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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

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
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
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
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…


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 express 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.
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
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 talk
of the other son
who watched through the window
his father's spurting life
stain the concrete patio of their home
for reasons he will never know
because he couldn't invent them…
He will have his own words for the local dictionary.

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

That’s another truth,
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, the 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!