Meeting at an Airport

By Taha Muhammad Ali 1931–2011
You asked me once,
on our way back
from the midmorning
trip to the spring:
“What do you hate,
and who do you love?”
 
And I answered,
from behind the eyelashes
of my surprise,
my blood rushing
like the shadow
cast by a cloud of starlings:
“I hate departure . . .
I love the spring
and the path to the spring,
and I worship the middle
hours of morning.”
And you laughed . . .
and the almond tree blossomed
and the thicket grew loud with nightingales.
 
. . . A question
now four decades old:
I salute that question’s answer;
and an answer
as old as your departure;
I salute that answer’s question . . .
 
And today,
it’s preposterous,
here we are at a friendly airport
by the slimmest of chances,
and we meet.
Ah, Lord!
we meet.
And here you are
asking—again,
it’s absolutely preposterous—
I recognized you
but you didn’t recognize me.
“Is it you?!”
But you wouldn’t believe it.
And suddenly
you burst out and asked:
“If you’re really you,
What do you hate
and who do you love?!”
 
And I answered—
my blood
fleeing the hall,
rushing in me
like the shadow
cast by a cloud of starlings:
“I hate departure,
and I love the spring,
and the path to the spring,
and I worship the middle
hours of morning.”
 
And you wept,
and flowers bowed their heads,
and doves in the silk of their sorrow stumbled.

Taha Muhammah Ali, “Meeting at an Airport” from So What. Copyright © 2006 by Taha Muhammah Ali. Reprinted by permission of Copper Canyon Press.

Source: So What (Copper Canyon Press, 2006)

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Poet Taha Muhammad Ali 1931–2011

POET’S REGION Middle East

Subjects Relationships, Nature, Trees & Flowers, Love

Poetic Terms Free Verse

Biography

Palestinian poet and short story writer Taha Muhammad Ali grew up in Saffuriya, Galilee. During the Arab-Israeli war in 1948, he moved with his family to Lebanon for a year; since then he has lived in Nazareth, where he owns a souvenir shop. Self-taught through his readings of classical Arabic literature, American fiction, and English poetry, Ali started writing poems in the 1970s. His collections in English include Never Mind: . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Relationships, Nature, Trees & Flowers, Love

POET’S REGION Middle East

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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