Friday, September 30, 2016

on the word prolific

There are many ways of saying
abundant. The first time you hear
this adjective you flinch,
how can we speak about grains of sugar

without spilling them apart,
one for the other, to back
each one its own sister?
this is what prolific is

an abundance of ways to say
you have enough tools to build
a foundation yet you choose to
pick your blocks over what has
already been dug up in earth
you are smart about the way
you conduct your speech
short and straight,like these

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Half a song on the sea

There are too many fish in the sea
yet we still romance it
like it never brings disaster to our coves

there are too many shells
on the land, yet we reveire the hallowness
without realizing we have picked up someone's home

there are waves that feed
other waves that make the ocean
a little warmer but we do not feel anything on its surface

then there are those who are drowning
and those who are saved
many we do not know of or hear
overshadowed by the black line between whitling moonlight and water.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Silent and waiting

Do we read in silence
the same way we read aloud
I hugely doubt it is the same
where waiting ends and reality starts.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

A day in Chicago

193 miles from Chicago
I lapse into a sleep that is disturbed
by familiar noise, a note breaking into laughter
another stressing importance of a conversation, muted to fit a bus

of half-sleeping passengers buoying through streets
pilled with burnt-out corn-canes spelling autumn
the other half buried under leather jackets, sharing size M&Ms
side chatter, side flatter, side flirtations

I wake up on the edge of the city
imagining- for a second-
that my thighs will transform into a graphic of a cartoon
these are the images that come with skyscrapers

on the loop, I look up, there's a sky
that is clear blue, passengers in the bus rising
for the click of the shutter
I fail at making mine, an understanding of those clicking away time

I have read it is husky and brawling
like a dog's demand for food from strangers
but the city doesn't demand much of me,
gives me food, a bed, images of the day and night

gives me time to comb my hair
time to choose my pan-cake sides
to ponder about a simple choice between
walking and running, between a crowd and my shadow

I run Michigan Avenue
without checking how a man's open festering
sores are his only defense against the ill winds
of the city, of the trail of a look from foot to knee

when I pause to look up I see it
the point where the sky meets the buildings
without objection they fit together:
man made towers to reach God, God made rivers to reach man

I race art for a feeling, between Monet
Warhol, Picasso are enough disasters
with smeared colors erupting in a second
blues, for sadness, lilies for health, greens for happiness

on the boat he tells me
it was called shikaakwa by the Indian who before the skyscraper
tried to reach the gods by the longest staffs in his tipi
never thinking that the staff would learn to bend on his back

a nomad is a nomad is a nomad and you cannot change

how we reach the skies in our own methods
but he also said that some stones of the city
were gathered, like the scattered fruits of earth
from the four corners of the universe

to reside in this very city, make a sky-line
for watchers, visitors, eaters of priced meals
thinkers across the green water of the Chicago river
he says a lot of things and I listen quietly

it is better if I don't open my mouth

later at night, I pass by the classic signs
of love. Two hands intertwined
a horse drawn carriage
a night that descends to clear way on loner beds

on top of a tower I see night falling over the city
alone, tilting over hundreds of passing cars
no one stops the traffic to see a head near a skyscraper's window
no one says I love you with a bright lit tower in the background

at eleven p.m. the towers look the same
the river, tepid water runs along

on the banks you think of the words of origin
chicagwaa, at some point meant Garlic
a name so small for a city
so big. Why garlic? hoarders for witches
devil devil go away,
devil devil here you stay
cries the nomad who took a staff, hammered it to earth
then said: this is home

one more time you think of  his words:
how a great fire made the way on both sides of water
how you want to tell him that fire knows how to jump a river
if it intends to burn but remain awfully silent, for reasons beyond you.

nighttime Chicago, taken with Iphone 5 camera

Three things

Three lines make up a Haiku
three dots of tomato sauce will make you change a shirt
this is a trinity of odds, that make you


A month later the image comes to me
it seems I had been inflected by the announcer's
booming voice, the smell of horse hooves
tapping on wet mud, released long after captivity

this is why I had not been able to really see

A month later the image comes to me
a woman and a horse released from captivity
bear nothing to the wind except
hair flying in all directions without caution

this is why I had not been able to really see

A month later the image comes to me
a little boy grasping a sheep's neck
for a future show of strength
by clutching at other people's wind

this is why I had not been able to really see
mostly, I had closed my eyes to rest them for a few minutes.

