After 42 Years

By Keith Kloor | October 24, 2011 8:07 pm

While driving in New Jersey yesterday, I was listening to a BBC program on the radio and had to pull over when Khaled Mattawa, a Libyan poet and English professor at the University of Michigan, was reading this poem.

MORE ABOUT: Libya, poetry
  • huxley

    For those who prefer, as I do, to read a poem on the page, here’s the LA Times:

    After 42 years
    By Khaled Mattawa
    Tue Oct 25 2011 12:00 AM

    Five years old when the dictator took over in a coup “”
    curfew shut our city down
    Bloodless coup, they said “”
    The many who thought this could be good.
    The dictator, a young man, a shy recluse assumed the helm, bent in piety,
    the dead sun of megalomania hidden in his eyes.
    Could not go to the store to buy bread or newspaper,
    could not leave home, visit friends,
    the radio thundering hatred, retching blood-curdling song “”
    Signs that went unread
    Factories built and filched, houses stolen, newspapers shut down,
    decades of people killed, 42 years.
    But that’s all over now “”
    How can you say over when it took 42 years “”
    I was five when the dictator took my brother away
    Over now, 42 years, must look ahead.
    His face half blood-covered, half smirking
    Like Batman’s Joker,
    hands raised, fingers pressed together upward
    Saying wait, calm down, wait

  • Keith Kloor

    That is an except. It is a long poem, with graphic parts, so it’s doubtful a newspaper would print the whole thing.  

  • harrywr2

    Full poem at the LA Times here.,0,2358174,full.story
    It defaults on the LA Times website to 5 pages and it’s less then clear there are another 4 pages to read.
    The audio clip is better. I would have pulled off the road to listen as well.


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About Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a NYC-based journalist, and an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University. His work has appeared in Slate, Science, Discover, and the Washington Post magazine, among other outlets. From 2000 to 2008, he was a senior editor at Audubon Magazine. In 2008-2009, he was a Fellow at the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism, in Boulder, where he studied how a changing environment (including climate change) influenced prehistoric societies in the U.S. Southwest. He covers a wide range of topics, from conservation biology and biotechnology to urban planning and archaeology.


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