Javy Awan


Subletting in the Quarter of Expatriates,
in the reclaimed tenements, partying
all night in several languages, to jazz
and folk and classical baroque
and tribal chants, exchanging hands,
manifestos, and meager stipends—
trading in doctored passports, visas,
work permits, and currency rates—
in the dodging dance down hallways,
rooms, fire escapes, spiral stairs,
studios sheltering artistic revolutions,
alleyways, rooftops, and soon-to-be schools—
everyone's starting or radically revising
a breakthrough manuscript, canvas,
score, film, assemblage, or photo shoot,
or at least a transcendent translation,
a tabu memoir, or a catchall cultural trend.
Improvised plays dominate the soirées—
frank English the vulgate or lingua franca,
at least for the stage—enigmatic one-acters,
energetic skits, and frenetic happenings—
with perplexing props and custom costumes
of cut-out boxes, with robot motifs—
springs, gears, switches, and flywheels
inked and handmade by the latest arrivals—
and built-in megaphones for declamation
of speeches sensible and nonsensical,
liberating and puzzling—inspiring
because new art is being made in person,
in this shared air, neither native nor foreign.
In bars and cafés, exiled politicos plot,
not yet dangerous, and geniuses and denizens,
obscure and raucous, swig as comrades
to their contrary fates, famous or nameless.
Past midnight, in the rain-slicked streets,
the excitable expatriates ramble in groups,
argue out loud, in amalgams of tongues,
sing homesick arias and tuneful folksongs,
then hush to make sure they're not followed—
no one knows which side from back home
may send a jealous spy, no doubt in disguise,
to arrest and scandalize the inspired advances.

Javy Awan works as an editor in Washington, D.C. His poems have appeared in Poet Lore and Potomac Review, which recently selected one of his poems for its "best of" volume.



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