Between two bridges in Pittsburgh

When the plane lands I open my eyes
all I see is the green treetops, so many
I lose count, what is it about nature
and trees?  this devotion

on the road he tell us of the wars
speaks low and slow like a used gas hob
says: these were three counties, two rivers
two people replaced by one, I nod

replace is a strong word
like steel, erected to overtake wood
history does not celebrate the victorious
it builds over the dead, that's all

the lambs have fallen silent here,
he adds, continuously referring to Gotham city
where superheroes live
I cannot stop wondering why we need a hero to save us

it is simple how drowning and saving works

like the wind I come with clean eyes
in a rush to eat up the trees, the land
the stories: there is a hunger in me
that had laid dormant for years

my house is on the hill overlooking
glass skyscrapers taller than my arms stretched together over the horizon
to catch the possibility of being so close
incredibly far from the same place

on other  houses, there is enough art
to keep a child happy for years
to keep the adults watching
the child

in her house she draws, a white whale
in a sea of green and blue-
trapped, he is, between ink and paint
with fury to humans for their ills

in their house they host
our loud chatter, clanking of wine glasses
I wave my hand around the salmon on my dish
ignoring vows about ripping open a sea's belly for my food

in the light, the shadows come and go by candles
in the light, ice-cream melts over my tongue

below us the two rivers will meet like the houses
but there will be no mixing of genealogy
just four hundred bridges
to keep connections open, bridges to cut the river without hurting its belly

bellow us there will be music, jazzy saxophone
words about exile this
oppress that,
chase the words out of someone's throat with a friendly knife make possible,

your dominance

away from my body, in the city park
the birds are not aware of what people say
they have too many feathers to block their hearing
of oppress this and exile that but we listen

raise a placard
for those taken by their own devices
ink and page:the only thing that protects them 
is the flesh on their backs 

seek asylum elsewhere away from the words
from those who read with a name longer
than their speech of origin, we are all mixed up
until we find where we chose to die

You raise a placard, black and white
for those who lost a tongue
lost an eye, a hand,
while you are ashamed at being fully human

you raise a placard
for the times you feared your life
for the times you declared I do not demonstrate
I do not hesitate, I do not do onto others what was done to me 

you sleep under the stars
with a head full of wine
and a faint song carried from the river
to the tips of your ears

a song that repeats the name on your placard
Désiré de-se-re
the one written about in passing like this in accident
Désiré a journalist, gunned down at 40 years of age.

Photo credit mine 

Monday, September 26, 2016

promises in a small room

This morning I promised myself honesty
for the mistakes endowed with sugar 

anxious awaiting, not a factor for funneling 
the end of a nightmare with roses 

there's a small room, big enough
for the roads that widen when I stand still 

I sit back in the evenings, on the window
I spread my clothes like silk I promise 

with vows and so many little expressions 
better aesthetics and less broken poetry 

I vow the eternal vows of women
to cut out the bread, keep the butter 

leave behind the carbs and the crap 
yes you read right, the things that make us smell 

envy: bodies thinner than our own 
made up and tight like solid giraffes standing 

I vow to excessive exercise
day in and day out- for what?

a child?  a continuation of our despair
but in flesh, things learnt from broken motherlands 

tired homes and beings unready to leave 
not willing to stay or listen or hold anything to their 

chests other than closed vests 
low-cut V line blouses

for what? a loss of waist measures to impress those who 
are not willing to grant a glance 

when the second glass of wine is full 
reeling down, leaving circles on the counter tops of bars

or leaving spots of club lights on the arms of dancing women 
unforgiving mistresses with husbands granted to night

returnee, for what? do we make promises from smaller rooms
do you think we can find comfort in bigger sized rooms?

