Monday, October 13, 2014

His Infancy -for M.G.

Infancy came in flippant forms,
trembling,
reaching for letters like shooting stars,
then setting them ablaze,
fumbling,
for filtered feelings,
passing passion,
through tubes of emotion,
observing,
rainbows of stillborn ecstasy forming,
and lightly laughing...

Infancy,
in flying,
floating above
expected climaxes,
stumbling over expertise,
like it was some cumbersome accident.

Infancy,
in lowered-eyelid giggles,
muffled mots,
gasping for a remote sanity,
staring at sudden wisdom,
as though...
another self,
had just tapped his shoulder...

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Rage Can Rest

"Dad, we're getting ready to close the casket."
"Did you want to take a last look?"
"Dad, we're carving out forty-nine near and dear years of your life. Would a last look help you?"
Now, her rage is as distant as the day she was born. 
Now, her face is as peaceful as her first night home. 
No, that was not a few hours away. 
No, she was never here to stay. 
Baby cots do not have lids;
you already know,
dreams do have ends. 
And yes, rage can rest...
eternally, 
even if your heart never will...

Note: For Nandi whom I met once in her short lifetime, but impressed me for the rest of mine. 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Zanzibar...Transitioning

There...
tucked under the sunlight
where manacles of slaves
sang melancholy melodies

There...
the sun
did not keep its distance
its eyes; window cracks
in rotting buildings
and eroding market squares

There...
the smell of the sea
spoke of speedy sustenance
for the starving...

The covered heads of women wandering
indicative
of a different vision
of how the Indian ocean rolled

The smiles of men
weak
with the confusion
that came
with conformity.

There...
the stories of bloodshed
assembled
for sale
like crimson rugs
for tourists' feets
to trample on...

How they all arrived...
What they made of the experience
& all that's left of it...


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

MIA (Ahmed & Pippen)

Awaiting a signal
for his return;
a Cardinal calls.
I walk to the window.

The corpse of my dead thoughts stirs...

All those mothers
awaiting long lost loved ones
every morning;
there were no Cardinals, Blue Jays or even Mourning Doves.

No calls.
All the waiting.
No end in sight.

Pippen didn't know where he was going (when he flew out).
Anymore did Ahmed (when he left the nest).

When they made him read his last rites on the blurred screen,
I felt
the cold white sheets of his bed where I'd once slept
envelope my chest
in a slow-forming noose
tugging out the last breath of hope in me...

I didn't have to wait;
his mother did.
And No, ...
There were no Cardinal calls;
only the DPMO,
finally claiming,
they had found some bones...

Note: Ahmed Altai was an Iraqi-American MIA (abducted by the Mehdi Army in Iraq) whose remains were finally found in 2012. His mother was my mother's childhood friend. When we (my mother, some friends & I) had all gone to Ann Arbor,  Michigan, to attend a  Marcel Khalife concert, he had offered me his bedroom to spend the night and went to spend the night at a friend's home. 
Pippen was my cockatiel who in one month had memorized 12 bird songs (per the bird clock in 'his' room). I lost him in 2014. 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C-FMrk0VUjM

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Submission

They soar,
These questions
That your eyes ask in silence,
Before I can grasp
The tale of their quest.

Your utterances
Capture the rest of my letters,
From a gaping mouth
And stretch their meaning
To saturate all the ego
That is your mind.

My hands
You hold down
And insist that I express myself.
In my resistance,
You discover my religion…You.

My head, 
You cup,
As you sip my thoughts,
And relish the taste of your skin
In my dreams.

You are everywhere,
In me.
I breathe your name,
Savor your presence
As you grace
My eternal orbit of your realm.

Lost are the reasons
That bind me to reason.

You are my all
And all that remains of me

Is yours…

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

February -My Birth Month


It's like February brought birth from another land...
Not where I was born.
Cold and white and despair-intriguing.
The dogs won't walk.
They snore.
As do the chilled waters
surrounding dying flowers
who have forgotten how to be thirsty.
This February was the sign of my death.
Smiles from older photo-memories of people,
peeped.
They were gone to a land warmer,
where God had more than one sun to give out
And left us,
in the land of Cold February.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Angel Stuff

You were made of angel stuff:
the stuff that is hard to come by
these days...
Your smile would open God's sky
to let through his faith in humankind
But you never saw the sky...

