One Poem by Fady Joudah

Our poetry editor, Wendy Xu, has selected one poem by Fady Joudah for her monthly series that brings original poetry to the screens of Hyperallergic readers.

Vija Celmins, “Untitled (Ocean Mezzotint)” (2016), mezzotint on Hahnemuhle paper; paper size: 21 1/2 x 19 inches; image size: 10 1/2 x 12 1/2 inches, edition of 40 (image courtesy Senior & Shopmaker Gallery, NY)


Sheetrock, Paint, Studs


A child of Poseidon, the rain entered our home
from the sea. We sat on the carpeted
staircase, watched our youth dislocate
six times in all. In those days
fire and Aries sent their progeny our way,
but with dry thunder
and bloodshot lightning, our childhood
wasn’t insured. It endured
in damaged dwelling. A damaged dwelling
can’t be remodeled whole. As grownups,
our resale value tripled that
of our parents. For decades we reveled
in pecuniary bliss until the flood,
and now we grew mold inside, termites
were after our kingdom.
Fecund mercenaries, dressed as empathetic clowns,
would have us, the survivors, fund the funders.
In this, we were the same as our parents.
Their contents worksheet read as follows:
All was lost, none forgotten.
Depreciation, priceless.
For everything else, philanthropy.
The science of it is another deity’s narrative.
It was all concrete in the city
and where is water to go?
Poor water, its agency partially stripped,
came across as mean. Wood pops
and floats, drifts and buckles,
swells like human legs whose hearts have failed.
Physics explains expansion after settlement
and the settlement of expansion.
Our deductible was low.
We were manmade and natural. We flew
gods in to arbitrate our fate. The rain
had risen from the sea to gentrify us, grass,
Aspergillus fumigatus, and all sorts of weed.
Our lungs, caked with cement dust,
our demolition commenced,
friends with crowbars, hammers,
electric saws, measuring tape, fans,
dehumidifiers, we ripped the floors,
fileted the walls, goodbye sink
and countertop, goodbye cabinet
over the sink. Goodbye mattress,
pantry, and maple over the roof. Goodbye
polar bear and goodbye moon
through the window,
but the driveway and front doorstep
were steadfast for a country
with a budget to balance. A low glass
ceiling our lips, noses, palms,
nipples, navels, and iliac crests
pressed against. And what stone
amid the debris turned. The detritus
was mostly next door, neighborly, Caribbean,
the power outage, powered
cholera, chlorinated pool and powder room.
We totaled our cars, interviewed the bidders.
We rolled our years then smoked our years.
And in the drying, we forgot our colors.
If white came first,
if red. If red
stole the brain’s flow
until stars appeared
portals for blue.


*   *   *


Fady Joudah’s fourth poetry collection, Footnotes in the Order of Disappearance, is now available from Milkweed Editions. He was a recipient of the Yale Series for Younger Poets prize, a Griffin Poetry Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, among others.

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