Yago S. Cura/Ghazals for James Foley

A video released by ISIS showed the beheading of American journalist and poet James Foley, who disappeared in November 2012 in Syria.

As a tribute to Foley, Hinchas Press is publishing Ghazals for Foley. The collection is curated by Argentine-American poet Yago S. Cura who was a personal friend of Foley.

The following poems are from the collection.


Ghazal for a Tall Boy From New Hampshire
by Martín Espada

For Jim Foley, journalist executed on video by ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham), August 19, 2014

The reporters called and asked me: Did you know him?
I was his teacher, I said many times that day. Yes, I knew him.

Once he was a teacher too, teaching in another mill town
where the mills have disappeared. There they knew him.

He taught the refugees cut adrift from an island of sugar cane
where the cane has disappeared. In Spanish they knew him.

They sounded out the English, made the crippled letters
walk across the page for him, all because they knew him.

He ate their rice and beans, held their infants, posed with them
for snapshots at the graduation. Ask them how they knew him.

Beliza, Mónica, Limary: with him they wrote a poem of waterfalls
and frogs that sing at night, so he could know them as they knew him.

We know his words are raining in the rain forest of the poem.
We cannot say what words are his, even though we knew him.

His face on the front page sold the newspapers in the checkout line.
His executioners and his president spoke of him as if they knew him.

The reporter with the camera asked me if I saw the video his killers
wanted us to see. I muttered through a cage of teeth: No. I knew him.

Once he was a tall boy from New Hampshire, standing in my doorway.
He spoke Spanish. He wanted to teach. I knew him. I never knew him.


Ghazal of Witness
by Daniel Mahoney

for James Foley

It’s hard to believe the arc of history bends toward justice when history
repeats every five minutes and justice is just a girl’s name.  Fix

yourself to the screen, try not to scream:  we wrack, we catch ourselves,  then
hang ourselves instead of our hats.   Did you hear?  The passengers are sick!

The moon’s a dead white fish!  Did you hear they killed Lorca?  Hung a sign
that said he was here until he wasn’t, here until the fascists

killed him.  They said: mariposa…mariposa….mariposa.  Which means butterfly
or faggot in Spanish.   His sister got a call in Madrid, said diga, which

means tell me or hello, then Lorca’s body fell dead through the phone.
My heart…  Jim, your face just now….  This is not the end of it….

Tyndale built his English bible from the original Hebrew & Greek,
so the church killed him twice:  strangled, then burned him.  History is witness.

We see through a glass, darkly, and we write to take a swing at the darkness.
The King James Bible is Tyndale; he lives in lines writers have ripped

for centuries.  O brother, dear brother.  We steal, we beg and borrow.
We burrow, go toe to toe, looking for truth because… Because Nazim Hikmet

said, the point is never to surrender.  If history is a lake of fire, a screen
on some kid’s Gameboy, then we are witness to rain, the very sun’s a gift,

and nothing is finished.  The sun still shines on the hill where they killed you
and the rain will never stop falling, even when we feel nothing but distance.

Jim, I have to tell you, when I saw you on the screen I didn’t know, until I knew.
And your body fell through me like rain.  And then the endless abyss.

A day later I brought my son to the cabin in Maine.  You remember?  He sat
where you sat looking out to sea.  His body a furious abundance, a drift

of your body, his face your face.  And that was all.  You are no further from me
than your work, growing as my son grows from the living truth of it.

These are the names:  Lorca, Hikmet, Tyndale, Foley.  Their words
speak louder than their deaths.  Their work is a ministry of witness.


by Shauna Seliy

How to thank the Jesuits of Malta, you asked me to help craft a letter
They’d prayed for you in your first captivity, you’ll remember.

You had a glass of water, the baby chewed your watch, then you vanished forever
Did I take you to the train? Say a serious goodbye? I don’t remember.

Walking with me into class, into parties, into bars, for years, remember?
Next to me, in movie theaters, libraries, cars. I wonder if you remember.

We got lost, a winter afternoon, Logan Square, Lake Street, North Avenue
We stood on some roof and looked at the skyline, one that maybe you’ll remember.

You kept up the spirits of the other prisoners, that’s what they remember.
But where are you now, and in that wherever, can you even remember?

“I ask for the captors to have mercy,” the prayer my sister made for you.
After they killed you, you came here, three loud birds in the tree next door, remember?

“I remember you two in class,” a friend says at your memorial. “You always sat together.”
Your laugh, so distinctive and loud, but how long will I remember?

I can’t hear my name said in your voice. Did you ever call me Shauna?
SS. Dude. Sister. Sweetie. Chica. For now, those are the words I remember.


Ghazal for James Foley
by Yago S. Cura

“Mr. [James] Foley converted to Islam soon after his capture and adopted the name Abu Hamza”
—Oct. 25, 2014 N.Y. Times article, “The Horror Before the Beheadings”

Hard for me to believe Jimbo didn’t convert under duress.
Although, I have always known him spiritually curious.

Easier to believe he proved syrup at fangs of alien vampires
intent on making him pay, leaving us lot spiritually curious.

Jimbo adopts name Abu Hamza because Hamza’s famous
for riding into Battle of Badir with an ostrich feather in his turban.
(how spiritually curious of him, no doubt!).

Hamza was a late convert to Islam; Jimbo came to journalism a seasoned teacher.
Both proved paladin interlopers, distinguished ball-busters of spirit: curious.

También, the manner in which both are cut down early in life, apenitas
after egress of civilians on H.D.M.I. proves too easy, of little spiritual curiosity.

Tell me Abu, how does an Abyssinian slave gamble on their manumission
by chucking a javelin into the abdomen of an O.G.-General, spiritually curious?

How does one roam into a ‘sitch so egregiously far from Lake Winnipesaukee?
How does one prevent their liver from turning into jewelry of spiritual curiosities?

Jimbo picks Moe’s right-hand man (I’m talking about Hamza here) because Jimbo knows Gabriel only shows himself to deniers of emerald escalators, not the spiritually curious.

Tell me Abu, why should I forgive the rabid—the rabbled, wracked with graphic cabals?
Estos matadores en balaclavas tyranny the Just, pimp the Innocent, and claim spiritual curiousity.

Torture ain’t stop Jimbo programming: specialist lectures, tournaments of Risk, faux
wrestling matches between the captives. For what? Morale, and to not lose spirit and curiosity.

Abu is kindness performed with militance; Jimbo is witness subsumed with service.
Together they shatter cisterns, premonition sprouts, listen to spirits, curiously.

A video released by ISIS shows the beheading of American journalist James Foley, who disappeared in November 2012 in Syria.


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