About The Galveston Oil Spill and A Kindred Poet: Nizar Qabbani (Syrian, 1923-1998)

Image

 

“There are certain emotions in your body that not even your best friend can sympathize with, but you will find the right film or the right book, and it will understand you.” 

 ― Björk

 

These words were especially true yesterday, when a friend told me about the recent oil spill near my birthplace. (“The area is home to popular bird habitats, especially during the approaching migratory shorebird season.” –Associated Press) I couldn’t find my own words to express my reaction to what happened, and my position about the fossil fuel/nonrenewable energy industry, but I remembered the beautiful words of a kindred poet, translated in English I discovered in a collection purchased from Recycled Reads: Modern Arab Poets , which features three representative poems by Nizar Qabbani. The title of the poem that empathized with me after reading about the oil spill near Galveston: “Love and Petroleum”.  

In his dissertation about the poet, diplomat, and publisher, Nizar Qabbani: From Romance to Exile, Muhamed Alkhalil writes: 

 

[Qabbani] launched a searing attack against the Arab “princes of oil” in Saudi Arabia and 

the Arabian Gulf. The poem railed against the nouveau-riche Arab Sheikhs 

and Princes squandering their money on women and booze in the nightlife of 

Western capitals when the rest of the Arab world, and indeed their own 

societies, were desperately in need of these resources. Written in the voice of 

a woman rejecting the advances of one such Arab Sheikh, the poem despite 

its rhetorical strength, at times bordered on vulgarity and name-calling.

 

Unfortunately, the poem isn’t available to read online, but I will share a stanza that mirrored my rejection of American oil princes today:

 

When will you understand?

That you will never numb me

By your wealth and your princedoms

That you will never possess the world

With your oil

With your concessions,

With petroleum

Exhaled from your flowing mantles

With cars you throw

At your princesses’ feet

In countless numbers…

 

Nizar Qabbani and I happen to share the same birth date, similar romantic language usage and use of poetry as social commentary sensibilities. Now he ranks as one of my kindred spirit poets, with Gwendolyn Brooks, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Rita Dove, and Pablo Neruda.

 

Advertisements

Plaisance means “Pleasure” (Martha & Malvin Valmont in Plaisance, LA circa 1950)

Martha & Malvin Valmont (Plaisance, LA circa 1950)

The content on this web page is not to be reused or reprinted without permission of the author.

Plaisance is French for “Pleasure”, and it has been my pleasure lately, surveying a map of my maternal great grandparents’ home of St. Landry Parish, the birthplace of Zydeco, where I spent a lot of summers and holidays. Since childhood, I’ve had a fascination with names of events, places, and roads there, like Yambilee, Tony Chachere’s Creole Foods, and Westwego…so maybe it’s time to write an entire series of stories, prose, and poems based on five senses of memories from childhood and early adulthood in Louisiana.

Sometimes I write under the pseudonym Renée Valmont, so I may use the name for the potential creative writing project. The working title: Mon Plaisance/My Pleasure.

From The Non-Adventures of Invisible Girl: The Power of Invisibility

The content on this web page is not to be reused or reprinted without permission of the author.

“I’m gonna tell you a secret about this culture: Women have all the power.”

So began the words of wisdom my ex-friend with benefits bestowed upon me to cut off benefits, or how he failed to see what was really right in front of him for years: a powerful kindred spirit in female form.

He talks about feminism and chauvinism, culture and the matrix, thinking he’s above it all, but as I fly above our bodies, in the ether above the chair he uses to cushion the blow of words, then hovering in the air an hour later, above the parking lot where I see him as a mere mortal disguised as a super man.  Once again, this man tells me what he thinks I am and what he thinks I am not, and calls it “truth”.  I know he’s stuck in the same world he talks about, but refuses to rise above the vision stuck in his head that isn’t really seeing me.

Then I hear Black Flag’s “Rise Above” playing.  (He can’t hear it, of course, because he doesn’t have the power of super hearing.)

Maybe giving him way too much time to think alone about not trying to super fuck me anymore is one of the side effects of to my power of invisibility.  I definitely held back a little, all those times, not to overwhelm him.  And Invisible Girls have things to do when boys who thinks they’re super men and that she’s just a girl start telling her everything he thinks she’s not…

When a boy like him doesn’t think a girl like me is visible, let alone extraordinary, an Invisible Girl like me doesn’t point out what makes her extraordinary.  That would be showing off, being irresponsible with my super power. We all know what the uncle said to his nephew about responsibility in that one superhero movie.

I know it’s superhero cliche, but I decided to keep my cloak on for a while longer with him, to continue wearing the burden of not being detectable as his soul mate for fear of losing my secret identity.  (Invisible ladies, we all know sometimes it takes years for us to reveal our awesome selves, and not just to anyone.)