Sunday, September 25, 2016

City of Asylum

these burns on your arms before you enter
the alleyways that make our city clean, brick-lined
curving letters on its wall

nothing asks you to carry
any old ruins, a country in the back-pocket
like a packet of gum
always sour in your mouth, losing taste after the first chew

you have arrived, stop carrying
that extra heartbeat in your chest

this is where you seek safety
in a wooden house built atop
the ruins left in one country:
a leg on one continent, a step in another

you do not need language
to express how the walls of a house open to host you

host all the empty prayers you made
for others to receive your luck
host the days of snow piling on your chest
that does not bear well with cold weather

but host the eyes of other humans
who take their candles inside to light your way down winding stairs

on the walls, the rights to speech
all the words composed out of fear
faith and frugality of a prisoner
shaking the iron walls of his cell

but you are free to open your arms
to green trees, four hundred bridges and a river

there is a duplication of things that flood your senses
even in your own home, where light fills the rooms

the ceilings of the house have windows
to let the light in, to let the noise out
you will sleep under the stars
at least you will sleep peacefully here

open your arms to the new colors
don't forget about the music, just be good.

photo is mine, taken at City of Asylum Pittsburgh earlier this week.

Sharper tongues

I speak in the name of those
who turn to speak on my name
like it is a speck of dust, maybe
this is our problem, darlings
that we do not know where and how
to place our words.

The price of fame

Fifteen minutes
they speak about them, an insignificant number of seconds
in your life, not long enough, not short enough to pile a change

like old clothes needed for other people
to be sold or given away
bit by bit

they say success follows you
like a trail of birds
from one corner of the room to another

this is the price of fame,
you lose your darlings before you open your eyes
and you see what you've built charred
by fires started with tongues of flame
wood and causal additions to old coals.

Monday, September 19, 2016

A lesson of the day

History knows how to set itself
on our shoulders, careless
to the fact that the clothes we wear are manufactured
by small, overworked hands

Sunday, September 18, 2016


Remember to pack along the following:

-Freshly-baked Taboun, smelling like babies
-kisses on both cheeks, a turning of heads
- Merenge on the rooftops of old buildings, the old bites the new foreign
-men who greet men, women who greet women, neither to greet one another
- A glass of Sangarias with fresh apples
- Different directions to prayer, God has decent ears
- my father acting out as an alarm clock, beeping, each time with a softer desperation for my wakening
- the flowers that open only at night, soaking the sunlight for fragrance
- Chai-Na'na', mint-tea, made with one spoon of sugar to keep to healthy eating
- the kid who died in an accident, the kid who was killed, the consolations that painted the town with their faces, like children who were lost but earth found them
- a pinch on my mother's slate cheeks, to make possible impossibilities
- a woman who asks when will I get married, for the fear of continuity grows
- your beard tickling my forehead in the summer, a kiss is a kiss

let's see, have I forgotten to bring anything else in my continental suitcase?

Saturday, September 17, 2016

By the Iowa river, I sat down

The Iowa river is dark brown, you look and cannot see the bottom
on the morning runs, I think to myself:  it will change color
take second skin, save face on the surface
in motion, the finer details never shape

Read the rest here:

Friday, September 16, 2016

I speak of gazelles

ع كتر ما طلع العشب بيناتنا بيرعى الغزال"- طلال حيدر"
" For as long as the grass has risen between us, the gazelles can graze"- Talal Haidar


And the grass has gone long, 
an inch between my calves 
irritating this greenery
I see around me

there have been no gazelles to graze 
to ease the sight of the fields 
coloring over the eminence 
of green 

I said I hated green, on me at least 
no blouses, no careful consideration 
of the affects of paranoia on a hushed 

the shepherds have gone home 
to warm beds and women who keep 
the sheep and the children 

only I am left at the foot of the valley


People speak of languages 
like two gazelles jumping from a bank 
to the other, careless to the water 

no one wants to wade out 
your legs would feel heavy with the weight
taken down, compromised 

this terror of words taking over 
the feed of the miles, the stupid things 
we can no longer share 
a re-heated cup of coffee

desperate single Valentines with no red
vowed like an eternal decision 
to deactivate a language 
let it die in your brain

this identity


He asks if noble causes 
can lead to a drink with a woman 
who is graced with short legs 
like a child's, she works on her strength 

test the limits, she raises her head
raises an eyebrow, horns, Khal filled eyes
No, she says. It is simple 
how quickly rejection turns into silence 

