Fady Joudah


Isomers & Isotopes

(Protectorates & Territories)


Our paradise is trampled,
our childhood wasn’t insured,

it endured in damaged dwellings.


No paradise is untrampled.
It formicates us junkies. With spiders

of the underworld, we spin to love,

murder, and suicide, and our lips
are our hips, silage and cud.


As grownups, for decades in pecuniary bliss,

our resale value tripled that of our parents.


From room to room the rain had risen from the sea,
from room to room our cells merged their fires
with the darkness of our sleep.


The beat follows you affectless.


The rain had risen from the sea to gentrify us.

Oh Aspergillus fumigatus, the detritus

was mostly next door.


Our deductible was low.

We rolled our years then smoked our years.


I was just visiting when she died
in the hospital where I was born.


In farewell she wrote on clipboard

“Revolution ’til we triumph.”


I was just visiting

her faculties as a plastic tube
sealed her windpipes which a mass

from her esophagus had burrowed into.


She went through a lot to get here,

through concrete and dried up in it.

Then pirates took her in. She learned their songs
and the earliest of them was in a wedding.


“Ma’am, your fat pads are not who they say they are,
and since the rise of the eye-snatchers

we can’t be sure of your retinal Hancock.”


I drabbled and droned semantic remorse,
Eddie the monster, Eddie the horse,
and was just at another queen’s court

when my parents crossed as time on a rock

that pokes a rib chronic.


“Ma’am, the shaman who offered you
the first stems to sprout in snow,
did she say her name?”


In stereo, in stereo

we prolong the music,
we’re good at rotating light, polarizing it,

there’s language between us.


And clusters discrete from other clusters
to prevent our closing up on ourselves
as we wait for the sun to change its ways.


But reliably the weather
invariably comes

with maps.


If white came first, if red
stole the brain’s flow until stars appeared
portals for blue.



the beast follows you affectless.


Smooth gray hairless scalp

of a head preserved in rotting

casing vestigial

and orbital cavities.


The torso displays

arachnoid limbs and pterosaurous wings.

The splendor’s in the thing’s fluidity:

it flowed in water, and you walked on air.


This isn’t Death but the God

of your childhood enuresis.

Decades have passed

since you last wet your bed,
still your body insists
on messengers on mute.


Dreams like phantom limbs.
Dreams of bladders on the verge.


Therefore, the villages are tickled with irrigation,
and krill travels deep in a gray whale suit.

Therefore, herrings pleat coves white with egg and sperm.


As for sirens—those always cease when they reach me.
Those I always hear.



Fady Joudah has published four collections of poems, The Earth in the Attic, Alight, Textu, a book-long sequence of short poems whose meter is based on cellphone character count; and, most recently, Footnotes in the Order of Disappearance. He has translated several collections of poetry from the Arabic. He was a winner of the Yale Series of Younger Poets competition in 2007 and has received a PEN award, a Banipal/Times Literary Supplement prize from the UK, the Griffin Poetry Prize, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. He lives in Houston, with his wife and kids, where he practices internal medicine.