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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

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…

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 of 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 mosque's windows gathered all of us close.
Our faces 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


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...
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 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
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
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…