Ramadan

By Khaled Mattawa b. 1964 Khaled Mattawa
My mother forgets to feed her animals
because it's only fair.
She rushes to them when
she hears hoarse roosters crowing
and billy goats butting
over a last straw.

This month the moon becomes a princess.
The stars fan her,
Jupiter pours cups of wine,
Mars sings melancholy mawals.
Bearded men holding prayer beads
and yellow booklets stare at her
and point aching fingers at her waist.

In our house we break a fast
with dates from Huun
and glasses of buttermilk.
Then on to bowls of lamb soup
flavored with mint, trays
of stuffed grape leaves,
spiced fava beans drenched
in olive oil and lemon juice.
And that is only the beginning.

The spirits of Johnny Walker and gin
hide in the trunks of white Peugeots.
In the nightclubs of my city, waiters
serve only non-alcoholic beer
and belly dancers cover themselves.

Father of sixteen children, our neighbor
visits bringing two kilos of baklava.
He washes them down with a dozen
demitasses of sweet sage tea.
Before dawn he runs to one
of his two wives, both named Salma,
and loves her hurriedly,
his hands barely touching a breast.

NOTES: A Mawal is an unaccompanied improvisarional vocal solo regularly performed by singers of traditional Arabic music to show their poetic as well as singing prowess.

Khaled Mattawa, "Ramadan" from Ismailia Eclipse. Copyright © 1995 by Khaled Mattawa.  Reprinted by permission of The Sheep Meadow Press.

Source: Ismailia Eclipse (The Sheep Meadow Press, 1995)

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Poet Khaled Mattawa b. 1964

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

Subjects Relationships, Family & Ancestors, Religion, Social Commentaries, Cities & Urban Life

Holidays Ramadan

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Khaled  Mattawa

Biography

Born and raised in Benghazi, Libya, poet Khaled Mattawa relocated to the United States as a teenager in 1979. He received an undergraduate degree in political science and economics from the University of Tennessee; an MA and an MFA from Indiana University, where he also won an award from the Academy of American Poets; and a PhD from Duke University.
 
Influenced by Milan Kundera and Federico García Lorca, as well as the Arab . . .

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SUBJECT Relationships, Family & Ancestors, Religion, Social Commentaries, Cities & Urban Life

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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