Γνῶθι σεαυτόν

Γνῶθι σεαυτόν
By A.Z. Foreman

After Rough Guide by Grahame Davies and Baṭāqat Hawiyya by Najwān Darwīsh

I.

In Egypt, I'm a Copt, my mother-
-tongue slit by Arabic and Greek,
Living a death as slow as the river
Whose mothersome water bade me speak. 

And I am the Andalusi Jew
In Casablanca on the run
From Christ's Castille, and even now
Weave meaning from that setting sun.

Really, I'm Jewish everywhere
Except, of course, in Israel
Where I'm Arab, a Jew, then a Canaanite
Murdered by worshippers of El. 

By my window that opens out to Greece
Is a Russian icon, a Qur'an
And a map where I can almost see
A country labled Kurdistan. 

There isn't a place that resisted invasion
That I won't call home. Not a soul born free
That is not my sibling. I owe a debt 
To every leaving cloud and tree.

Through the world with mouthy winds insist
That white be white and black be black, 
I will go to the grave an American
With my heart buried in Iraq.

II.

Yeah, ain't that way it always feels?
You can't fall anywhere but down. 
So every time I reach a country
I pass the uppity downtown,

The statues, museums, and seen sights
Where circling jerks on tour all come,
And dive through the dives beyond the guidebook
To walk my wallet through a slum. 

The dialect's changed. Words banned from books
For being spoken by the poor
Are ghettoed here, where could-be muggers
Tremble behind each bolted door.

Who the fuck am I kidding? They need cash.
What can you buy with sympathy?
And what in them dare I see of myself
From the Land of the Free-for-one-small-fee?

History is God's damned one-way street,
For all the good I might have meant
As if my life would be more righteous
By being worse and different.

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