The News From Poems: 'Brush With Cymbals'

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Andrea Ungvari (CC0)

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April 13, 2017

Fady Joudah is a Palestinian-American poet and physician. In his new poem, “Brush With Cymbals,” he explores questions about exile, suffering and the language of nation states. In an accompanying interview, he expands on the theme of the poem, as well as telling us about his experience in Doctors Without Borders.

Brush with Cymbals


America, I’m downloading your heart,
your giga, and my CPU

is slow…I will have your corazòn
when I’m in the dirt—if citizen is gold

and revolution silicon
will you take off your clothes

and Facetime me? We’re not supposed to
suppose we are to end here, we do

and every we is schizo, and I
for every poem a length

and for each span a loyalty oath—America
my motherboard

has been acting up since spanking new
my mothership all roots and we’re one

boot after reboot,
your windows are apples from a tree—

Did I take out the trash, do I
have a curb where I live, a recycling bin,

my Monday morning
coffee in a black hole, my cigarettes

for the homeless on red lights
my lighter handy, their illness

my transplant? America, if I’m a cloud
let’s back up and drive

the country to the registry
the libraries river and sea

to which whale will I lose
my files—the gray the blue

extinction a synecdoche?
America, you’re smaller than English

greater than predestination and I
in wanting wisdom looked ahead

at looking back…at Eurydice
Won’t you use

apoptosis in a poem
I praise thee

Reprinted with permission from

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April 13, 2017
Last modified: 
November 30, 2023