Gaza Exceeds Its OBJECT / Kent Johnson

Gaza Exceeds Its Object

“One of the things that I have seen thus far is that there has not been a significant overreaction.”

(President Joseph Biden, May 13, 2021)

Come off it, Tha’lab, you faker, you kadhib,
yes, very funny, but for goodness’ sake–
just put back those purple bowels in your tummy,
you’ll be late for work!


Make haste, Safia, you little scamp, you pig-tailed qasida,
put that fat flap of scalp back on your crown–
now’s not the hour for teenage pranks,
it’s time to go to school!


Ah, quit moaning Miss Al-Sayab, you muwashshara,
we know that fetus hanging from your bottom is a rubber trick–
we’re not stupid, you know, so cease being crass,
and get ye to market!


Cut the crap, Nizar, you iltizam,
pick that torso up and put it back on your dancing spine–
we know that old box and mirror trick,
now get thee to prayers!


Hey, Rashid, you al-nahda,
we know you love the special effects of Hollywood movies,
but it’s not safe to make yourself into a geyser of fire–
and anyway, you’re supposed to be on the beat for Al-Jazeera!


Say there, little Samih, you shirnur,
six-month-olds aren’t supposed to be able to fly–
so get down from those power lines and gather
your legs and head on the ground here, you naughty child!


Listen, Tawfiq, you tafila,
OK, so you’re a sorry-assed academic with a Hamas mustache,
but put your brains back into your head, you can’t fool us by calling in sick–
it’s time for class and your students are ablaze!


Yo bro, my main-man Bashad, you tardiyyat,
you’re as if dead and white as marble, but there’s not a scratch on your body–
quit fucking around, the Mansour bookstore is a pile of rubble,
now make the siren light flash and spin on your ambulance!


Greetings Ahmad, you badi-kamriyyat,
put your face back on and also that water pipe hose thing back into your belly–
yeah, boo hoo, so your kid’s nowhere to be found…
Suck it up! The price is worth it!
Now pick up that basket of sweet fruits and gum!


Good morning, Mrs. al-Jurjani, you madin,
author of four essays on postmodern currents in American poetry,
what are you howling and wailing like that for, hitting your skull
against the flagstones like a mechanical hammer?
A horse is a horse, and if a horse is dead, a horse is dead–
More so, you are naked, which is unbecoming of a lady your age and standing.
Like Hamlet, your emotion is unconvincing, for it exceeds its object.
Therefore, we beseech thee: Show some gratitude, and put a plug in it.

–Kent Johnson, repurposed poem, May, 2021 [italicized words are terms related to Arabic prosody]

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