15 Apr 2018

Dear Marie

Dear Marie,

I still remember when you told me stories about the war. How people did things differently then. Your brother was killed in action, and when they brought his body home, it was kept in the front room of the house overnight, the next morning being the burial day. I remember my surprise; the front room? I exclaimed. Yes! You said; we lived in a small house, like this one, two up two down, and they kept him in the front room. My mother stayed up with him, well with his body, all night. When me and my sister got up in the morning we found her in there with him, she was crying.

I couldn’t imagine it, but like you said; things were done differently back then. We were sitting in your sweet, warm living room, red carpet, with large purple flowers, dense, but faded and worn in places. The armchairs, a deeper maroon, made more comforting with age. The off-white textured wall paper, the electric fireplace that was always burning. David, your only nephew’s photo on the mantlepiece, grinning, light brown hair, freckles, cheeky mischievous eyes with so much light in them, he was only eight or nine in the photo, a typical British schoolboy picture, I never looked close enough to see the school logo embroidered on his navy school jumper. Later he we would die from brain cancer aged forty-nine. I was already your neighbor then, I remember condoling you. You told me about the funeral, how his artist wife read a poem he loved, how when she described him, she said: “he took me, a wild, untamed woman, and made me feel safe”. I condoled you when your husband Wally died too, but I was so rubbish at condoling people, I never knew what to say, and I always made it more awkward. Then in a burst of guilt I offered things; can I mow your lawn Marie? can I buy you some groceries Marie? It’s snowing, and the roads are slippery, do you need help with anything Marie? Let me take out your bin for you Marie. And when your eyesight deteriorated; can I read your letters for you Marie? All the shame we carry when we know we can’t be the people our loved ones need us to be.

Whenever I came to see you, your magnifying glass lay on top of the newspaper. The red plastic roses in the cheap white porcelain vase. Your floss white hair, the checked apron you wore when you did the cleaning. Always a simple elegance, even when you weren’t going out; a red M&S wool cardigan, with an ankle length midnight-blue pencil skirt, demure and feminine. Both our houses were ‘two up, two down’, a British description used for traditional terraced properties. tiny homes with two rooms upstairs, and two rooms down, a small kitchen, and one small bathroom. Row after row of identical Terraces, sharing sidewalls, along narrow streets of unattractive, affordable neighborhoods. Their slanting roofs, their small chimneys, symmetrical, and grave, against the grey wet sky.  
Our neighbor Roy, e-mailed me, telling me that you died today. The first thing I thought was how much you liked the color red, as much as I do. Whenever you saw me wearing red, you admired what I wore; it’s such a warm color, isn’t it? you said. then I thought about how we weren’t really close, I couldn’t come talk to you if I had something on my mind. I couldn’t really ask you what your thoughts were on this or that. The generation gap between us too wide. We exchanged pleasantries, that’s all. And yet, you were important to me, knowing you gave me something. I never dared ask you; why you and Wally never had children? Or if you couldn’t have them, whether or not you ever considered adopting? it was too personal to ask such things, rude even. I never asked you how you cut the top of your left middle finger? Was it an accident?  Was it in the Kitchen? Or at a factory where you worked decades ago? It was too inappropriate, why provoke such unpleasant memories. Now I wish I did, now I wish I had the courage to really talk to you. To ask you things, to learn from your incredible ninety something years on this earth. More, more stories about the war, more beautiful poems recited at funerals by loved ones, more intimate conversations in your red living room, by the electric fireplace, David’s photo on the mantelpiece.    

14 Apr 2018

The Theory

Sometimes I look at my feelings the way I look at an overflowing basket of laundry.
Exhausted by the day, I cannot do them. They will not be straightened, they will not be pressed, or
sorted. They will not fold themselves into tidy sensible piles

I often feel my life is a train journey, traveling on a backward facing seat, I’m always being pulled, never guided. I cannot see where I am going, only a distant, distorted glimpse of where I’ve been

Sometimes I look at my pain, and it is old, an old haggard creature, with sadistic cold yellow eyes that won’t shut. A shriveled, deformed body, a fierce immortal soul.

