Rumpus Original Poetry: Three Poems by Philip Metres





You Have Come Upon People Who are Like Family and this Open Space

_____— for the Radius, an Arabic to be read in two voices, right to left and left to right

know cannot I
end will this how
both are we though

air different in breathing
flesh different of planets
stop won’t I

hand my holding
you towards
اهلا وسهلا

people upon come have you
family like are who
space open this

space this open
you welcome I that
away turn to

stay to wish you unless
shoes your remove and rest
speak your into lean we

slake to drink tender
eat to fullness and
end the are you

beginning my of
of beginning the
end my


Belfast Standard Time

_____— for Raymond Lennon

Whenever I was born in Belfast. Whenever
I grew up on the Shankill. The Falls.

Newtownards Road. Whenever
there was a bomb threat. Whenever the RUC

barricaded the street. In security.
Whenever I walked to school, I avoided

the wall. Whenever I met a Catholic
for the first time, I was already at university.

Whenever we were burned out
our house. Whenever we burned

our fingers lighting the Pope for King Billy.
Whenever we hurled a petrol bomb.

Whenever we remembered the Somme
on Remembrance Day. Whenever

we neared the wall to lay the wreath.
Whenever we were spread-eagled and leaning

against the wall, the rifle spreading
us further. Whenever I looked down to check

the time on my wrist. Whenever the bomb.
I wished I could have told my father

whenever he was alive, how much
I. Whenever I was thrown

three hundred feet. Whenever I was blown
out of my shoes. Whenever I heard

a woman wailing, I thought, why don’t you
shut your bloody mouth? Whenever

I don’t forgive them. Whenever I hear
the likes of them are statesmen

shaking the hands of the Queen, I think
of my father—whenever he met me

whenever I came home, he took my hand so hard
my whole body quaked. Whenever

we came back from the funeral, my hand
ached from shaking

everyone else’s hand.


A Map of Migration Routes

Each line is arrowed red.
Inside, they tumble

across muscled continents
like erythrocytes, millions

of flesh-tucked skulls hauling
the heaviness of dreams. Red

for departure, blue for return.
Their lives shrunk to a cell

they palm to their chest
in bus depots and windowless tents

at night, seeking a signal,
a recognizable voice, someone

home, lithium ions draining.
When they sleep, they sleep

in clots of human waking.
When given paper and crayons,

their children draw weapons.
Red for departure, blue

for return. Like veins, the lines
draw back to the heart, the heart

where the rivers flooded,
or the fields baked in drought,

where the guns came out,
having traveled from somewhere far,

and guns made love to guns,
making more guns,

and the blood began to run.


Photograph of Philip Metres © Heidi Rolf.

Philip Metres is the author of ten books, including Shrapnel Maps (forthcoming 2020), The Sound of Listening (essays, 2018), Sand Opera (poems, 2015), Pictures at an Exhibition (poems, 2016), I Burned at the Feast: Selected Poems of Arseny Tarkovsky (translations 2015), and others. His work has garnered a Lannan fellowship, two NEAs, six Ohio Arts Council Grants, the Hunt Prize, the Beatrice Hawley Award, two Arab American Book Awards, the Watson Fellowship, the Creative Workforce Fellowship, and the Cleveland Arts Prize. He is professor of English and director of the Peace, Justice, and Human Rights program at John Carroll University. More from this author →