silence turns into arid, odd-shaped 
half-written letters that are addressed 
to no one, to the vacuum
that surrounds us 

we call air, this space we cannot explain 
she has answers this time 
but maybe next time, he should wait 
before he opens his mouth 

maybe timing indeed is good for growing wild grass


I am struggling with thoughts of gazelles 
left out in the storm
my idol was a deer
doe and child 

narrating what I couldn't carry 
another way of thinking
falling diagonally, the minutes
mixed with cool water, like rum

downed only in the festive seasons
for the long hours of summer I have briefly 
left behind in a locker 
given one key over and lost the other 

to unthinkable roads, things I would never do 
again, had I been able to go back and count the hours
as they come one after one, 
a lie after the other 

here I am with gazelles, grass unmoved, long and all I can think of is 
the gradation of green in your eyes.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Cornell College

Before the students were the buildings
brick and cement, always warm too quickly
cool too softly

before the class was the conversation
of luck trying to find us 
when we so desperately master the art of dissolving 

before me, another woman, 
speaks of students, schools and studies
makes me think of times I spent wandering hallways

before the welcome, a lesson 
about annotation: how we explain  
the sources of a river's water 

before the end of class he tells me 
Jerusalem is like a second home to me 
I spend much of the summer in a street I cannot now recall its name now
he's blue-eyed and tall. I tell him it will be West,
 because the Eastern part had its name written
in people's palms

before reading, more waiting, 
for the seats to arrange themselves
the eyes to stop the staring

before the end I know 
the question because I have figured out 
how the answer falls flat onto me

before departure, 
we walk the campus, before the last building,
she turns to me, says: did you know Carl Sandburg stayed here?
I didn't I say. 

Photo credits: my photograph, copyrights mine.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016


This place is a sanitarium
she says, her voice breaks
they come here to recover
all those wounded:

from love, from yesterday's mistakes
from an unknown desire, from madness
from seeing too much, from hearing too little
they chose the green and the quiet

to recover, you stay away, wait for tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

An Attempt at Wilderness

He had a star on his forehead
but he wasn't black
before him, I wasn't young

A horse. A star. A child
A saddle on the back. Long boots. Short nights.

Published at Visual Verse, read the rest here:

Monday, September 12, 2016

Kindness and what it is

Is it, saying good morning when you are
too tired to open your eyes

is it, dragging a walk under the rain to buy
a friend a burger, when they cannot eat

is it sharing soup, sharing a word
sharing a common ground where you can walk

is it someone tapping on your shoulder
just to tell you to have a great day
when you are in the corner trying
to understand what kindness is to other people.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

soup sharing

this world is awful at times
when it graces us with bruises and old limbs
too tired to walk or slouch
then it graces us with those who are kind
to share soup or bring them to our door
when we cannot stand.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Other candy

What brings someone to the rescue
exactly at the moment they are needed?

Is it a fate that all stories are happy,
why then is it that sadness makes us move better?

Do not motivate me by lying about the fact
that I'd rather be one state or the other with you

while you can never arrive
the minute you are needed most,
like a child you turn your back
to other candy

Friday, September 9, 2016


Marred at seventeen, 
she became the daughter of the waves
the shore breathing in and out 
a devotion to water 

those who reap land, give other things
a fire in the belly, a sandbag 
at the feet
a whiff of smoke everywhere 

her house was razed but others were kind
gave her two goggles and a wave
said on your march, ready


Go and do not look back, 
or turn your head for fear you might become 
a pillar of salt for disbelieving 
the ills that fall over Sodom 

but sometimes you learn to do things
to save your life, like  facing a wave
facing water to save the land
like catching a breath without looking back

she took her land in her heart
put on the goggles
then raced
like the roof would tumble on her head
like her feet where turning into pillars of salt 
for not believing.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Avrina, a small gift over distance

Mistress of the words
hoarder of nothing, old mugs, old men, memories
you sleep next to my bed, wrapping with a blue sleeping bad
I tiptoe terribly at four a.m. over your dreams yet

wake you up, I apologize then jump on my bed
as you turn off the lights, we talk about men with bright eyes
colored; blue, green, hazel. Intimate forehead kisses , novels,
until we fall asleep, between sleeps, realize we keep at bay what helps us swim

navigate earth, hoarders of people, memories and breath
in the mornings I can hear you pray, mumble
incantations to banish out fear, in grace and redemption
my eyes, unopened still astounded by how you live and learn

I remember the day we first met, behind a brick house
a hunt for food that would separate us only briefly
then connect us in kitchens where we burn toast, chopped steak,
dragged glasses of bad wine, fumes of cigarettes.

