Observations on the Journey of Life | Review of “Maps with Moving Parts” by Walid Bitar (Brick Books)

We all realize that our life is a journey of some sort. We may not be aware of its destination at times and many of the signposts are completely unreadable when we cross them but there are common features that we all have in that journey. Walid Bitar documents some of his experiences of his journey in his collection of poetry called Maps with Moving Parts and shows us that some of his sights and feelings are ours as well.

Emigration (excerpt) – Page 11

After take-off somebody said the beach

was a clothesline, and the sea

was drying

 

Somebody else took a relative’s death

mask out; curious neck

after neck carried it down the aisle

like a bucket.

There was no fire.

 

I read in a magazine how

the ancient Chinese questioned a suspect: if

his mouth dried, if his swallows grew coarser and

coarser he was guilty.

 

I didn’t rent any earphones

for the movie, but couldn’t help

noticing most of the actors

screaming.

Magicians look like that just before

they pull eggs out of their mouths.

 

One bad thing about emigrating is

that people who stay behind can always

say you ran away from something.

Relatives take your photographs off

their walls, and leave

clean rectangles.

Bitar’s words here reveal his observations in a clear and simple manner. Yet the phrasing conjures surprising images in the mind’s eye that a reader may have observed themselves in their travels but may have not fully realized until reading them out loud .

On the Beaten Track (page 14)

The cable car takes him to the mid-

air he’s stared up at for years.

He spends most of the ride looking back

down at the ground.

He turns to the sun; he blinks

an orchard of dots into his eyes.

 

Later around the campfire,

an already warm night;

the flames are décor.

The usual constellations sign

dotted lines of stars he couldn’t

put his own finger on.

 

The telegrams he receives day

after day remind him he’s somewhere

he’s never been before. The streets, for example,

are cobbled; no step is quite

like the one before it; there’s always a new

twist of the ankle, or bend of the toes. But

 

it’s not as if his eyes

have gone astigmatic; the moon’s

craters are still

its own, like the dust

storm’s blurs.

Rumour

 

has it he’s looking for a camera

he lost, but that’s

just an excuse

to move on; could he ever

really call a picture

his own?

There is a sense of trepidation here that we all feel at times.  Are we on the right path in our life? Is this the right thing to say? Bitar has documented those feelings here so we can become aware of them.

Making Ways (Page 36)

The directions are already here. And the street

is automatic! I don’t

have to build it anew every time.

On the cable

lines it’s either several birds

or several broken gearshifts, probably the latter

since the buildings around me are so mismatched

they could be wreckage from the pile-up

broadcast over the radio. How

I came to be

listening to that station, who

can say? It was an accident. Even with parrots

it happens sometimes that one man’s phrase

is answered with a different one, some

lady’s who came before. One time I said

“it’s a sunny day” , but what I got back

was “how are you?” It’s not me

I’m after. It’s the way

this city would seem so much more familiar

if I’d only arrived this morning, if

I’d  simply ask the way

to the Musee des beaux-arts.

Maps with Moving Parts by Walid Bitar is an insightful read. Filled with observations about the journey we all partake in, one feels less alone after reading this collection.

Link to Brick Books page for Maps with Moving Parts

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