And now you have left this world of skies.
And we lie,
injured spirits underneath,
drenched in self-inflicted miseries of rain
when God had intended your Angel Monsoons
to wash us clean of pain.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Now

Breathing Islands 
around me
vanishing into the blue

Hues of hope 
dithering with the 
abandoning sun

One more hope
I hang on to the hull
of your shipwreck

To find that 
I cannot bury
my head 
in your dying dreams

My life hangs
at half mast
as I attempt to pull
the lagging
images of ​your disolving ​love

I struggle, 
I drown 
I drown deep down
I rise
And again, I drown.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

DAD'S WAKE-UP CALL


Like he was kissing God's face,
on the prayer rug
every dawn
as he bent to kiss
our sleeping cheeks.
Every morning,
always . . . the few irresistable moments
before our wake-up time . . .

Monday, July 02, 2012

Our Last Phone Conversation

For: The Beloved Late Lina Hanania El-issa

'Hold on!
Don't go just yet.
A few more words over these lines;
they could be
my last
but, you don't know it...'

'Hold on!
How's life?
I may not know tomorrow.
I want to know
that yours will be good
when I'm gone.'

'Hold on!
I have hope;
not anymore in enduring...
I have hope
that you will endure
when you call again,
and I'm not there to answer.'

'Hold on!
I have saved
some of my last breath
for this conversation.
So speak
that I may hear you,
speak
that I may love you,
for the last time.'

Monday, June 18, 2012

Drinking Tea

I like to sip something warm
when in anguish
a moisturizer for my harsh thoughts
to take the edges off
my sharp emotions...

Something warm
to cool me down
Something fluid
to solidify
my speculations...

I like to sip tea.

And let the taste linger
over my tattered spirit
for a while
as it renders it whole
and gathers
all the wandering thoughts
and makes them warm...

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

My Father...Dying

A thousand moons falling 
and the rain from his eyes seeps through 
a glazed agony 


A thousand moons had risen since 
I had rinsed 
my heart in his 
warm wisdom, 
rested my thoughts
on his weary brow 
demanded his eyes carry
my mind 
on the tides of 
his every breath 
till he was breathless... 

A thousand moons had danced
when we released 
our mental exhaustion 
into each other's realms 
and observed infinity form... 


Dance moons dance... 
trample his agony,
as he goes,
lift me above mine. 


Now, that he's gone...
let all the moons fall...
forever...

Monday, February 14, 2011

Moving House

We paint the scenes with furniture
and then move in the sunlight
We scratch the moments
on the walls
and stain the floors
with memory

Our life we fragment
 and pile into transitional ‘homes’…

Tis strange that they never
come back
full-fledged,

In the mind,
they’re always remote,
forever spaceless,
somewhere up there…

The truth is that
they hang in our hearts

Home is what
our minds will capture
but never touch

Because while they form
The mind twists...
within the next turning point
another home is looming….

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Dad, His Brief Case and Ralph, the Cat



He lived in a Samsonite hardside briefcase
cat & all...
In it were stacked,
notes from Stockholm,
lies from China,
sometimes cries,
and cigar smoke.

Tobacco dust, like his tears found the corners
when he couldn't wipe them off his spectacle rims.
Those were old too...but comfortable.

In that case,
arguments of what might have become of Cambodia,
in the sixties, but never transpired.
Further down,
underneath layers of thoughts and words,
what he had proclaimed to primary figures
that had made the wars go around
and stop...

In that case, the late letters to
heads of states,
pleas for peace
in a sinking world...

Then came the cat,
orange and staring,
the warm distraction
he'd craved all his life.

A deck of cards was the only game he controlled.
Everything else had collapsed into a soothing frangrance of tobacco dust.

It all ended in the briefcase,
the smaller, crystal bowl realm of guesses
he could see through bifocals.

And one day the lid fell shut...
And Ralph was gone...
took his life over a balcony rail.

No one could face how he died,
and then, it was Dad's turn.
He crawled into the other side briefly,
and decided he didn't want to return.

He left the Samsonite briefcase on the dining table...
On it, a picture of himself, hugging Ralph.


Note: Inspired by a photo of my father holding Ralph, our cat. His very familiar brief case on the dining table behind him. Dad died of a stroke in 1999. He went into a coma on February 18, 1999 and passed away on Sunday, February 28, 1999.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The People Of My Land Today

They speak strange words
these people that come from my land
they grow legs and horns for sanguine stories
that sit on chairs
then rot as they unravel and run...
They trace images in the air
that only God
can read
they bite their native tongues
as they utter
these new words
like 'them' and 'us'
These people from my land
have released their grasp of their roots
The seas of enstrangement
have filled the hallows of their
sinking hearts
they dream different dreams
dominions where nightmares
touch the grounds
as they enter
with feet
that scream
to stamp a smoother end out.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Eye for Eye

(For Emily Henochowicz)

Sniped in the eye

before my vision

could savor the next ‘thirsty pixel’.