I remember opening lines
in her stories, falling slowly in my head
a sense of wondering how could someone who sees clear into
everything write  in the deep, without saying much?

how can someone who sleeps with the sea
describe so perfectly, carry it like a child in her pocket
land? I remember reading her travel-logs
pausing at how she carries all of herself, when she moves

I remember the time she left, to Italy
how she said take care, bless you, thank you
how the three months of using her red bike
were bumpy

how at the end we discovered her bike had no breaks
like her, not hindering any moment of joy
or peace, or even fear of washing her
a baptismal of freedom and fantasy

I remember the time she disappeared in her own house
swallowed by one of the bedrooms, into sleep
as I left all I could think of was
how I should have checked if she was breathing before I left

I remember her feisty spirit, an ivory sari draping
her waist, dancing in face-paint and Halloween costumes
sitting in the middle of Camden market with our feet out for the wind
crunching on rainbow colored M&Ms  while trying to plan a life ahead

I remember how her words made me cry on my birthday
how I could feel an Indian summer in the middle of December,
in a rainy Palestine
how when she speaks, I am moved

we write poems together, talk about men with softer eyes
exchange our lives for places, pride, other faces
yet what stuns me most these days is a memory
of watching her leave my apartment for the first time in a black cab,
 without a tear in my eye
after I closed the door, I knew I wouldn't stop crying

when we meet again
we won't be the same
but like sisters, we will find the words
long after we hug hello.

Various conjugations: to break

You break outside of me
like a thunder, loud enough to be mistaken
for an explosion

I wake up,
counting my limbs.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

the miles, our conversations

The miles can do this to you
fade your voice out
over our internet conversations

Monday, September 5, 2016

S13, a woman in the club

Lights are on
kisses in the corner, each time with a new guy
imagine this, you are far away from my body
I do not crave for yours any more

lights are off
this body of mine moves without me
requesting it to work toward anything
not dance, not an infused sense of self, not pleasure

the glitter-ball spins
this earth spins, the girls around me spin
I shake off sleep
while I am standing still

smoke also rises, I fight it with my hand
with my feet, I do not want to be engulfed
in a fluff of clouds, I've flown too far
I've gained too little

the music is at a race
I am spinning, smoking,
situated in the heart of a buzzing floor
there's smoke around me but at least my insides are not burning.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

In other people's waters

A girl by the river, doesn't have to sink
maybe, to be one in this world, we have to break
past the flotation on water
past steps that would damn us, if we splash
in other people's waters.

Saturday, September 3, 2016


I cannot say that because you left
I do not write about you anymore
but I am far away and motherless
despite you being the sky that sees me
it is scary, this replacement:
your face with one that's darker
speaks only one language, one you don't really like much
strange this replacement
of the bad for the goods that I found
strange this replacement, not for its oddity
but for me to have made it in the first place,
which is never habitual, or true.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Things I should stop doing

-Sleep late and wake up early: I miss both night and days
hallucinate with knights and rest in daze

- Step to dance when I know I have mismatched feet
one goes left, the other always right

- Allow others to dream when they
pulled out the feathers in my wings to make dream-catchers

- decide to hold the wind
in an attempt to catch better sail

-leaning over an entire ocean
when I only jump in ponds

- writing these longs lists
when I could be redrawing cities with ink and old sketchbooks

Thursday, September 1, 2016

A state of swinging

There's something about swinging
back and forth: a way of copying the waves
without really getting wet

do not cast the shadow on others
the adds around us speak more than
what they intend to say

use this coffee-bean, as a marker
of where your mind swings
left or right there's nothing to worry about

except the foundation of fear
a foretasted disaster, an attempted
lie not covered, never revealed

keep pushing forth the direction
that could change an entire being
without new skin, without song

of fire and smoke. This is then
the way with the swing: it goes up
before it comes down.