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"Tocqueville", the title poem from the eponymous volume

the latest collection from Libyan-born poet/translator Khaled Mattawa
Poet Khaled MattawaPoet Khaled Mattawa

Khaled Mattawa was born in Benghazi, Libya, in 1964 and immigrated to the United States in his teens. He received an MFA in creative writing from Indiana University and a Ph.D from Duke University, and presently teaches at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Mattawa is the author of four books of poetry, Tocqueville (New Issues Press, 2010) Amorisco (Ausable Press, 2008), Zodiac of Echoes (Ausable Press, 2003) and Ismailia Eclipse (Sheep Meadow Press, 1996). He has translated nine books of contemporary Arabic poetry by Adonis, Saadi Youssef, Fadhil Al-Azzawi, Hatif Janabi, Maram Al-Massri, Joumana Haddad, Amjad Nasser, and Iman Mersal, and has co-edited two anthologies of Arab American literature. His awards include the PEN American Center prize for literary translation, a Guggenheim fellowship, the Alfred Hodder fellowship from Princeton University, an NEA translation grant, and three Pushcart prizes. He is the recipient of the 2010 Academy of American Poets Fellowship Prize and a Ford/United States artist for 2011. Read editor's intro

"Tocqueville" by Khaled Mattawa

An offer to discuss.
He wears a thin graying beard, kaffiyeh flaunted on shoulders.
She's got a school-marmish face, this time black.

On the Horn of Africa, pirates on the water,
technicals with Kalashnikovs on pick-up trucks,
streetlights ripped for scrap metal.
Rebel-leader president, cell phones shuddering, accounts in Dubai.

We are all Christians now, said Mandelstam.

/ /

Ajami, Abizaid, Rice, Gonzalez, Yoo, Viet Dinh

with people like that leading the action, you can't call it racism.

That's what you call the karma of yellow/brown folks.

/ /

If you want these people to play your national anthem
when your envoy visits,
if you want them to open a branch of the chamber of commerce,
or Chase Manhattan,
you've got set the whole thing up.
They're not going for that anymore.
And anyhow, do you know how many countries
make their own AK47's now?

And Uzi's too, but that's more of a fashion statement.

And you'd wonder what they're doing for water and electricity.

Everybody's got generators now. Some people installed windmills on their roofs,
Chinese made, Danish technology. Kerosene less expensive than water.

And hasn't everybody dug a well and a pump to suck whatever municipality water gets through the old pipes?

What municipality water? That's all gone now. The sewage system has been out for years.

You could make good money building cisterns there, and good money renting the trucks that suck the shit out.

You dump it in the sea, of course.