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Friday, December 30, 2005

Shopping List

Shoes for Zayoon;
a purse for Mama;
Jeans for Ahmed and…
a flower for Dad;

kisses in the air, for the chair
he last sat on,
and words for the last bookshelf he reached for;
memories for the couch;
more kisses for that brown couch;
and tears for the breakfast table-
especially the spot where he last rested his palms;

DVDs for Hassooni-
maybe a stuffed ‘Pooh Bear’?

an embrace for Alyaa;
make-up for Alyaa –my first ever…last ever-hopefully- sister-in-law;

thoughts for Dad’s favorite card game on the very same old computer;
clasps for the mouse he fumbled with and caresses for the mouse pad;
more kisses for where his fingerprints were never eliminated…

hugs for his ghost;
cheek-rubs for his unshaven face;
and more blown kisses for his pipe fumes;

an agenda for Dad -the one Ahmed decided he couldn't use...;
time slots for the afterlife…
when we will finally meet…
All…finally meet...

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

God's Creatures

Those amongst us,
the godly ant-steppers,
watching the life wriggle
out of an ant…

Those within,
the god-deniers,
sucking the shock out of bewildered eyes
at something different…,
oblivious of screaming antennas…

In someone’s pockets,
from holes of boredom,
trickle the ants, tired and struggling.

Theirs is a life,
granted by God,
ignorant of pious killers
and ardent atheists…

Theirs is a faith,
no godly worshipper will ever know,
a way,
a non-believer dreams to attain…
in vain.

Those precious ants…amongst us.

My Silent Smile

My silent expressions
underneath these merciless skies,

Eyes, steadfast in their shock
and smiles of wonder at the unknown you carry
in your pale Western hands...

Eyes, fixated on a camera lens
staring at your expectations of my surrendering a story,
and yet nothing comes.

But the blood on the street tells it
and the bodies torn apart,
struggling to release their inner selves...
Their faces, expressionless...

Friends of enemies,
strangers with elongated machines
balanced on strong shoulders...

Maybe you will tell the world at large
my silent story.

My silent horror witnessed,
faster than the speed of light through your camera lens,
stripping me of all sense.

Senseless now I am.

That half erect house you see
had a kitchen.
The meat on the charred table... is my brother…

The hallows of my father’s car over there
had known fine days of sun on the way to school.
He’d puff a smile through the rearview mirror at my eager eyes
above dog-eared books…

The smoke you see now
through the remains of its structure
is only because…
those skies up there will only talk war.

That infant in the swaddle
could not talk either,
when your guns did the words for his small aspirations…

You tore my brothers limbs to shreds
his rarest fetal nightmares never told him…

But I...I can still struggle in the face of your camera
and try to tell you my story.

You see you had smiled,
and in my culture I must smile back...

Even if you intend to kill me with that long gun… to call a camera...


Before the sun sets on the other world
Minutes accumulate on my cell phone
Pleading reassurance
That all are alive
And I am missed, by some

Before the sun sets on the other world,
The words reach out to grasp the warmth
Of the going rays
In ways
Only the East can spell

Minutes and time zones
Love disperses amongst the lines of
Missed emotions
And longing

Fingers betray the anguish
As phone handles quiver in their grasp

One last word, Mama
Hear me
I love you.
Did you know that, recently?

And who’s home and who has broken their fast and prayed for me?
And who missed the last car bomb and made it to the Iftar table?
Who smiled at God’s food and then shed a tear for all the empty tables?

Minutes are money…the corporations know and say that…
For them, the wars and the empty dishes…
For them, we work on working your future Iftars to ashes...

Was that my brother’s voice behind you?
Does he remember my name?
I have changed…but not my name…

Names are constant
Love is constant and so is sibling tension
Cell phone minutes are not.

Tell him I love him.
I have a minute to tell him I love him.
I have all the minutes the corporate world can steal
to hear him tell me
He loves me.


I am the cause
I am its blood and checkpoint tolerance

I am the refugee tents in tatters
I am the soiled headless doll
in that ditch
where your made-in-the-US missile fell

I am the cross of Nativity
I am the bell toller
shot to death
I am the muezzin
whose voice was sniped
I am the holes in
the prayer rug
your machine gun shattered

I am the cause
I am the broken rooms in your bulldozer
I am the eyes you want to blind
I am the history
that will rise again

I am the cause
I am the ship that floats in hope
I am the sails that blow you away
I am the harbor you’ll never know
in my homeland

I am the cause

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

I Want Those Photos

I want those photos.
Alia stood grand;
the most beautiful Iraqi model we knew,
and met in San Francisco,
when the Iraqi Fashion House had a house…
She had more than one face, and a multitude of minds,
the psychiatrist, at Stanford, said…
but that did not make her less glamorous,
or her Babylonian clothes less glowing.