Blue skies

now charcoal

now crimson

and then no more…

Clouds pushing hard

for a way out of my socket…

Blue tears

streams and rivers

and then this drought

carves its bed in my face.

Know they, that I can spell

more names for color

than they ever tasted in their

mothers’ wombs?

Know they, that Yahweh

designed different dawns

for minds like mine?

Know they, that I am the same blood

that pulled that trigger…

And saw they, with their eyes

that can still see,

the horizons of their expiring aspirations

refracting?

If an eye was the cost,

my cause is not lost.

I did not fall.

Their humanity did.


_______________________________
My poem to Emily Henochowicz, a Jewish art student who lost her eye to an IDF sniper when protesting the Gaza flotilla incident.

Friday, February 19, 2010

My Country...My Country

You have a beautiful house
in a faraway country.

It used to be your home...

But I don't have a country
anymore Mother...

I don't anymore, have a country.

They laid Aunt Nahida to rest,
with all the rest,
tormented,
questioning,
her burial in a faraway country.

She too, no longer has a country.

You put the cobalt-blue china vases away Mother.
The Rahal paintings, you placed,
on the walls of a house of stone...not brick,
and you tried to call this house,
your home,
in a faraway country.

Please don't tell me, I have a house, Mother.

You too, ...you don't have a house!

You too Mother,
you too,
you no longer...
have a country.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Mother

She brings parts of
that part
of the world
here...

She brings sun
in Turkish coffee cups

She brings news of freshly-brewed war
on the TV channel that
doesn't play here

the story of the
made-in-Abu Ghraib
corpse
that no one could identify
at the neighbor's garden gate

She brings smiles
from better times

She brings hope
that people over there
can continue to live
and carry on
to the next war...

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Walls of the Neighbor's Home in Mansoor

Moist damp walls
and frivolous cats used to

run their long tails
in the slits
between the hinges
of the doors

Now the creepers

run the windows
where bullet cracks capture

the smeared drops of last breath

And cold gardens of pain linger

where some wished they could have blended
with the weeping soil

Now it is...

Then it had laughed
when the sun tickled

its belly to beautiful mornings

Those days the palms will tell you
knew stories

that could warm sniffling infants to sleep
for hours if their mothers wished…

Those days the street lamps glistened

to the hum of love-making coming
from the rooms

Nights, under leaves

where toes grasped grass
and released
under stars

pushing swings
sharing thoughts of

Sameness
Oneness
Endless...

Then the walls stood strong

gathered us in
and guarded our thoughts
less they turn into sin...

Now they hide the hate
and remind

We no longer belong…

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I, the terrorist...

I, the terrorist,
watched the bread break off my brother’s bleeding teeth
He had never tasted blood-flavored bread...

I, the terrorist held my breath,
as the bricks from my kitchen ceiling
hit my forehead…

Yet, I could still stand…

I, the terrorist,
took the rut-filled road to get water
for my suckling infant.

I lost a few fingers
on the way,
to a precision sniper…

I, the terrorist,
dug-up some dirt water
with what was left of my stubs,
and tried
to nurse my wailing one,
as he lay in the arms
of the still-warm
body of his departed mother…

I, the terrorist, hated
that my newborn had to taste
blood-stained water;
I hated that
he now had no milk
the scarlet stuff slowly bubbling on his lips…

Then, I the terrorist,
realized
that he,
like his mother,
like my brother,
and every other terrorist
who had sat for a meal
at that fractured kitchen table
had now
stopped feeding too…

Note: Inspired by a survivor of the Gaza massacre, sitting in what remained of his home with what looked like a fingerless bleeding hand...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Pale Pink Bricks

Pale pink you picked those bricks
Ahmed went to get them
from ‘Kasra wa Aattash’
and the Egyptian laborer
mispronounced his Islamic name…

Pink, you thought or maybe sand-colored,
as you decided where you wanted to place them
and plant a home in the hearts
of your growing children.

Strong, you thought
so they would not break
as times tried them
and the wars did…

Under the sun
you would touch up the hues
with teachings of tolerance
of everything different...

The letters you engraved
and the notes you played,
the 45s scratched with
foreign etchings
silent as they screeched…
and the yellowed pages
of alien words
baked with the ancient knowledge
you parted…

But the wars outdid the bricks
they splintered the love
and everything in between
and created these chinks
of detachment
that you eventually crawled into…

The spectrum of confusion
dimming the light
of your bright bright eyes
and yet your faith
in our homecoming
persisted…

When Ahmed
had picked them up
at 'Kasra wa Attash',
he never asked
the brick-layer
if the stuff
was war-proof.

But you knew,
it would survive the shrapnel,
live through the blackouts...
as we craved light…

And we never really left, Father.
We built these outposts of transition
as we tried to stay sane...

