AT HALF-PAST TEN
By Souzi Gharib
In Massachusetts, Brookline, an ailing child
Was born to an ancient Irish clan,
A lineage of kings, heroes and bards.
For History and English he had a flair
But he had a date with world affairs,
A Call, or call it what you may.
Jack wooed billows, sails, and ships
The sail-boat Victura was the birthday gift
Of which many doodles were scribbled on scripts.
Palm Beach, Cape Cod
Rhode Island, Newport
Would bear testimony to competitive sports,
Swimming and sailing, the family cult.
A naval career was a natural course
To command the PT-109
Out of whose wreckage he salvaged a friend
Then carved deliverance into a coconut shell.
The Senator, the Congressman
The youngest elected President
With ‘Date Nolite Rogare‘ had hailed each task
The ancestral motto: ‘Give, be unwilling to ask’.
The White House became a menagerie
Of a wide range of endearing pets,
The animal-loving Kennedys
Doted on their constant friends:
Leprechaun, a pony from Connemara,
Shanon, Clipper, Strelka, Pushinka…
His name remains resonant
With navigators and saints
With St Brendan, St Columba,
And Jeanne d’Arc on a steed,
With St. Francis, with anchors,
With steering wheels,
With bottlenose dolphins,
And the golden fleece.
I had imbibed from you a passion for rhymes
For Le Rouge et Le Noir, for Arabian Nights,
In your own footsteps I became a girl scout,
Our rowing boat was a replica of yours,
And swimming is a communion with a fellow being
Whose blood has the same amount of salt.
I have a date with history
I’ve written a treatise in defense of Templar Knights,
I pursue traces of King Arthur
In Glastonbury and Wales,
And Camelot is a fortress
Which is built in the heart of faith,
My inevitable journey to Avalon
Will eventually unite me with your grace.
I listen to your favourite song
That of September, my favourite month,
D. H. Lawrence was born on its eleventh
And tree-leaves have a date with the wind.
My room is either too hot or too cold,
And when it grows too icy
With no heating whatsoever at home
I listen to Richard Burton’s Camelot
To feel your warmth.
With your youngest brother Bobbie
I share an unremitting pursuit
Of evasive justice,
Of a sense of righteousness,
And like the affectionate father of eleven children,
I remember my graces at meals
And every night before I sleep.
We both take after St. Francis
Who befriended the natural world
We have fraternized with mammals
With fish, with birds, with stone.
You broke away from your bodyguards
To join a choir of boys
Who sang “The Boys of Wexford”
To welcome you in your ancestral home
You laid a wreath at the John Barry Memorial
The father of the American Navy,
The name resonates with heroic anchors
But with music simultaneously
With the music theme of The Persuaders,
Of Somewhere in Time, my favourite film,
Of Dances with Wolves,
Of Mary, Queen of Scots,
Of A View to a Kill, James Bond’s.
At Arbour Hill in Dublin
You paid tribute to the martyrs of 1916,
In Limerick you quoted an old song
An invocation that kindles a come-back to Erin
Éire go brách
Ireland may not be your country of birth
But it is held with the greatest affection
You are bound to come back with shamrocks
With Springtime, a lover’s return.
Charismatic Jack had a rendezvous with death
Was shot by the malicious bullet in the head,
The membrane held precious by Druidic Celts,
On Friday, November, the twenty-second.
The dark-winged agent
Had aimed at his brain
But the un-armoured name
A peace refrain,
A concept which no bullets can amputate.
At Half-Past Ten
At half-past ten
Our lane entombs the remains
Of the lingering rays
Of its homebound inmates
Under a lid of impenetrable hazel.
The moon has been banished for years
From sauntering down our cobbled pavements,
Some think we’ve been accursed ever since
That morbid murder in the cathedral.
I look beyond the canopy of boughs
And try to imagine clusters of stars
Decking my sable flowers with crowns.
My sullen kitten begins to mew
She’s never been blessed with a lunar view,
Never licked a starlit drop of dew
That mischievously slid into its bowl of stew.
I peer through glass at sheets of black,
No house is distinguishable by a glow or spark,
No lamps splutter, no candles flicker out
In this half-past-ten, undiluted dark.
I retreat into the hall, descend a flight of stairs
To where my ancestors fermented their grapes,
Light seven rows of star-shaped votives,
Seven rows of crescents and full-moons
Then start investigating stellar nooks.
About the Author:
Susie Gharib is a graduate of the University of Strathclyde (Glasgow, Scotland) with a Ph.D. Her doctoral thesis, entitled Stylistic and Thematic Reassessment of The Trespasser, is a critical study of the work of D.H. Lawrence. Since 1996, she has been lecturing in Syria. She self-published four collections of poetry (My Love in Red, The Alpine Glow, Resonate and Kareem) and a collection of short stories (Bare Blades). She is a lover of Nature and enjoys swimming.