring hole. 
        We can hear it over the wall of earth. 
        They are repenting for so many crimes. Many crimes of imagination. The real cannot                     appear in this text. The real crime is the silence. 
         Which silence? 
         The silence that was not the absence of sound. 
        We let them march in the oil drum we carried them through the long desert and now we
are in America. And we did not hear their cries only the aftermath of silence. Why did you not
knock! Why did you not knock?

        The president wants your vote. Remember the Iraqis and their purple fingers? The constitution of robots? The dogs on our crotch? The heavy metal music?  No sleep in the prison? Millions and billions and dollars and trillions and dead all who are martyred are not dead. 
        To be in clarity: because we cannot sleep in peace we must dream.
        Can we clench, beyond, a geometry————//an end to the captivity of a rhombus and square? 
        This is the seventh prison, metaphor. How much before the materiality of metal and elemental hellfire destruction? 
        How many parenthesis must be employed?

        I condemn (). There is no prettiness in parenthesis.  
        The new authority on the Arab, since the outsourcing of the explorer and his hat,
determines the letter. In English, the throat is spontaneously activated. Previously unknown.
Once uncharted regions of muscle. This sound is not only a sound. It is a mechanism for story, a
very old story. It is as familiar as “Once upon a time,” and the veiled horse. 
        Where is the rider; where have you gone Ya Fares al A ح lam?
Goodbye ح, you’ve put on that hat خ. (). 

On distance: 
How far away must I be 
For my silhouette to appear
On all fours?
Words like this only erupt 
As a result of 
My shameful 
Of distance. 
        Close the gaps between you, leave no room for shaytan. 
In what unit do I measure this 
In degrees or tons or atoms or mustard seeds?
In time there is so much distance. 
Forgive me for eating like a rat. 
I am ashamed to not know where to put this body of mine 
and the coins that fall from it 
when it rubs up against something. 

It is not sentimental to ask. What is a suitable receptacle for love? It is not. To pour it 
into an opening. So many holes on google earth. 

The crater is unfathomable, a catastrophe, a sign. 
What shape must it be in? 

The response is polite:
Thank you for your inquiry. The gape of doom is incorrectly structured, and cannot be identified. 

Zainab Hussein is an emerging writer born in Basra, Iraq, and raised across Iran, Yemen, and Syria; then Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Ohio. She holds an MFA in fiction from the University of California, Irvine, where she was awarded a fellowship by the International Center for Writing and Translation, and is a 2023 MacDowell Fellow.