Carolina Ebeid reads “Annotations for a Memorial”
Don Share: This is the Poetry magazine podcast for the week of September 24th, 2018. I’m Don Share, editor of Poetry magazine.
Christina Pugh: I’m Christina Pugh, consulting editor for the magazine.
Lindsay Garbutt: And I’m Lindsay Garbutt, associate editor for the magazine. On the Poetry magazine podcast, we listen to a poem or two in the current issue.
Don Share: Carolina Ebeid teaches at Lighthouse Writers Workshop in Denver and helps edit poetry at The Rumpus. She is a first-generation American, with her mother coming from Cuba and her father from Palestine.
Lindsay Garbutt: Ebeid said her father’s obsession with Palestine was palpable. Her poem in the September issue, “Annotations for a Memorial,” pays homage to her parents’ longing.
Carolina Ebeid: All of their attention, even their body, is oriented towards where that homeland is. And it can feel as though you’re always looking at the backs of their heads, you know.
Don Share: Ebeid said that the format of her poem resembles a page from a notebook. A kind of collection of thoughts for something larger.
Carolina Ebeid: I’ve always loved the feel, the weight, the quality of notes and the way that notes themselves speak.
Lindsay Garbutt: Here is Carolina Ebeid reading “Annotations for a Memorial.”
Something so light
Not a list of violences
nor reports from beauty
One person looks up
& then another after
up in the same direction
Who took this picture of Fight ghost town
this is Palestine
graffitied in Hebron (al-Khalil)?
Who wrote, “they bring that desert stuff to our world”?
My father writes on my wall:
I remember these birds, they used to fly by
the thousands to the wheat fields,
we called them zarzour in Arabic
It begins to waste
like a bar of soap
turned in your hand,
the repeated word
(the boy spins into a curtain)
(bewitchingly out of the mouth)
Grief builds a settlement inside you
When Eric played the album of abnormal heart sounds
recorded for medical students, I felt sorry
And how the brain can’t hold an archive
of every sound you’d like to hear again
You could listen by holding your hand to your ear
Grief will probably
redraft your whole
harbor opens from the chest —
a cargo ship drifting out,
seen & tracked by a satellite
Lindsay Garbutt: I kept thinking about how difficult it is to express grief, both for ourselves and for anyone else, and I think linear narratives wouldn’t do it justice. And so to instead frame this poem as a sort of annotation, as a way of remembering something or fleshing out a remembrance of something is really effective to me. The idea that grief is a settlement inside the body, but that it also redrafts the body, it feels like that is happening, and also the poem sort of redrafts itself or attempts to approach this subject from multiple different angles and places and speakers, even.
Don Share: There is sort of an important generational difference too, because in poetry it’s so easy for someone, a poet, but also a reader, to romanticize grief. And here grief is colonizing as you described it, Lindsay, it is sort of ... well, it builds a settlement inside you …
Carolina Ebeid: Grief will probably / redraft your whole / anatomy ...
Don Share: That’s very drastic. And that kind of observation in this sort of notebook way of thinking about things is very sharp. The father remembers the birds …
Carolina Ebeid: They used to fly by / the thousands to the wheat fields, / we called them zarzour in Arabic ...
Don Share: That sounds like and is poetry, but at a remove of a generation. There is sort of a much harder edge to the thinking that the poet brings to all this. You have to build a kind of action plan out of bits and pieces. And work with what you have. And to me that leads to where the poem leaves off:
Carolina Ebeid: Harbor opens from the chest — / a cargo ship drifting out, / seen & tracked by a satellite ...
Don Share: That invocation of contemporary technology is very sharp and arresting and ... I don’t know, it sort of brings, like, a global sense to the complications that the poet is wrestling with too.
Christina Pugh: When you were speaking I was thinking about how, you know, there are so many birds in poetry and, you know, certainly Keats’s nightingale and, you know, Shelley’s skylark and, you know, they really carry a lot of different things, including the wish for perfect song that the poet sometimes has. And I like how, here, as you were saying, this bird carries that history that’s been lost. And then it sort of turns into a more diffuse kind of reflection on how none of us can hold an archive ...
Carolina Ebeid: Of every sound you’d like to hear again / You could listen by holding your hand to your ear ...
Christina Pugh: The bird song that’s lost, that’s connected, metonymically we might say, to the lost homeland is also sort of wasting away in the mind’s ear, in a certain way. Just because of our human anatomy as well. So that was a really interesting place I thought that the poem went.
Don Share: I think at the same time—and the poems you were talking about are more about hearing than listening, which is a little bit different …
Christina Pugh: Hmm.
Don Share: ... here, “You could listen by holding your hand to your ear,” it’s almost like pointing out how revolutionary it is to listen. That sort of countervailing fact about our—you know, you were just describing—the limitations of our anatomy and, you know, that at the same time, what we are capable of is listening. And that connects back up to a moment very early in the poem …
Carolina Ebeid: One person looks up / & then another after / another looking / up in the same direction ...
Don Share: It’s kind of like, you know, building a solidarity that is very physical, so that putting your body on the line but listening one by one together, are sort of, really, the only things left in certain phases of history.
Christina Pugh: Yeah, and in that sense, redrafting your whole anatomy might be redrafting to make that listening happen.
Lindsay Garbutt: I was thinking a lot about that aspect of all the people looking up at the beginning of the poem. I feel like in a lot of ways, this poem is very cinematic too, I feel like there are these cuts between different images and different parts of the body, as we’ve been talking about, that image of the hand turning a bar of soap over and over again. And also the heart sounds…
Carolina Ebeid: When Eric played the album of abnormal heart sounds / recorded for medical students, I felt sorry ...
Lindsay Garbutt: And so the idea that, you know, at the beginning all these people are looking up, and then at the end we have the satellite, which is sort of looking down at this cargo ship that has left the chest. And we want to picture that literally, it’s the camera lens changing angles, so instead of the human people looking up, it’s the sort of technology surveilling us. And how do we use that for our own human ends, but also how are we sort of threatened by that viewing.
Carolina Ebeid: A cargo ship drifting out, / seen & trapped by a satellite ...
Don Share: You can read “Annotations for a Memorial” by Carolina Ebeid in the September 2018 issue of Poetry magazine or online at poetrymagazine.org.
Lindsay Garbutt: We’ll have another episode for you next week, or you can get all September episodes all at once in the full-length podcast on Soundcloud.
Christina Pugh: Let us know what you thought of this program. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and please link to the podcast on social media.
Don Share: The Poetry magazine podcast is recorded by Ed Herrmann and produced by Curtis Fox and Catherine Fenollosa.
Lindsay Garbutt: The theme music for this program comes from the Claudia Quintet. I’m Lindsay Garbutt.
Christina Pugh: I’m Christina Pugh.
Don Share: And I’m Don Share. Thanks for listening.