I met Farid Matuk last night and heard him read from his Effing chap, IS IT THE KING? Now, I might be partial to the title since we share an affinity (or rather, a name), but still, the work itself carries along a sweet blend of inquisitiveness & humor, a sly knowing, some sharp sounds of race and class & the behaviors that tendril from such awareness, as well as pop culture notes that, at once, bring us together with familiarity and delineate with prejudice.
I like the work, so will share two to encourage you to support Effing’s efforts to send such poetic queries into the world.
I am Moroccan today I carry
my backpack full of Kleenex
fifty packs across Sicily
I memorize their thirteen
variations of the latest haircut the shoes
I will buy will raise me incline me
as the whole of Europe is inclined
this summer. I learn everything about women
from Fendi handbags from Puma pants
everything about men I am a boy of eleven
why not a skinny thirteen and I ask the waiter
“Are you Ireesh?” since this is the Irish Caffetteria
in Caltanissetta Sicily
here are my young Italians
who won’t buy the Kleenex
though one woman takes me
for a beggar and I get a half Euro — “not bad” I’d
have said in Tangiers on my way out
of Africa (aren’t we all moving out of Africa?)
and nothing not the dry grass of Sicily reminds me of it.
I learned about little leather tags on jeans in Africa
there goes the cow hide I’d say there goes the cow
and I smelled the people’s evaporating hotel soaps. It’s June
in Sicily and the skies are gray with field smoke.
We can have some fun my Sicilians
laugh I take their mobile phones make as if
I’m going to steal one’s scooter helmet cock it
jauntily on my head I am playing with their fear
of me I am dancing to the American songs. It is hot
so everything must be funny.
I am Sicilian today when the skies
are gray with field smoke I share a cigarette
with my friends nothing is new to me
I’ve ridden over three hills to get here
and here are my friends at the Irish
again I love this city and I can walk its length and breadth
when it’s cooler its lights the road back
from Lido Neptuno. All we talk about is leaving but I know
they love like I love threading our parents’ cars
between a salt or phosphor truck
and the oncoming car I know the tolerances of our Fiat
and I love the stupid unnecessary hugs my boyfriend gives
and how we smell each other I think everything
happens beneath the cover
of something else something prettier
now there are Arab African boys everywhere.
Where have the gypsies gone?
Can gypsies love anything like I love Caltanissetta
the vests on their own backs?
I don’t need the kid’s Kleenex my nose is dry in these fires
but I give one a Euro and he stays at our tables
plays at taking our cell phones and helmets who
would you call what would you ride? He plays with our fear
of his thievery I think it is sad and beneath that? Our sort
of friendship. And beneath that? His thievery.
–Farid Matuk, from IS IT THE KING?
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Amy King is the recipient of the 2015 Winner of the Women’s National Book Association (WNBA) Award. Her latest collection, The Missing Museum, is a winner of the 2015 Tarpaulin Sky Book Prize. She serves on the executive board of VIDA: Women in Literary Arts and is co-editing with Heidi Lynn Staples the anthology Big Energy Poets of the Anthropocene: When Ecopoets Think Climate Change. She also co-edited the anthology Bettering American Poetry 2015 and is a professor of creative writing at SUNY Nassau Community College.