I showed him and told him I loved him while wearing the cloak, but he wasn’t looking, or listening.  He says he’s a three-dimensional man, and the written word is a two-dimensional wall. I still loved him, even though he is wrong about words, and the shapes they make, sometimes as weapons, sometimes as living things, and occasionally, (or some critics would claim, rarely), words take an immortal shape.  Those three words I spoke are never going to die, but he didn’t accept them as a living, breathing, three-dimensional being.  To him, I was just another girl, invisible–not the Invisible Girl.

Those few words of love perished quickly in his mind, looking at just another girl, not seeing the one… I let the remaining words I wrote and spoke fall flat, because why reveal your secret identity, why show off to someone who will never really see you as “the one”?  (My words, not his, but he never took the hint.)

I blame watching too much TV, and not enough seeing the reality of me being there, in that chair and in that parking lot, in those moments.  I was really there, and I wasn’t afraid of falling in love anymore, because now I had the power to fly…and the power to choose, to be visible again.

Knowing he was wrong about my particular power gave me strength, letting him think he was right, gave me strength.  He didn’t know me or that every girl and woman is different, we have different powers and super powers.  Because he thinks he has seen everything and every girl he needs to see, before he sees “the girl” (his words, not mine), but he never really cared to see the woman in me.

But I can’t blame him entirely for using me and not seeing me, the woman, because I was busy being Invisible Girl.  What I thought was my super power became a weakness. Being invisible means feeling invincible, and letting the person who doesn’t really see you also doesn’t let the person see that you can be hurt.

I won’t waste my super powers trying to invisibly save his life anymore, pretending it doesn’t hurt.  Even superheroes, superheroines, or whatever the gender binary powers that be choose to call us, feel pain. We may act like super humans, but take away the super…

But I won’t bore you anymore with this chapter.  I’m more eager to read another super woman’s invisible story, disguised as prose.

In the meanwhile, I will begin to write my next chapter, all about my fearless non-adventure of being a visible woman to the meme free man, willing and able to visibly stare into my powerful, 3-D lens,  to see the quintessential dimension.  We’ll live there together, someday.

© 2013 by Danna Williams, a.k.a. DIY Danna

For The Birds (Two Poems)

The content on this web page is not to be reused or reprinted without permission of the author.

Bird Calls (or The Life of Birds in East Texas)

An unseen bird attempts to be heard

over the whir-chunk-clamor

of machinery digging up dirt

on a Sunday before noon.

Not many cars drive down the nearby road,

past the partially cleared forest

that frames a farm house covered

in a final vinyl after years of peeling paint.

A ten-year-old girl is indoors,

listening to the cacophonous music,

after faking an illness

to escape another sermon that always seems to end

with a dove flying over a mythical man’s head.

Maybe the preacher likes birds, like her,

watches and listens to  them in the early morning

before the competing sound of progress

uproots more tress, digs up more ground below

in which will flow a human obsession

that burns up and disappears quicker than a passion,

while the calls of birds remain unanswered.

(October 2012, in support of the Tar Sands Blockade in East Texas. (Take action in your community and donate to the cause to stop the Keystone XL Pipeline @ http://www.tarsandsblockade.org/donate-3/. )

V-Formation (or The Life of Birds at Town Lake)

Music after the afternoon dream coos

in the trees, lofty wild parrots squawk,

aping human noises; mocking birds

chirp like false car alarms

in a new condo complex parking lot.

On a day of breezes, black birds fight

with broken glass as ducks float

on Town Lake, a slow picture show

before the storm of man-made rapture…

I’lll miss the green grass and man-made happy trails

to a nature landing, on the cool bank where two friends

sit silently, skipping stones and an unimportant destination.

There is no human v-formation.

(March 2012)

“Bird Calls” and “V-Formation” © 2012 by Danna Williams, a.k.a. Renée Valmont.

A Work of Fiction in Progress: The Anti-Gravity House

interrcouple

The content on this web page is not to be reused or reprinted without permission of the author.

Originally titled “The Anti-Gravity Room”, until I learned it was the name of a Canadian television series that aired on the U.S. Sci-Fi channel, The Anti-Gravity House is a work in progress I decided to post as a return to prose and fiction. This work is so new, I’m posting parts of the narrative as they are deemed completed by self-editing. Maybe I’ll change the title back to the original if the TV series isn’t being televised somewhere. I’m not sure where this particular work is going (prose, short story, novella, novel?), but after a series of good, bad and indescribable experiences in life and dreams, I was inspired to write this work. The following is a teaser, and I don’t expect kindness in your criticisms, but constructive comments without scathing judgments in stone are always welcome.

The Anti-Gravity House

by Danna Marrón Williams

Start of Chapter /Part 1: Quintessence, or Before Things Fell Apart

“Weightlessness.”

That’s how I described the feeling to Joshua after graduation, and five years of weights – nothing was holding me down now.

