Blue Shift

Fady Joudah


Nightly, a longing, no repression
some trigger released,
snatches me, after the passage
of many years, for 
I haven’t a clue, the beloved
nameless beyond 
when among the unsleeping,
for the longing
to die better.

A longing behind a longing:
my illness is past
a certain ecstasy
in the thrill of deceit, nightly
a life lived in disremembering
an interiority that walks me
far in search of one
whose end I write
in my calligraphy,
a stranger’s end,
nightly snatches me.

Not enough that she suffered
in headlines while 
so many
of our good hearts

refuse to believe
that they refuse
to believe: names
I count and remove
or is this the repression
you intend:
someone you know
is on the brink
of suicide, of murder,
is it also not
a national question?

If my love’s eyes are stone
memory will
carve them still
unforgettable. To die better,
I search my distances
for Fadwa, for Alyssa,
they’re doing well,
thank you for asking.
A consolation
that doesn’t outlive hope:
a fatal disease we’ve made curable
mostly here, and nightly
longing exiles longing.

Nightly, your strings ring
me with friends
who go on singing
the hours, smoking the air,
drinking unaware
that I was
from among them taken.
And the names,
all but one, disappear,
if one’s ever
lucky in our century.


Fady Joudah is author of four collections of poems, and several volumes of translations from Arabic.

Image: “Nocturne, Venice.” Arthur B. Charles. 1909. From The Smithsonian.