Sometimes my sadness seems like a theory, a scientific theory like gravity, a theory I cannot afford to test.

12 Apr 2018

أنت الوحيد - خاطرة مصوّرة

خاطرتي "أنتَ الوحيد الذي يعرف"

شاركني الموهوب   عبدالمحسن خالد   على آلة العود

والفيديو عمل المصمم الجزائري الرائع   مُنصِف فورة

الرابط:  أنت الوحيد الذي يعرف

6 Apr 2018

arriving early

I wanted to capture my thoughts early

Before the veil of quiet, of calm, lifted off the face of morning

Before the first car pierced through, the mist like wonder of an uninhabited world

The dreamlike state of mind, inner peace like untrodden beach sand, before swimmers, and sunbathers pressed their feet upon it. Before children mixed it with water, disturbing the invisible line eternally separating the two, patted sloppy made castles, drew initials and crooked hearts. Bucket loads of shells and cowries - deserted homes - swept to shore.

Before the zip like sound of drawn blinds, I wasn’t yet ready for sunlight, for noise, for vigor, to shatter the virginity of pure dimness

I took care not to disturb the dishes on the rack, lest the racket of clinking plates, the rattle of cutlery, dent the silent bubble formed around me

Gently, I filtered my strong Arabic coffee, straining the golden ground beans and cardamom seeds, its bewitching aroma rising like a beguiling white genie, in the warm dark kitchen

That I may write before my thoughts are tainted by the day, before a word was spoken, before I asked my daughter what she'd like for breakfast, before the sloshing of heavily socked clothes in the machine

I imagine, this is what a poet-fisherwoman feels like, dropping her fine line, in a perfectly tranquil sheet of water, the slighted plop, the tiniest ripple. Not for want of a meal, but for the simple pleasure of knowing what nature can give you, when you arrive early.

2 Apr 2018

لن أقربك

لن أقربك
مهما كنت رائعاً
لن تكون بالروعة التي رسمتُها في خيالي

لن أقربك
فمهما كنت سيئاً
لن تكون بسوء ظنيّ بِك

أخافُ إذا نظرتَ إليَّ
وأخافُ إن لم تنظُر
ستقتلني إذا أتيتَ
وستقتلني إن لم تأتِ

أريدك، ولا أريد أن تكون مجرد حكاية أخرى، نهاية أخرى
ابقي مدينة بعيدة، أحلمُ بزيارتها يوماً
الأغنية العذبة التي لم تُكتب
الثمرة التي لم تُحمر في أعلى شجرة

لن أقربك
ابقى كالأشياء التي أخفيها في الجرّار الأخير من دولابي
ابقى سراً، لا يعرفه غيري

لن أقربك
فما أكبر خسارتي مقارنة بحظي 
 لحظة نعيم بطول عمرٍ كامل، تطاردني فيه أشباحك

لن أقربك
أعظم كذبة يكررها المدمن بعد جرعتهِ الأخيرة

لن أقربك
فقد أخذتك إلى فراشي مرّات عديدة،  
وأعِدُك.. أُأَكدُ لك.. أُقسمُ لك.. لن تستطيع.. لن تقدر.. لن تتمكن..لن تصل للروعة التي رسمتك بها في خيالي

25 Mar 2018


I can’t face today.. 

I can’t face today..

I can’t face today..

my heart sheepishly beat

Join the living..

Join the Living..

