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I Am Made to Leave I Am Made to Return by Marwa Helal

— Xandria Phillips

Inventor of form, flipper of tongues, Marwa Helal is a visionary poet. To call Marwa’s work global would be a misreach, with majesty, she writes for and from the cosmos. The foothold into these poems is a kind of transience. I Am Made to Leave I Am Made to Return magnifies voices in conversation across eras and oceans.

On a more micro level, Marwa’s poetry demonstrates a rhythm of contemporary terror and anxiety in the United States.

in the first world

people arrive at cubicles in a rage.
at day’s end, they
punch bags
hanging from the ceiling
fight their reflections in the mirror,
sprint on padded treadmills,
while a cop sleeps outside in a car—
its engine running.

Cover features four parallel lines snaking across the cover; one, the second in the sequence is red, the other three gray.
ND/SA  |  2017  |  30 pp

Marwa’s particular economy of language amplifies a capitalist compartmentalization concerned with coping minds through the day’s tedium, through night’s barrage of doubts. This voice voyeurs the reader among gut truths. Subversion preys in the switch of the the eye behind the scope.

Marwa’s language evades questions and answers. It lives by process and repetition. In ‘write this instead’ Marwa shows us how every instance carries an emotional and intellectual inheritance.

and you do what you always do when this happens in public, you disassociate switching to the fantasy of having a particular baldwin quote printed on billions of small cards and dropping them via drone all over this country. you are fantasizing about how you are always fantasizing about this but the quote is always changing and the location is always changing then you are thinking on home and language and how in some ways they have come to mean the same thing.

When I read this poem I feel I am communing with a contemporary prophet, a marginalized seer bound by the same constraints that restrict my mobility and freedom; the unearthly overworked, underpaid, taking public transportation, reevaluating and reevaluating and reevaluating.

In ‘ )[[:”.’.,:]](REMIXED ’ Marwa draws the black curtains that partition us from the universe.

words are heart chambers where they are grasping clenching clutching for air just air as we stare all we do is stare and stars stare back with eyes inverted as night exits day exits night exits day have you seen ancient temples where confusion transforms into clarity black sights doubts knowing feeling drawing shapes from punctuated forgetting diffusion is a healing through the slippery osmosis count sheets of music on music of music and wash their atomic

In the world as told by Marwa Helal, there isn’t a single lapse in connective tissue, and subjectivity reigns supreme. How profound to think that when the human surveys its surroundings, the surroundings survey back. We are both small and infinite in the eyes of the stars, and time labors on whether we note it or not.

The boundaries between interstellar and interpersonal marred, I return to Marwa’s language to witness something powerful tremble itself into existence.


ND/SA