In our hearts and in our minds
we’ve always lived
under the warmest shades
of your pale pink dreams
and always will…

Note: For my siblings, Ahmed and Zinnah.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

When Birds Die

Where do birds dig their graves,
brown and black ...
and blue?

They crawl at the end of their time
into nothingness
that we will never know...

They respect each others private
last minute
with God...
before the final accession.

They turn their heads
the other way
when loved ones die.

Then turn them again
to bestow all the love of the skies
and flight...
in parting.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

You Are My God

You are my God
as immense as my eyes can sense
and as infinite as my first fetal memory.

You are my God
too big to be confined
to the books of ancient
or endless times...

You are my God
not bound by
the hollows of sickly principles
stringent or lenient
not shackled to letters
of meaningless thinking
that changes and changes
and changes again...

Those who knew you
spoke of you
and those who dreamt
they did
put words in your mouth...

You are beyond the words,
the books
and those that wrote them
and those that dictated
you had a face
and you had a word
for every rule...

You are the thing
that moves this world
and all it encompasses
and all it surrounds.

You are compassion
goodness
that knows no bounds...
You are constant, eternal...

You are my God.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Our Diaspora

In our diaspora
they build a 'Kingdom of Walls'
first to separate us from our roots
and then
to separate the roots.

In our diaspora
the concrete of a living memory is cracked.
They plant weeds of amnesia in the cold cracks
to suffocate our roots...
And our roots cry
And our roots rot in the dampness of their tears
And then our roots
are no more...

Our nostalgia climbs
these concrete walls
and the journey
knows no end...

We anticipate
exhale
reach again...
And they butcher
our fingers
at the walls' frostbitten edges...

In our diaspora
we are fingerless.
We cannot count
the reasons
why we are here,
we cannot count
the number
of walls that have spawned
since our arrival.

Our roots have ghosts
that visit this 'Kingdom of Walls'.
They stand
surrounded
groundless
each with a story
looming as large
as doomsday
when finally
'Kingdom Come'...

Note: On the walls of separation created by occupation here and at home...

Monday, June 09, 2008

This Silence...

as I trace my steps back and forth
in a corporate commercial building on the third floor
next to a set of white iron rails and carpet

where the stains
of last winter
still linger...

Last May

I had called her from this staircase
and she described what it meant living the way

she was
dodging bullets

while trying to keep her children sane.

I had not heard her voice in two winters

and in spring when I did
it brought all the sunshine that Iraq could endure
and Ohio could dream of…

Silence

as I press my shoes in the carpet
my toes jut out in impatience
but for someone I love like next of kin
someone I knew all my life…almost
I have been very patient.

I have waited 13 months…
At times the silence spat staggering truths about the end of waiting.
At times the lines spawned noises that clawed at my brain and my breath.
She is no longer in that local Baghdad directory...

and I am left to this silence.

The occupation had raped and killed an ‘Abeer’

and set on fire all that was left of her and her kin
and hence followed nightmares that this is an omen…
I wake up in sweat and all around there is this silence.

I wonder and anger that this world can remain this silent...

Abeer returns in dreams every May,
a smile of compassion from warm brown eyes
and a nonchalant nod at the life she knew or knows…
I don’t know...

I wonder if she even breathes anymore…

or if her body lies somewhere…
in silence.

Note: I grew up with Abeer, in Baghdad Iraq. She is (was?) an architect, and single mother who was abandoned by the rest of her family in Hai Al-Jamiaa. There was a raid on her area which was considered a 'hot-spot' in the summer of last year. I have not heard from her since. I reference her here.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

All I want…

All I want from my country which was pushed out of a train window
are my father’s last smile
and the torn pages of his unfinished book…

All I want from my country which was gang-raped back in a Baghdad alley
are the remnants of my mother’s shredded scarf…
All I want…
All I want from my country which was slaughtered in the global public square
are my sister’s last words before her tongue was strangled

All I want from my country which was dragged by her hair down a bloodied Tigris bank
are the stolen cradle of my Mesopotamian heritage
and the swaddle of a mutilated infancy that crawled into oblivion...

But I am not allowed to want…

So I cannot want…

I cannot want.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Rain Through a Baghdad Window Early in the War

And it rained like God wanted to 'pour his heart out'
and look for those who listened...
It rained like he wanted the world to end
in seconds
but it didn't.
There,
was where the war was.
And there,
was where we all stripped ourselves of memory.
Windows gasping at the endless clouds of nights,
witnessing sparks like sunbeams stifled,
like the sun was reluctant to sleep eternally,
after the last star had spat in her face...
Eyes to torrents of tears,
and nightmares
of endings as swift as lightening
fear that after this
it would never rain again.
After this, God would never talk to us again.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A Birthday Message In the Rain

I dreamt a pigeon's feather
and it uttered your eternal name

there on the wet road home
it sat in the rain,
immersed in wait.

