Cover to Cover with Jack Foley

Cover to Cover with Jack Foley – July 11, 2018: From a Syrian Journal

Adelle and Jack Foley, July 11, 2015.

Today’s show features work that was originally scheduled for the July 4 program. Responding to the Muslim ban, Jack wrote some poems out of his recollections of a wonderful trip he and his late wife Adelle took to Syria in 2003. The theme of Syrians welcoming the stranger is everywhere present in these poems. Adelle also wrote about the trip, producing a sequence in 2003 and then adding to it in 2012. Adelle’s work—and her reading of it—will also be featured on the show. These are a few of Adelle’s Syrian poems. The complete sequence will be featured on the show.

 
SYRIAN POEMS
 
I am afraid for
Our friends in Syria in
These days of turmoil
 
FROM A SYRIAN JOURNAL 2003
 
The incessant horns
Don’t clear traffic jams on the
Streets of Damascus
 
Step off the high curb
Follow a native between
The cars to safety
 
The traffic police
At major intersections
Smile and say “Welcome”
 
It’s like Mexico
Don’t drink water, eat only
If cooked, canned or peeled
 
They walk arm in arm
Only one wears a headscarf
On their way to class
 
 
Syria 2012:
 
Email puts our son
In frequent contact with his
Friends in Damascus
 
A bomb exploded
Outside the souk where one man
Owns a clothing store
 
Another young man
Asks about fellowships to
Study in England
 
A young woman writes
That her family has moved
To the Emirates
 
We shudder to hear
“Life has become difficult.”
“Keep us in your prayers.”
 
I am afraid for
Our friends in Syria in
This savage turmoil
 
And this is from Jack’s recent sequence:
 
SAMMY (“BASSAM”)
 
His veiled wife speaks no English, though he is more or less fluent; he spent time in the United States, in—of all places—Oklahoma, where, attending the university, he discovered the delights of being a cowboy. “I know about the place, Oklahoma,” he explained to me when I asked, “but I’ve never heard of the musical.” Sammy is not an “intellectual”—he is a businessman whose businesses vary—but he is a very intelligent person who is passionately interested in history and religion. He told me he felt that Arabs were oppressed in the modern world—that they were demonized by the world at large. Andrew Humphreys and Damien Simonis, writing in The Lonely Planet’s guide to Syria, would agree: “For many Muslims…and particularly for those in the Middle East, Islam is stability in a very unstable world. Many of them are keenly aware that Muslims are seen as a threat by the West and are divided in their own perceptions of Western countries. Not without justification, they regard the West’s policies, especially towards the Arab world, as aggressive and they often compare its attitudes to them with those of the medieval Crusaders. Despite this view that Western culture is dangerous to Muslim values, and despite the growing influence of anti-Western religious groups, many Muslims still admire the West. It is common to hear people say they like it, but that they are perplexed by its treatment of them.”
 
Sammy was a visible bridge between the West and the East. Despite his openness to the West, he wished to insist upon his status as a believing Muslim. Christ, he told me, would appear in Damascus at the end of the world—though the end of the world might be a very long time away, “perhaps not in my lifetime, or my sons’ lifetime.” “We Muslims,” he said, “do not believe Christ died on the cross. He was still living when his body was taken down from the cross—which is how he was able to appear to people later. His tomb was empty because there was no dead man in it.”
 
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