Click this photograph to see an index of Philip Metres poems available in the Crisis Chronicles Library
Poet Philip Metres 9/11/2008 before his featured reading
at Cleveland’s Literary Cafe [photo by Jesus Crisis]


A man named Attalah from Mourjan traced his roots back
to the Ghassassinat—those who’d come from Mesopotamia to Lebanon

Eight years old, new to the neighborhood, I pedaled past
a pack of kids: their stare.  Spic.  Hey spic.  First one, then a hail
of crabapples pelting my back. 

Because of his bravery in wars against the Shi’ites,
the Amir called him Abou Alrijali, “Father of Men”
On a Carnival Cruise, my father once dressed as a sheikh—
as if to unlock what was coiled in cells, buried under tongues.
All junior high I blow-dried the revolt of curls.

From that day forth, he was Abou Alrijali
With print standardization the name became Abourjaili

In England I was French.  In France I was Moroccan.
In Russia I was Chechen.  In Greece, they read my olive skin
as theirs, could not believe when I couldn’t understand.

At Ellis Island, when Skandar ibn Mitri Abourjaili was asked
it was written: Skandar Metres

But at the port near Ephesus, the scrum of drivers
and pickpockets surrounded us, strictly business.  Among ruins
of houses, a boy who could pass for my child

pressed an old coin into my hand, asking for nothing
but its value in American.  My cousin, forgive me,
I was struck dumb: foreigner to my own lips.  

Like yesterday, a Friday, the sun down, a man
in black coat and bowler hat stopped me in the street:
Son, it’s time for shul.  Why do you walk home?

* * * * *

“Patronymic” appears in Metres’ prize-winning new poetry collection To See the Earth
(Cleveland State University Press, 2008)

with grateful acknowledgement to Mizna, where it first appeared

This poem is included in the Crisis Chronicles Library by permission
All rights remain with Philip Metres

“Patronymic” is one of the poems Mr. Metres performed Thursday September 11th 2008
at Cleveland’s renowned Literary Cafe – click here to view Andy Timithy’s video of the reading

To read Philip Metres “The Ash Tree,” please click here.

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