Cringing at the sight of my tires
never tiring the burden of words
you spelt in a rainbow
on its back
picking its feathers clean of the confused mud
clearing its sanity away

“no haste...someday
you’ll arrive here too
in your tatters of a spirit
and tattoos of long-lived longing
engraved
with the plume of a brown pegion
roosting in the rain
dragging drizzling letters to your doorstep…
Yes, it’s I, your father…again…
Happy Birthday…”

Thursday, February 07, 2008

The Truth She Invented

Don’t talk too loud;
they do not want to hear the truth of what you saw
because they didn’t invent it…

Don’t use those words
they pulled them out of the local dictionary
three massacres ago…they will not make sense anymore.

Darling, be quiet.
Think your thoughts…in silence…
This telephone has ears…

The books of history
will tell the son
that his father killed for ‘liberty.’
They will not tell
of the other son
who watched through the window
his fathers spurting life
stain the concrete patio of their home
permanently
for reasons he will never see
because he couldn’t invent them…
He will have his own words for his local dictionary.

These books of science
will tell you
that its necessary
some must go
so others stay on…

That’s another truth for you,
and you didn’t invent it…

There... close to the sun-filled window
where the old old trees bare their arms
for the weary traveller
of winding questions
as he tries to discover a bosom of rest,
lies a stone-filled grave.

In it, their shades of centuries-old green visions
are buried
under the very feet of those who land there,
soaked in crimson truth,
like no one invented…
truth, that even you
cannot fathom!

Monday, December 31, 2007

Male Middle Eastern

The smell of freedom
came with peach;
orange-like soap suds
under a low-ceiling
of showering promises.

A small iron-framed window
in the tile wall
into the dark unknown
its handle too wet
for fresh minds to grip.

Faces awashed with the assumed known
flicking mental floaters of
easy experimentation
into endlessness...

It all came to blossom
many seas later;
here.

The specimens of by-products
of time's tests
lined up at my
roach-filled
residence.

Some blowing dreams of
fall-like aspirations
into the remaining sunlight,
gripping moments like
dripping chocolate on ice.

And most blew bad mouth breath
into contaminated fish bowls
and observed the fish sink....

Um Ali

There were dreams for a house
scratched on paper …
at odd moments when the corner
of an available room was free
and the light sufficient.

Dreams for a home
while on the run
from dream-killers
and home-destroyers.
Thoughts of reunion
under a roof
when blood mattered
and distance had drawn too long…

Her scratches as emblematic as
sunshine on sunflowers;
groping for a reality
loudly passing away.

Silently scratched on thin scrap paper
supported by thick books of thought
that were very different
filled with skeleton letters that danced to
a homesick tune…

Hiding from the moonlight
under eroding bus stop signs
escaping the end
though it loomed
as close as the following second…

Silently stopping within a sunflower second
as the dream-killers
seize the scratches
rip the paper house to pieces
shredding all dreams of homecoming
shooting the last 'different' thoughts
back into the skulls of snoozing sunflowers
before the sun could
even dream of a horizon…

-Um Ali was an Iraqi communist who was hunted down, detained, tortured and eventually murdered by Saddam’s regime, in the early Eighties. In her run from one hideout to another, escaping Saddams 'gestapo', she dreamed of building a family home.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Occupied...Forgotten

lost places
lost times
trampled on 
by accessories of strategy 

never thought

never found
never saw

the play fields

children's toys 
the memories 
walks down sun-lit lanes
arms entwined
warmth like freshly-brewed tea
with a golden-brown hint of nostalgia 

lost dreams

uprooted
and flung into the Tigris

ripped earth as red
as the blood of the
lost years

expunged
then dried 
then cracked by tank wheels
wet with more blood 
and then left to rot

lost words
lost glances
lost meanings 
all extricated
stuffed into a khaki 

knapsack 
and thrown into the Euphrates
lost moments 
when tea was passed 
and the earth warm 
under our bodies 
where we sat 

laughter

like the sun had suddenly 
gotten the gist of the joke
and shade
like paradise 
had descended into Zawaraa
in an instant of confusion

lost
stolen
occupied
forgotten...