I really want those photos.
But the House fell down upon them.
It came down with a US missile,
that tore into Alia’s clothes,
and ripped the entity
of her Babylonian history!

Now, they’re nowhere to be found.
I can’t ask for them,
for now with the changes of times,
in my homeland,
the ‘insurgents’ will label them ‘haram’.

I also want to visit Ms. Siba,
in that old house, in Adhamia.
The one in the corner,
by the noisy highway,
where sometimes, we just couldn't sit on the patio,
at night
because car headlights flashed at our eyes…
But the house was rented to an ‘insurgent’.

Ms. Siba left this life, in Amman.
She still visits the house at night,
and tells him about Palestine.
He knows...
He tells her, ‘she keeps him going’ -but, does she?
‘Just spare the innocent lives!’, she cries…
He doesn’t listen.
His sister was raped, at Abu Ghraib,
and she still screams in his dreams…
The ‘insurgent’ is now immune to noise,
even from the nearby highway.

I want those fabrics…in those photos.
I really do…
I want to touch them.
I want to touch them and feel that something,
just one thing of the city I knew has survived…

Note: Alia was Iraq's # 1 model. She was schizophrenic. We all met her in person in 1980, while on a visit to the US -the Iraqi Fashion House had a traveling show.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

A Note for Dad

(on his grave stone)

You still stop by
And ask the same questions
Every time the answers are different
They change color

Every mental event adds a hue
And I struggle with this sphere of a multitude of lights
That I can’t travel

You blink and look on
Can’t I see it?

And I can’t stop by
Because the skies have put my name on their forbidden list

Mother’s heart can stop any day now
And Reem’s eyes may bleed by every sunset
It all depends on the news forecast

The faces of yesterday that flocked around your grave are gone
There are bullet holes in their smiles
That’s why they won’t visit

They left a message on the telephone wire above the gate
But when Aunt Fatima’s spirit tried to reach it, it screeched
And they mistook it for the ghost of an insurgent
They shot the life out of the wires

And for days it rained
And I couldn’t call Mother

Hussein thinks he remembers you
He smiles when your photo emerges in a kitchen conversation
They’ll never understand why he suddenly smiles
His little nose can smell your pipe

They finally put away your books
The gun powder has turned them black
I will clean them for you

And if my answers are colorless
And my feet have not flown towards your ‘qibla’
And your pages are still stained,
You will know…
It is you who will have to stop by…again

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Mother's Day in Baghdad

Mother's dreams died on the couch yesterday,
and so did Thamra's mother, next door.
They were sleeping soundly and no one heard them go...
Ahmed and Abu Shaker tried desperately to revive them...
But no ambulance would come...

It was Mother's Day, and the shots could be heard overhead.
The dreams were motionless.
'The helicopter's close', Mother said.
It has come to sweep your dreams Mother.
Wake up! Thamra's all alone, and she has no mother...
on Mother's Day...

Your cell phone will not answer in the evening,
the paint on your walls is peeling,
and you have no reason to be there, Mother!
This war has not come to an end.
And I don't want you to end...
There will be no ambulance for you Mother.

There will only be choppers chasing your dreams as they try to grow...
There will only be rains to wash away your couches

and silence the phone!
How will I ever talk to you again?

Did you not hear the last scream...?
They're gone with the guns Mother!
These couchless dreams are damp and sore.
And you have no reason to sleep, Mother.
Wake up! Thamra's all alone, and on Mother's Day she has no mother...
She only has the rain.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

For Little Hasooni

For the love of your face that captures my brother's beautiful eyes
For the love of your tiny 'skinful' fingers and 'fleshful' cheeks
For the love of all that’s in me, that’s in you
All that you now cannot see
For the love of you, my little instance of my bigger brother
May God bless your tiny nose a thousand times
May he guide you as it grows with your curiosity
And may he carry you into all the worlds you will come to encounter…
with every footprint on the walks of life...

This is for my darling nephew, Hussein, named after my grandfather Hussein.