Join the living..

throbbed a synchronized aching

hour after excruciating passing hour, I drag my being

doing things for the sake of getting them done

joining the swarm of callous traffic, becoming another vehicle in the carbon dirty, energy depleting avalanche, of reckless, absent-minded road users

seething with rage every time I caught them staring down at their phones

an old festering fatigue wells up in me like a suppressed scream, rushes through my blood

I reach my office, throw myself on the chair with a deep tired sigh, as if I haven’t just spent 45 minutes sitting in the confinement of my car

I’m tremendous, like a blade of grass is tremendous to an ant, bent, weary, prone to breaking under the slightest weight

at home I numb my abusive thoughts with the flatness of house chores, the deadness of cleaning, the monotonous, banal hand movement while I mopped, the mechanical rhythmic swing of my arms left, then right. Is this my drug?

The hard, purposeful shower stream on my drooping shoulders, condoling me. I remember a Polish friend telling me, she felt two pounds lighter after a soothing shower. Black henna coloring the swirl of water around the drain.

spreading lotion on my body, calming. The only available human touch  

the small luxury of messaging my exhausted feet, rubbing them with cream

recalling what a beauty guru - I used to follow on Instagram – said: ladies! If the soles of your feet are dry and the skin hardened, no amount of lotion will ever soften them, you must have a proper scrub, and a pedicure. I can’t remember the last time I had a pedicure, I don’t intend to add it to my endless list of things to do.

running my greasy fingers between my toes, my right calf resting on my left thigh, cupping my foot in my hands, feeling the dry skin turn buttery and rich. I notice the magnificence of their designed, the high feminine arch between the heel and the pad, the Egyptian toes, a faint ripple pattern on the soles like a receding tide leaves on the sand, their smallness, and their efficiency. How strong they’ve been, carrying my weight, taking me where I needed to go; hurried trips for groceries in flats, laboring on a treadmill in Nikes, or scurrying in University corridors in seductive kitten heels.

I remember how he held up my left foot once, a long time ago, in the beginning, when everything was sweet and new, when we were new to each other, exploring each other’s bodies. He held my foot up for me to see, as if I just couldn’t understand what a perfect little thing he had created with his own hands, showing it to me. Holding it up - I thought - the way the prince held Cinderella’s glass slipper, afraid, and in awe of its fragility.

21 Mar 2018

Mother's Day

My therapist’s office is a ten-minute walk from my apartment.

My eyes always wet, and red rimmed on the walk back home.

“I want to give her everything my mother didn’t give me; love, appreciation, emotional security, for her to know in her heart of hearts that she is wanted and loved, to feel in her bones that I’m proud of her, the thick robust belief, that she makes my life worth living, like an ever-growing, far-reaching root of a giant healthy oak tree, stubborn and steadfast, never wavering, never drifting like a waterlily forever searching for something to belong to.” I say, trembling, while my therapist nods, giving me her slow, heavy blink of understanding. My heart throbbing with an ancient ache.

I go to the florist, another ten-minute walk in the opposite direction. The prices of roses doubled due to Mother’s Day, the red roses, tripled, due to high demand! The shop packed with carefully arranged baskets and vases, where roses, lilies, and tulips were made to sit still, or stand stiff, surrounded by foliage alien to them, like children on school picture day, made to smile that awkward, forced smile. I ask the florist for a bunch that hasn’t been manhandled yet. “Wouldn’t you like one of these?” she gestured to all the showy, unnatural, foam-based designs, sounding mildly wounded that none of them impressed me. These ones, I explained to the handsome mature lady, have their stems shortened, some of their leaves, and darkened aging petals removed, and most disturbingly, their thorns shaved off. So, they’re not really roses, not in the correct sense of what roses are, but what a stupid society wants them to be. I like them spiky, long stemmed, with all their blackening, aging, wrinkly petals still attached to them. I want them raw, honest, and painful to the touch.

After the photo was taken, I realized how we’ve gravely misunderstood flowers. Gifting them to say “I love you”, “I’m sorry”, “Congratulation”, “Thank you”, “Goodbye”. When all the while, all the damn while, flowers have been telling us a simple truth; here's a brief moment of beauty cherish it.