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Dead House

In the hallows of my soul
the brown birds sing
One tried to build a nest of stone
and broke a wing
The windows of my eyes are shattered
a dead house I stand
and all of God’s sun will not bring in
enlightenment…

Too long the ghosts of tomorrow have wandered
unabated
through these aging walls
too long
they have made this arid structure
their home

They walk this soul in silence
for them the brown birds sing
hating transition
unlike me
they already know
there will never be spring…

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

And the Ball Rolled into a Baghdad Dumpster…

The children shouted for the game they could lose
and palms were raised
where dust drops dripped
and voices booed.

And it was up to Sami
who just turned ten
to venture into the world of Baghdad trash
to recapture the trophy
for a part-time glory
perhaps…

So he stepped towards the pile of thrills and woes
the smell of the rot remotely touching his toes
an indefinite heap of suffocated shocks,
end-snipped stories, strangled facts, and stifled sorrows…

Tales of beings coming to life from inside the rust
of deformed oil drums,
rumors of things lashing out to cut all those who touch
the twisted trash,
these tugged at his hair and spat into his buzzing ears,
but it couldn’t happen to Sami!

Not with the football team jeering, swearing
and repeating his name…

His eyes peering, heart, almost disappearing, he crouched on the dirt
and extended a tired, somewhat-scratched arm
into the maze of unknown hate…
And he found the round thing, and gripped it!

With all the pride a ten-year old Baghdadi could gather
all the relief that his mother could no longer offer
all the passion that wining a game would promise…a small but such meaningful game!

He turned to the crowd
a tower of pride
the thrill dancing out of his once weary eyes…

And the silence that followed was smiting
the unsaid words in faces around him biting
the children’s tears already streaming
some crying
some screaming…

And Sami eyes went down
to the round
creature in his hands…
her eyes were closed in pain
her lips firmly shut in refrain
and her rotting cheeks almost gone…

so he dropped the head…
and fainted.

Note: This story took place when a number of children were playing football in a Baghdad suburb next to a neglected dumpster that had not been attended to in years.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Day I Lost My Hair

The day I lost my hair
mother had dragged me out to shop

the wait for lulls in incessant crossfire
had not come to a stop
and the children were hungry
for more than just candy

check points where faces
had traces of
trashed deaths
dying answers in stillborn questions
struggling to extract
the last breath of a meaning
for the wait

it was then that the shots hailed
into the skull of a walking doll
and life stopped
right there in the remaining footprints
of the once skipping child

it was right there
that her hair came down
with a thud
on the dirt

And I walked home…
Without my mother
Who was still shopping, not stopping

and I sheared my head
and shred the tresses
into the waiting mirror…


Thikra who was once Iraq's # 1 ballerina still lives in Iraq with her mother. This is what happened when they shot a child at a checkpoint 'by accident' in front of her...

Friday, November 24, 2006

This Torn Map

Pinned to my heart…
this torn map and bleeding
nostalgia drips at my severed valves

Lashes yearning for the blind white to cover
all the crimson
It grips the pit of pain where my stomach is
And nausea now has no name

It comes in flashes of red around Baghdad
in flames at the crying Shrine of Mousa Al-Khadim
while Abu Hanifa descends into flakes of
black despair

They both want out…

"These are not our people.
They have murdered us in our graves. "

Pinned to my brain
the image of love
that will never be again

Baghdad nights now have gouged eyes.
the tunnels are endless
and the sunlight of infinity
that once shone through its lenses
has been crushed with
explosions of unanswered questions...

Pinned to this spirit
the dawn of doom
and the weight of eternity that comes with the point of no return.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Under the earth

Under the earth
they look upwards
the poet
and he who tried to pick the word
and she who tried to dissect it

She who appreciated with tears
her bed sores still carved in her back
even under the earth

He who enjoyed iced-coffee
as he savored every character
and flipped the torched memories
of places touched
into flurries of ruminations
that rested on lowered metal rimmed
glasses

She who would fume with passion
her red-rimmed eyes
pale forehead and rosy cheeks
scratching the meaning of every word
into being

She who appreciated gardens of love
where words were flamboyant
and smiles full of letters

Now all under the earth
together weep
not at the life missed
But the earth that is no more sweet
it tenses up on their dead senses

The blood and salty sweat it is fed
has turned the soil into endless death

After the last death…
There should be no more deaths…
But not with war…where the dead awake to relive death…


Friday, September 08, 2006

Baghdad Fridays

On Fridays the sun shone,
like it never would on any other.
I would have called it 'Sun Day',
but we rested on on that day,
while the sun kissed our skins.

On Fridays mosques' voices were more vibrant.
People left their flip-flops at the door.
Some said it was tradition.
Some said it was to cool their feet,
on the marble floor,
in a place of prayer.

On Fridays, cars honked greetings
and people smiled back.
They flocked at markets,
and hugged and kissed,
and compared prices.

