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
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
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
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
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
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.