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A Poem From A Syrian Psychiatrist: 'Cloud-Cafe'

Dr. Hussam Jefee-Bahloul is the founder of Ta'sheeq, a group that puts on performances with Syrian poets, artists and musicians.
Dr. Hussam Jefee-Bahloul is the founder of Ta'sheeq, a group that puts on performances with Syrian poets, artists and musicians.

With his skill as a psychiatrist, Dr. Hussam Jefee-Bahloul is reaching out to the troubled people of his Syrian homeland, offering guidance for health workers who work with mental health issues in a population traumatized by war.And with his love of words, he tries to capture his longing for his homeland in poetry.Born in Lattakia, Syria, in 1983 and now a professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, he has published two books of poems in Arabic: The Opener of Canned Hope and Bird Smoking Marijuana. He has also founded Ta-Sheeq, a project that poetry with art and music in choreographed performances.The poem "Cloud-Cafe" appears in his collection Bird Smoking Marijuana. It was translated into English by Samantha Kostmayer and Hussam Jefee-Bahloul and is reprinted with his permission. Cloud-Café There, at the entrance of the chestbetween a throat and a tonguestands a long line of humansworkers in morose clothingrestless with weary facesmaking plansand strategizing hopewaiting for the end of warfrightened bythe price of bread and potatoesand the cost of wordsamused bythe concerns of global warmingand conspiracy theorieswhile Ebola butterfliestickle the nose of their imaginationuntil they laughtheir only consolationa cigaretteand ashes that drown entire citiesAnd when break-time is overthey draw crosses and middle fingerswith the coal of timeon the walls of the lungand return to workThis is how the years of war passoneby onefalling like calendar pagesfueling his grandiose plansthe lumberjack of livesthe bookkeeper of martyrshe who answers the prayers of the deadwho with one handplaces medals on Generalswhile with the otherwrites on clouds his poetry of lamentThis is how the years of war passordinary...nothing changes but the order of numbersand the faith of those who chant in the streetswhile up therein "cloud-café"somebody lifts his eyes for a momentleaning forward to check on the loud noisesfrom belowonly tobury his gray beardagain in his new iPhone. Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.