On Fridays tea was always hot.
Under the sun, our Istikans oozed of brown,
warm to the touch,
sweet as freshly handpicked dates.

On Fridays we watched the evening news
and reflected.
War after war,
we expected
better days…

On Fridays today, under the sun,
they slaughter women,
and rape children.

On Fridays today, mosques turn into infernos,
and the rubber of the flip-flops burn the nostrils
of the bodies on the charred marble floors...

On Fridays now, the streets are quiet.
The silence bites at the ears of travelers,
who move in the shadows unseen,
praying to reach home whole...

On Fridays now, people drink dark coffee.
From one memorial to its neighbor,
the bitter taste becomes the custom.

On Fridays now, people fear the evening news.
War after war…,
they wonder if they have seen the worst…
yet…

Friday, July 07, 2006

Traveling North In Iraq

And somewhere from across the roofs
a voice called my name;
maybe it was God…incognito.
The skies of Kirkuk
smiled back in Turkish…

And the dome of the tomb of the sacrificed soldier
shone in the rain
where doves danced to the drumming drops
as if to make light of the grave questions

It also rained where Jonah
had laid his head to rest.
That was in Mousl,
and the dirt road around his shrine was as ancient
as the twisted finger that pointed towards it.

The windows gathered all of us close.
We whispered words of warm nourishment
and it was copious!

Father closed his eyes in the shade,
and we crouched at his feet to steal the love
he so generously generated…

We finally stood for the family photo
of a lifetime…
The beams of teeth and stretched eyelids was genuine
despite the camera’s clicking attempts
at discrediting love…

It persisted…That was love in Northern Iraq…

Sunday, June 18, 2006

BOOTS

The red earth on the boots
reminded me of my roots
the color of Iraq…
the blood inside cried,
yet I couldn’t touch it
my contamination phobia forbade me…
But my eyes could reach out
and try to touch the fluttering souls
that emerged from them…

For days we pronounced the names of the fallen
some just starting,
most not even
and some towards the end of their journey.
The ghosts bellowed back…
Some of us heard them and closed their ears
some of us shut our eyes with tears…

On the field they towered, shoulders hanging.
The shoes of the children around stared back.
They now spoke the same universal language of loss
and together they struggled to get the message across…

The mothers’ voices rose high.
Above the crowds,
their sorrows soared
and yet select indifferent eyes
just shrugged it off
as hysteria…

I spoke to someone who believed he could wave a flag in my face
and render me smaller…
What good is a flag if the bearer can’t honor its color?
His weak words of might in military power
only made me stand taller…

A father was more resilient –that’s what makes the matter of 'tough' men…
“I don’t question the politics” he said
He couldn’t…
His son was dead...

I read the names of Iraqi civilian victims and fallen GIs at an 'Eyes Wide Open' event which portrayed the boots and shoes of the scores and scores of fallen humans.

Monday, May 29, 2006

A Summer View From my Baghdad Balcony

Their khubuz, their abbayaas and their football,
floated down the road like a dusty dream.
The only one who witnessed it all,
was the thrush on the telephone wire.
The voice of the Muezzin
spoke of war.
He whispered secrets
in his clear shouts for prayer,
but nobody had the slightest doubt,
busy walking the streets of life,
they never bothered about,
an exhausted Iraq,
pining for the perfume
of hot khubuz,
shivering at the sight of
Hopscotch and chattering children.
A football in the air,
kicked the thrush's dream into pink pieces in the sunset...
The light steps under the abbaya
are fast asleep,
as I stare
at a rare tranquility...
Iraq
at twilight...

Human Pain

"Where you there?
I mean when the bombs fell?
I heard they fell in your area too.
Sorry, I couldn't provide
nail-bitten fingers as ear plugs.
It's not the worst of human pain...you know.
Sorry if the dust made your nostrils itch...
Sorry if it choked you...
But then,
you had left choking...
I remember you behind the window,
came to get me,
that close you were ,.
and that much I'd wanted to go.
I loved you;
Love you.
Forgive me for not coming.
At times I wonder what a stroke must've felt like.
I practice holding my breath in the bathroom
as long as I can
I give up...
Forgive me but,
I'd rather wait for God.
Maybe he'll send me the handbook
beforehand,
the one you waited for...
and never got."

For my beloved Aunt Khadija who died shortly before the first Gulf War (US Agression against Iraq)

This Is How It Is -Kerbala 1991

He was buying rockets,
this young man I respect,
making 'cool contracts'!
And my brother was helping
fire them...
My best friend, Nouha,
way out in Kerbala,
saw them fall...
Out of the rubble, she crawled
and left,
her nephew, her aunt
and her mother
underneath forever...

