Worst of all is the dread of the habibi’s indifference, particularly of her intonation when it lacks the right signals of acceptance and ardor. As when:

I picked up the little black portable

to call you

but my fingers froze above the buttons…

Sometimes I grow fearful, love…

to hear the distance in the voice…

to hear the unseasonable silence.

Then I am less than nothing…

I found most powerful in this vein “When the Screen Goes Dark,” an evocation of the sudden anomie of a computer crash:

when the power goes

and the message I haven’t sent

for fear of your reply

is erased

as if wiped from the slate

when the lesson is done,

when a world ends,

even a little simulated world,

with a quick electric click

and an echoing clap of silence,

I grow virtual and disappear…

This little book is, then, a rollercoaster ride of amorous joys and woes. It is also a feat of imagination, organically and seemingly effortlessly situating its fictive poet-protagonist at a rich intersection of contemporary life and Arab and Islamic lore.

Two of Maghrebi’s poems are, however, fraternal responses to similarly themed love poems by another Solway persona — an ostensible Israeli poet named Dov Ben-Zamir. As the introduction to Habibi notes, Maghrebi eschews the region’s turmoil and animosities for a “profound…immersion in the stream of personal emotion.” It is, I can add, personal emotion conveyed so compellingly as to give this book an exceptional charm and impact.

(Thumbnail on PJM homepage based on a modified Shutterstock.com image.)