• John Mateer


After the Only Known Poem by Abd Al’ Rahman


The palm-tree I beheld in far Westralia,

far from what might be called its origin, far from things familiar.

I shouted: You and I are far away, in a weird place among strangers!

I have been away from home so long nobody knows me, nowhere!

You, too, have grown up in a world where you are still called a stranger.

You: refugee, foreigner, exile, Unbeliever! Stranger,

know that there are now so many of us – reincarnated nobodies – everywhere.

May someone one day say that we weren’t merely illegals, wanderers.

May we someday be discovered somewhere far away, far away from this Westralia.




from JOAÕ



Midst the cork groves,

‘crows-nests’ high up the unrigged masts

imaginary fleets have abandoned

to daylight. Where are the lookouts

beholding an approaching shore?


In Idanha-a-Velha, the messy stork’s nest,

like tumbleweed lodged atop the squat steeple

was a blank speech-bubble awaiting

this tale told by Juan Goytisolo in Dejemaa el-Fna,

then retold by a Magrabi poet:


          The man from Marrakesh became a stork,

          flew across the Mediterranean

          seeking his wife who journeyed there to work.

          He found her in France, living with a businessman…


With my distant Beloved in mind,

I am recalling this as I, heading back

towards the Spanish border, speed past another empty

stork’s nest hovering on a tall plinth,

awaiting its hero.