Before we broke up, Josh was studying for the LSAT, and seemed to have the weight of the world on his shoulders. The pregnancy scare had been a wake-up call to my boyfriend “getting his act together”, although he was never someone I would ever see as a slacker. Although at the moment, he was in nothing but a tank top and boxers at the kitchen table, looking like the poster boy for no ambition. The contradiction to his careless appearance: he had every test prep book I’d ever heard of sitting on the table, and a stack of practice test papers.

“How do you know everything’s going to be OK? You might not get your dream job, or a decent job in this economy.” Josh rubbed his dark, curly locks that flopped over his temples, ears.

“I don’t know. I just know I’ve got me. And you–us. We can make it.” Walking across the kitchen floor, I gave him a hug from behind then rubbed the same soft hair and temples, attempting to soothe his mind by a simple, loving touch.

[More soon]

The Anti-Gravity House © 2009 by Danna Williams for Lipstick Pages

The ‘New’ Civil and Human Rights Movement in America?

“If you are going to hold someone down, you’re going to have to hold onto the other end of the chain. You are confined by your own system of repression.” – Toni Morrison (Author)

James Byrd, Jr. and Matthew Shepard

James Byrd, Jr. and Matthew Shepard

“What’s the difference between dragging a black man behind a truck in Jasper, Texas, and beating a white boy to death in Wyoming because he’s gay?” – Nikki Giovanni (Poet, Educator, Activist)

From a legal point of view, the new civil rights movement means “equal rights = equal protection”. From a moral point of view, this new movement for marriage equality is about human rights and dignity, something that can’t be legislated or taught to people who in the latter 20th century and today don’t seem to understand what that means. Some of us still don’t understand what the black and women’s rights struggles in previous centuries really mean for humanity either. (I’ll give us a couple of clues: progress and evolution.)

About the violation of human rights and dignity: As a female human being with brown skin and of African ancestry, I have encountered a fairly limited amount of discrimination and abuse, so I don’t consider myself an expert on the matter. And race seems a silly concept to me considering what history and science is proving about our origins and why we generally look and behave the way we do. However, learning about the open discrimnation and segregation my mother and her grandparents faced before I was born has prepared me for the worst, while I hoped for the best in human behavior.

This is why I’m ashamed to see the display of hateful behavior from groups organized to prevent others from their pursuit of happiness, legislating morality through propositions, narrowminded biblical interpretations, and outright discrimination, intimidation and abuse through withdrawal of basic civil and human rights. When you deny someone their rights, you deny your own. During the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s, many organizations in the south that weren’t the Ku Klux Klan, concerned citizen groups, used similar tactics to oppress the minority they viewed as a threat to their way of life. What these citizen groups didn’t see? That they were repressing themselves by denying the rights and dignity of other citizens based on illogical and irrational assumptions about humanity based on physical appearance and the oppressive legacy of slavery.

I don’t question the intentions of these new citizen groups and initiatives that oppose the new civil and human rights movement – which includes the legalization of same sex unions and stronger penalties for hate crimes motivated by differences in race and sexual orientation.  Citizens have a right to peaceably assemble, as well as petition their government if they believe a law must be written or changed. What I question is the lack of understanding that we are all human beings with desires and dreams of happiness. Regardless of race and religion, color and creed – despite all our perceived differences – I’m surprised and disappointed we overlook our similarities as human beings. Not all of us have the same goals to meet individual contentment, yet some of us (straight and gay) have the same desires and dreams in our pursuit of happiness – finding a soul mate, a life partner, someone to build a family with if that is what they choose. I’m fairly certain that in 1998, like an older black man from Texas, all a young white man from Wyoming wanted was to live in peace without threats to his freedom and life from the terror of bigotry.

Some who aren’t violent still hold these bigoted views and wish to revoke civil rights in the new century and millennium, although it is disguised as a moral complaint against a new minority – gays, lesbians, bisexuals and the transgendered.  There are many, including African-Americans, who justify discrimination and abuse by belief and faith in particular biblical principles, without regard to other principles promoted in that same good book—compassion and love. Many justify the revocation of rights of citizens and human beings by a lack of understanding or empathy.

There is no justification for injustice. When any peaceful human being’s liberty and life are threatened, intolerance and bigotry are never justifiable behaviors. Never. Just because you’re not gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgendered doesn’t mean hateful propositions presented by “concerned citizens” and upheld by courts shouldn’t matter to you.  As one human rights leader once said, “A threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”*

How many more people have to be denied civil rights, taken against their will, tortured and/or killed because they’re different before we realize this and protest?

-Danna Williams, in response to Proposition 8 in California and Proposition 2 in Texas, and a recent California Supreme Court ruling upholding the ban on same sex marriage.

*Martin Luther King, Jr.

New poetry, prose and short fiction coming soon… I had to vent.