Monday, January 17, 2022

Philip Metres

Philip Metres is an American poet of Lebanese descent who is active in the Arab-American literary scene. He is a professor of English and Director of the Peace, Justice, and Human Rights program at John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio.

America magazine has composed a video about Metres and his work, (available on his website) where the poet quotes the phrase in Isaiah 50 ― “The Lord God has given me a well-trained tongue that I might speak to the weary a word that will rouse them.” He then continues, “When I read that I thought that’s what I want to do…that’s…the mission...of being a wake us up to the mystery and miracle of what it means to be alive.”

The most recent of his five poetry collections is Shrapnel Maps (2020, Copper Canyon). He has also translated book-length collections by Russian poets Arseny Tarkovsky, Lev Rubinstein and Sergey Gandlevsky. The following poem first appeared in Poetry magazine, and is from his collection Sand Opera (2015, Alice James).


That we await a blessed hope, & that we will be struck
With great fear, like a baby taken into the night, that every boot,
Every improvised explosive, Talon & Hornet, Molotov
& rubber-coated bullet, every unexploded cluster bomblet,
Every Kevlar & suicide vest & unpiloted drone raining fire
On wedding parties will be burned as fuel in the dark season.
That we will learn the awful hunger of God, the nerve-fraying
Cry of God, the curdy vomit of God, the soiled swaddle of God,
The constant wakefulness of God, alongside the sweet scalp
Of God, the contented murmur of God, the limb-twitched dream-
Reaching of God. We’re dizzy in every departure, limb-lost.
We cannot sleep in the wake of God, & God will not sleep
The infant dream for long. We lift the blinds, look out into ink
For light. My God, my God, open the spine binding our sight.

Posted with permission of the poet.

This post was suggested by my friend Brad Davis.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the author of five poetry collections including Angelicus (2021, Cascade) ― a book of poems written from the point-of-view of angels. His books are available through Wipf & Stock.