Jim’s comments on my story, Ithaca Is Never Far,” from John Edgar Wideman’s workshop in the spring of 2000. I used the last lines of Jim’s comments in my ghazal. Sometimes, I am grateful for my tendency to hold onto papers that seem to have no particular use.
My second mini-essay is up now on the Kenyon Review Blog, and it’s about a new book of poems, Ghazals for Foley, commemorating the life of journalist James Foley. Jim was my friend and classmate in the MFA program at UMass Amherst. In 2014, he also became the first American journalist killed by ISIS . The book, edited by our friend, Yago S. Cura, includes the beautiful ghazal by Daniel Johnson below. You can buy Ghazals for Foley here from Hinchas Press (all proceeds to support the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation). From the essay:
Whenever I think of ghazals, I think of our former UMass professor, the late Agha Shahid Ali, who is credited with bringing the form back into usage within contemporary American poetry. The ghazal, often about love and longing, is also naturally elegiac in form. As Cura writes in the introduction to the anthology, “Using the ghazal’s form to ‘speak’ with Jim made sense to us, I guess, because of how the repetition crescendos, and because the form has addressed separation, mourning, and loss for centuries.”
Read the whole post here…
Ghazal for James Wright Foley
by Daniel Johnson
“The idea of walking ahead on my own through the desert as if compelled by a magnet is insane.”
-James Foley in his Syria journal
Kinetic friend, you moved like light in a mirrored room. Come home.
Raqqa. Damascus. Aleppo. Homs. You rarely took a room. Come home.
We’ll read Borges aloud–burn windfall in the pit–spark a joint.
You’d leave a parting gift, a rebel scarf or Turkish cartoon. Come home.
You crashed your Civic reading Chomsky in Chicago traffic.
Who now will shatter the day into such bright ruins? Come home.
I killed a bat in Olanna’s room, its body the size of a grape.
I laid it in the trash on eggshells like broken stones. Come home.
Roethke in his journals wrote–The cage is open. You may go.
If sunlight bleeds under your cell door, Jim, never the moon. Come home.