Tuesday, August 23, 2016

On Imran of Aleppo

Call me a fool
I most likely fit the bill
Though I will not call off
My search among the rubble
For a doll whose face and apparel
Are overly smeared
By dust settling only to rise
From the cloud and maddening din
Of orbiting debris in outer space,
Out of sheer human senselessness
All over, all around, and whichever ways the dust blows…
Son of my Mom
Wherever you care to tread is smithereens
And in the fashion of a weary trooper
You seek an angle, a corner
Of a floundering spandrel
And you lay your head
On a cracked keyboard or a pillow-like piece of brick
To take a break from the clamor of things
And in the midst of your snooze
Something itching inside your mind’s eye
Awakens you
Your instincts speak to you
“Go inspect the fresh fragments which just populated your corner
And comb the litter for your doll”
-Some pursuit with which to kill pain -
To fool yourself into thinking this nonsense will stop and that you can actually breathe into the womb of your doll so she starts strolling with you amid the shrapnel miraculously metastasizing into petals, pollen-carrying bees, and hum-drum green streets with kids walking back home from school and street vendors singing the praises of their shawarmas and Kamaruddin drinks and sundry other formerly uncelebrated little happenings and the little tender life in your palm waving her hand to another across the street amid the honking of cars by folks honoring the hustle and bustle of their lives,
And if you’re lucky
You’ll wake up for the fifth year in a row
With a slab on your chest
Dust in your nostrils
And blood gushing out of a vein under your knee
And a piece of smoldering concrete
Laying squarely on your camera
And your little baby doll
In her eternal sleep
And in the havoc being wreaked, they manage to stitch your limb, press your shirt around the bloody thing, and dust off your eyes so you can continue, against all odds, to inspect the wreckage for your living baby doll.

Friday, August 19, 2016


And then, at times, you find yourself
Placing the time pieces
And you smile for a while
But oftentimes you find pieces right there
Staring at you
Daring you to do or undo
What’s been done with you
And the days dash to their ends
And the nights mutate into dawns 
And before you could gasp
To gasp for breath
You hit a ditch
Out of which you labor to pull your weight
Off the grime of the evening
And strain to walk
Against flat land
Using ropes and pegs
Placed by ancient and fresh climbers
On the canvas of time
And on the brink of space
All you do is sweat  
To avert small rock and avalanche
Gosh, is this what's it's all about?
In my tender years I was told
You'll clear the plots 
And place only furnishings 
Of your own choice
And you'll walk straight
To the no-man's land
Where your mind
Draws the maps
Designs the universe
Sets it in order 
And hoists an orderly fence
And you will lead a full life
With no closure or anguish in sight…
On third thoughts though
It will be wise to surmise
That the final draft
The author plots
Will prevail at all costs.

Saturday, August 6, 2016


A long pent-up Mount Etna
Suffuses the dark Catanian sky
With charcoal red,
Numbs the alabaster
Curvy hills with flame
That slowly flows a mile
Curls, then rests,
Scintillating just a while;
Drops of dew,
Hanging on to leaves of grass
Meaning to twitch the seed
Before mutating into vapor.

Etna, you might say,
Is a local upheaval,
A curse, an earmark of hellish wrath.
But no!
It's rather a healing move,
Rectification, not cacophony,
Not self-incrimination.
Sicily's in love with Etna,
And Etna with Sicily.

Ali H. Raddaoui

Tuesday, January 12, 2016


In the evening of tomorrow,
The sun will set on my canoe
And my eyes.
I don’t know where the waters will take me.
During the day, 
The river meanders
Its bed knows where it goes.
My eyes befriend its path
Salute its banks
Touch its foliage
And the fauna drinks in plain sight.
My eyes shake hands with its alligators
Greet its tadpoles
Beckon its birds…
In the dead of the night,
The river’s the river;
But is the river
The river?
Ahead of me
May be my day
But only maybe.
What turns and slopes?
How steep are the slopes?
Are there pills to dispel my fears?
And systems firmly in place to steer clear of swirls
Any hard shoulders?
How about tributaries, 
Currents running upstream,
And other natural safe exits?
No, no, no!
I shall not now
Go back home
I shall continue my stroll.

Monday, February 3, 2014

A stylistic analysis of Al-Mutanabbi's poem: واحر قلباه - My heart burns in English translation

Applying the principles of stylistic analysis on any piece of writing is a very powerful tool for tackling text of all kinds. There are times when we are lucky enough to have knowledge of the context in which any piece of writing was composed. In the case of the poem at hand,  واحر قلباه ممن قلبه شبم - 'My heart burns at he whose heart grows cold', it seems there is enough information about the poet, his epoch, and the circumstances that gave rise to the poem. It makes sense to use those to contextualize the whole poem, but deep scrutiny of the bricks and mortar of the text is what I have relied on, for the most part, to achieve a  provisional understanding of the poem. For the record, I have selected some 13 lines from the poem, which is otherwise much longer. I have crystallized my interpretation in the vodcast below, which I hope will serve as a stepping stone for a superior understanding. Thanks for watching. Ali H. Raddaoui.

Monday, November 4, 2013


And it’s true that some thought
He wrought to wear a human face
And actually seemed
Most decent with his military insignias on.
He speaks with that sort of passion and depth,
It seems, that gives reasoned reasons
For his reasons.
Technically speaking, how his words go down
Is of little consequence to those around
For they’re made palatable
By the very concavity of his idiom.
His inner thoughts,
And I am only privy to them
Through his rather large sun glasses
From beneath of which he probably glances
At the little folks in the hustle and bustle of their lives
Underneath the purview of his glasses,
His inner thoughts, Oh… never mind, never mind.
Here is no common man;
His mission, it turns out,
Transcends all women and men
And the little children
In whose eyes the streams run
And the birds dream of Spring
In the dead of wintertime.
For the record, his voice declares:
“Men and women of the East
Mark my words; your destinies
Rest in my hands
I am your baker, dough, salt and yeast.
A true vision I hold
You know not where I dream to take you
Nor do you need to know
I myself know not the nitty-gritty of
Where we’ll go;
I only know I’m not God Almighty
But God Almighty anointed me
And appointed me to deliver you
From the destinies
You’ve plotted against yourselves
With your own hands …
And that indelibly wrong ink
On your forefinger with which you thought
You’d rewrite the preamble of your script!
For the sake of these tender hands,
I hereby un-ink the ink
And forgive you your wrongdoing.”