Burnt Lyric

by Sofia Samatar




While the architectural arts found their way from Andalus to the south of France across the Pyrenees, it was much easier for a love-song with the accompaniment of the lute to cross over, especially when a young Prover├žal prince, Guillaume IX, had inherited from his father, Guillaume VIII, a palace full of singing girls, captured after the fall of Barbastro.
— Abdul Wahid Lu'lu'a, The Contribution of Spanish Muslims to the European Poetry


Sing la, sing la.

Patient scholar, half tourist, hunt
for gentians in the thunder-haunted hills.
You will not find our ghosts.
Write: Huddled round campfires, the women felt.
By day, the women attempted.
The women often.
The women must have.
The women were.
Our ghosts are elsewhere.
Several of us dwell in the antenna
of a dead television in a Madrid apartment.

La, sing la,
and gaily the troubadour.
Dream you find us lurking on the stair.

This one's crooked, that one's old,
The third one's throat is flecked with mold
As green as any pear;
The fourth is bent, the fifth is cold,
The last is pale as marigold,
Her lute is strung with hair.

Write faster, fast as you can.
Fill in the blanks.

white honey
                                  a desert like
                  sweeter than
                                  abundant
                                  said my love
                  the rose.

You're drunk on song, while we line the cracks
of a cupboard in Trapani.
I spent a whole winter outside Toulouse
underneath an abandoned car, and sang
Meu l-habib enfermo de meu amar.
January star,
bear me where the domes and crosses are.

 La.

Under the cypress tree, my lover said to me,
If it's evidence you're looking for, 
you'll find it.
You'll prove whole cities from a broken brooch, and blur
what the lost dead know.

My love rode north
and I rode south. 

Death, like the lyric, is carried in the mouth.



Sofia Samatar is a fantasy writer, poet and critic, and a PhD student in African Languages and Literature. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in several places, including Stone Telling, Strange Horizons and the anthology The Moment of Change. Her debut novel, A Stranger in Olondria, is forthcoming from Small Beer Press in 2013. She blogs here.

Cherry poem: The word "cherry" immediately brings to mind Pablo Neruda's poem "Every Day You Play," translated by W.S. Merwin, and the lovely final lines: "I want/ to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees."

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