For 'Lyssa & Leeson'
Forty-two Years Later, I Understand Now
I remember when I was ten,
even younger, my grandmother,
we called her Sittay, or Sito,
Sitt means madam, it also means grand
-mother, the Arabic translation for
the Greek Yiayia, the Mexican Abuelita;
mine, was much older than me,
as my parents were—
much older than me—I was a mistake,
I say that as truth, not as weeping;
I know, I was loved. And when, I was, say,
in the fifth grade, trampling up the stairs, or
if Father parked that day on the hill-steep incline
in front of our garage, in the house on what seemed
our own small hill, I would trudge, diagonally up,
to the long front porch, like a galley kitchen,
until I hit the wrought-iron-paisley-white-sweeping-arcs
fired into that double wrought-iron set of doors; I preferred
the dark brown wood hidden behind,
the regularly repeated small squares carved
mechanically, perfectly atop the other,
the brass knobs, and opening
the door, with my father following,
a few steps back, turning
the water on, or off, or recoiling the hose
around the flowering bushes, the light
pink buds, petals tightly-cupped, clusters of
round paper-thin, velvet-like things
the color of Mother, soft pink,
beautiful like that. And Sitto, Grandmother, would wait
and say, in Arabic, "I waited all day
for you," ... I wish I had known what that meant, her
in her black dress, black scarf tied like a gift underneath
her chin, she'd sit, her petite frame, by the TV, Perry Mason,
she liked him well—enough. And in high school, coming home late
after play-practice, Fiddler on the Roof—or The Sound
of Music, after choir, after something, I'd come in, again,
Sittay waiting, telling me she could not sleep till I came home;
how cold I was, did I even answer well enough, at all? Today,
while staying at friends, who are family, in truth,
siblings that blood did not make, I waited for the door
to fling open, and the high sound of after-school voices, the sweet
high tenor of the eight-year-old boy, the low register alto
of the ten-year-old girl, who loves to sing—Let the storm rage on—
she'll be on Broadway soon; and so, I exited my room
to greet, after we exchanged our happy high shouts
across the shut doors; at dinner, he told me stories
of a mouse who lived in a castle, fell in love
with a girl, she kept him, never inside a cage,
he followed the far sound of music, chewed his way out
of doors, to follow, even when locked in—by the dark powers
that be, music was the master, and the meter,
that drove him, to find a way out, from dungeon to palace,
from hate to love; all the while, this neon-melon-colored-shirt
this boy wore, brightened the room like fire,
as his sister read a book, reclined, tucked away,
afar—her in her dark-rimmed glasses, dark hair against
already-elegant skin—agreed to read one line
out loud: Bless his little flea-bitten heart.
Marian Haddad, MFA is a Pushcart-nominated poet, writer, manuscript & publishing consultant, private writing mentor, lecturer and creative workshop instructor. Her collection of poems, Wildflower. Stone., (Pecan Grove Press 2011), is the first hardback in the nearly-25-years the press was in existence.
Haddad's recent collection has been endorsed by Pulitzer Prize poet, Yusef Komunyakaa, who states that this collection, "...celebrates the observable mysteries of daily existence ... these poems have dropped all disguises, and each rides the pure joy of music. There are superb leaps and silences that deftly highlight the monumental in simple things." This collection has also been endorsed by award-winning-author, Denise Chavez, and by Glover Davis, Professor Emeritus, San Diego State University, who studied under our current U.S. Poet Laureate. In Former First Lady Laura Bush's Spoken from the Heart, she references Marian Haddad's description of the light in El Paso.
Her work has been covered by The Huffington Post, and The Hallmark Channel featured an extended feature on Haddad's literary work. Haddad's chapbook, Saturn Falling Down, was published at the request of Texas Public Radio in correlation with their Hands-on Poetry workshops (2003). Her full-length collection, Somewhere between Mexico and a River Called Home (Pecan Grove Press, 2004) approached its fifth printing before the passing of editor/publisher H. Palmer Hall.
Her poems, essays, reviews, and articles have been published in a number of literary journals and anthologies within the US, Belgium, the U.K., and the Middle East; some recent publications appear in an anthology of Texas and Louisiana poets, Improbable Worlds (Mutabilis Press), Before there Is Nowhere to Stand, an anthology of Arab and Jewish poets on the Palestinian Israeli conflict (Lost Horse Press), and an essay about juxtaposing the music of poetry to the music and pacing of basketball, Fast Break to Line Break: Poets on the Art of Basketball, (Michigan State University Press) and HOT! A chapbook on climate change (Bihl Haus Arts).
An NEH recipient, she participated in graduate work in philosophy at The University of Notre Dame and studied The Prose Poem at Emerson College. She holds a B.A. in creative writing from The University of El Paso and an M.F.A. from San Diego State, where she was associate editor for Poetry International, Vol. III., an issue which first housed Merwin's translation of Dante's Purgatorio.
Her manuscript clients have placed in various national contests and won chapbook & book awards including: The Ashland Poetry Prize, The Texas Review Poetry Prize, and The Whitebird Chapbook Award, among others, and have been semi-finalists for The Crab Orchard First Book Award and have published with a number of other presses including Kattywompus Press (with affiliation to Pudding House), also winning single piece contests with Nimrod, The Barthelme Prize and more.
Haddad has taught creative writing at Our Lady of the Lake and Northwest Vista College, and International and American Literature at St. Mary's University and conducts workshops and private consultations at her home and on-site at the invitation of various schools and institutions. Her works in progress include a nearly-completed collection of poems, In this City of Saints, and a collection of essays about growing up Arab American in a Mexican American border town, as well as ten additional working manuscripts. She has blogged under the invitation of then-travel-editor for the San Antonio Express on her 2008 travels to Syria on mysa.com, and hosted a blog for the same, entitled WORD UP, as one of the City Lights bloggers the paper invited.