Scoundrel Time

Portfolio: Poems by Fady Joudah

Declaration of Independence

I am the one I think you are. Could it be

that when the body ended, history started
and when the body persevered it was rediscovered?

I am the one you think I am. In a show of hands
the captain asks for a Cave of Hands, outlines for digits

missing phalanxes. How many
inaccuracies before we call off our scientific wedding?

Cinderella drank the bubbling carbon.
What begets many more replicas of itself wins

the price of admission in delirium’s paroxysm.
We, the collective overcome by the equipment

of belonging, continental,
nucleic, the modes available to us

and what we brand a mode. And despite the self-wars
or because of them, our self does not go extinct.

You’re the one I think I am. I need to find me
another God you can trust.

I am building my pyramid where I won’t be buried.
Your sun will be my sun

and my narrative your coal. You’ll have my say
when I have formed your diamond.


An Algebra Come Home

Morning slept well. The fruit vendor — an immigrant in a Paris street market whose name I can access but don’t recall — sliced a peach and called out to passersby, city dwellers, tourists to try this heart of his, not too sour, not too sweet, ripe, ready, his bare hands looked as dry as can be expected, the pocket knife blade clean as well. Many refused. A few reached out and let his quartered peach fall unto their fingertips furled like flowers. They ate his offering then walked off with or without shaking their heads, No thank you or Yes but No. You waited as you chewed then picked four fruits, one for each chamber. He said “Gorgeous, you’re the one who’s mended my heart.”


After No Language

A silent feeling of an invisible punishment or one seen through cataracts, a sentence that isn’t meted out and doesn’t end; some cuts run deeper than speech: writing may exit the cage but the cage remains and grows, or am I speaking of the life of a footnoter; I always hold back from writing in the margins of the clearest sentences: those that lost their status as feeling once they were excised by skillful hands wielding sharp instruments, a manufacture of refraction; a while back I saw a commercial in black and white for a detergent: its customer was imprisoned in a soap bubble that can’t be breached, a second transparent skin he can’t exit before the commercial ends; I think it was inspired by a Chinese man who was jailed for life as a child inside an iron ball: as he grew the penalty-the ball grew until it was no longer possible to tell his blood from the ball’s rust, and I can’t remember what he was punished for; no silence offers answers:



For decades you thought you were a Scorpio until your sister informed you, according to one birth certificate, you were a Sagittarius.
I can hear your laugh: the one I took for vestige joy filled with trifles among decimated lives. I can hear your laugh when our friend, who inhabited the earth as a metal horse for thirty years, felt she’d been living in the wrong body all along. But when her search led her to the wooden monkey, she resurrected her equine past.
Centaurs and Sphinxes were evolution’s idea in a human mind no longer hallucinatory yet longing for hallucination. Lucretius was right, you said. He saw the step where the math didn’t add up in an equation that had gone on for pages to a conclusion. The method remains unknown but feels correct. Its seduction bewilders until another truth takes hold in substantial numbers. The numbers are invariably wrong and the answer is never one.
Then we solve for it again. Your mom was born in the maiden year of the zodiac of aerial bombing. Her town was among the chosen. My mom was born in the constellation of armistice. What bones do the planets comminute?
Before we met, you and I had been in love
with the same verse: “My heart in life
is my body in death.” You knew it
years before I did. Every face has kiss lines.


Body of Meaning

Is this how she spent her mind’s days
worn out by the no-wonder of it all, injustice
a consciousness so old it’s impossible
to PET-scan without a bolus of antimatter?

She’s a Jedi
and I’m one of seven sleepers in a cave
with our dog. When we woke
the dog was first out the door.

The soul doesn’t roam
outside the body anymore. If history’s
a phoenix then what options
when the two phoenixes meet?

Medusa’s mother:
she sought help for her daughter, a young bride
who was twice married and straight away

twice divorced. The daughter couldn’t speak
or smile or turn and face you without twitching
into fine-motor hell. She had

a bulging stare. With no pills
to down in a swig and no radioiodine
around, her mother wove her a wig.


With the exception of “Declaration of Independence,” these poems are forthcoming in Footnotes in the Order of Disappearance by Fady Joudah. (Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions 2018). Copyright 2018 by Fady Joudah. Printed with Permission from Milkweed Editions.


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