This is the true story of my friend, Nouha who lost half of her family when the Iraqi army was ordered to turn against its own people during the first uprising after the first Gulf War in 1991.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

African Garden in Mid-Summer

It was a different world…
with pink tips
and smaller corners
It had leapt out of a crystal bowl
just set on the table…

Zinnahs’ eyes stared back
when the hedges barked
and the leaves clapped at the distant human laughter
she could not recognize

It lay by the sea
across the road
from where we crouched
where tree stumps had stood to protect our backs
against the approaching ocean winds

There the rocks were brown and hard
the waves splashed against the palms
of our slipping hands
in quest of an answer

Pink it was
all over
The hibiscus dreamt it in the African night
and it landed on Zinnah’s lashes
on that sky-filled afternoon

It spoke a new language to us
as luscious as an unpeeled papaya
and green as an unopened gift

All the promises of endless books
on seas of shelves
and fragrances of all
forgotten gardens
it would let us have...

Monday, February 20, 2006

As I lay Face Down

First, the dark wet dirt, the hint of ammonia, reminded…
It was why I was there, face down…this dirt…my dirt…my land

The stench of red…was that blood from my nose?
I remembered Jasim’s ‘shaved-off’ nipples at Abu-Ghraib…

Far away, Fatima’s face was crying…
Mohamed, tugging at her nipple, will surely miss me…

This foreign sole of a ‘made-in the US/China-Manufactured’ now familiar boot
had kicked this dust into my eye…Was that my blood from my eye?

The circular edge of his crushing iron weapon reminded…
Rancid sweat…I could smell it again…and again…

The journey has been long…it may have now come to an end…

In the eighties, they told us that our enemies had arrived from the East…
I sat, well into the nights, at the gates,
translating ‘made-in-the US’ manuals on war…

We had to protect our next of kin, our Arab brethren,
those in 'Aagaals', from the Yellow Winds…
Some people said it was not about winds…
They said it was to protect this dirt…and all that lay underneath the dirt…

Then there was the big WAR, and the rubber from our torn boots trailed
in the sand to the South…
They pushed and pushed us further down…
towards the waters of the Gulf…but we never saw water…

For fourteen days, I broke pieces of the molded bread they had thrown weeks before,
and made my meal…
Tarik, who couldn’t…just wouldn’t…
Well, he made his last bed there in the trench…

Then the shells showered our tracks in the sunlight…
And I wondered…if Tarik had gone the easy way…
When my sweat prints wet the rusted gates of Baghdad…
my eyes had gone to my feet for the first time since we drifted North,
…my small toe was gone…

Fatima did not seem to mind
…this missing piece…;
Ahmed had not yet arrived …

He did when The Starvation began…
For 12 long years it ran...
His big eyes: all the interrogation an infant could muster…
I prayed that Fatima’s breasts would not betray him…
I prayed he would not bloat like the rest, his age…
I prayed…

And now this dirt…in my face…
and the iron depression on my neck…
The foreign boot digging into my back
the man above me, screaming with fright!
His words as alien as his eyes…

Where did they come from?
Why have they come?
For this dirt…or what lies underneath this dirt…
But we were supposed to protect it…

Jasim came home to die…

Will they bring what’s left of me, home to die?
Who will tell Fatima?
Who will tell Fatima…?
Who will tell Fatima?….

The Story of an Iraqi soldier/citizen...



Friday, February 03, 2006

As History Weeps Over Your Remains…

The smile of Nimrud broke with the last fire
She looked on, teeth charred…
at the descendents of her Assur in pieces
Not in her wildest ivory dreams
could this nightmare have proceeded

Long ago Hamurabi had set the rules
only to watch them
break
He had held fast
to all he hoped for
generations to last-
except for this one

This time the fall of Baghdad
came with an infinite bang…

Monday, January 02, 2006

Turkish Pajamas

That’s how we lived…
incredulous of pajama powers
and ‘dishdasha’ hours
stuffed with Turkish nostalgia
dripping of toothpaste on the morning sink.

Then came the ‘kahi’ and we sat and ate,
the syrup dripping from our plates,
in our bedroom attire.

Ours was a smell of mint
and fresh water,
fried eggs and hot khubuz.
It all floated in Aunt Khadija’s kitchen
and finger played at  
the next door neighbor’s windows

Ours were the roses red in the heat of a mild spring,
heads tilted, smiling back at our shining Istikans.
The tea was never enough!

Ours was the crisp morning air
touching our cheeks gently,
reminding, it would only be there for so long…

Smiles and teeth as bright as goodness
Bread as warm as the
golden hearts of those years
that never faltered…

Sometimes in the cold
when the snow comes to rest
I wonder…
Was it all a Turkish delight in a dream…