999 days

He lifts the sun at dawn and carries
it down when nightfall comes.
And in between, he pulls his heart from
his chest, slices it into equal pieces,
hands us each a portion on
a silver plate.
He nourishes,
and when the skies can’t
hear our prayers, he fills his hands
with wishes fulfilled and passes them
around the table, his love and grace
echoing in the silence.
We take, and we take, and he carries
the sun still, and the moon, and the
stars in his pockets and on his
shoulders, coloring the world as
he moves through it,
with love graceful and unconditional.
He smiles, and the flowers bloom,
and the sun shines warm from
having been touched by him.
And when the world goes dark,
he whispers lovingly into its ears
and all is light again
his voice healing absolutely
everything.
That day he got too tired,
I pleaded with him to rest.
I asked him to close his eyes.
I told him not to worry.

I said “rest”,

and it’s been over two years and
the world won’t let me take it
back.

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Maybe I don’t remember the day
I became a shadow of myself,
and maybe I do.
Does it really matter?
Today, I am all recollection and
no light, making homes out of
memories and locking myself in.
If you find yourself inside me,
ask to keep a key.
Stay focused.
Eye on the door.
I carry the weight and the want
of the world on my tongue and
my want is hungry.
It’ll devour you.
Ask to be shown the exits.
Carry a knife in your pocket.
Cover that heart on your sleeve.
Someone is always trying to kill
me, sometimes it is someone
carrying my own name.
Don’t get caught in the cross-fire.
Don’t believe my heart will save
you. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
When you ask when I became this
person, I say I don’t
remember; but maybe I remember
every single little detail,
and maybe I don’t.
What matters is –
I don’t remember how
to be light
again.

Why would they come for our sorrow?
When it is all that we have left,
why would they take it from us,
leave our hands open and empty?
Years of loving you have made me soft,
so soft that I just let it go.
I should have kept it with me.
What is it called, the grief over
this perpetual losing?
What do I call this melancholy?
If I had a name for this feeling,
could I have claimed ownership
over it?
When they came for my sorrow,
I couldn’t put up a fight.
I didn’t know how to hold on.
If they call me a traitor now, how
do I prove I haven’t betrayed you?
The moon, having been a witness,
is telling me to be strong.
But years of loving you have
made me soft.
So soft that I let you go,
scared that if I stayed,
you’d stay here with me.
And all I have are my hands,
arms outstretched and palms open
but so painfully empty.

Gold

You were the world.
Even as an infant, I recognized
that: the story being that I
gave my very first smile to you.
You went on to redefine holiness.
Somehow the air you breathed around
you was purer, more divine.
It is no wonder I could breathe
easy then.
No wonder my heart was steady.
No wonder my hands didn’t shake.
You made me feel whole. Complete.
Safe.
For two decades, you talked
my monsters down.
You kept my fears at bay.
You made sure my universe was
kind and loving and beautiful.
You swallowed all the ugliness
inside you, keeping it far
from me, from us, from this
house that you built.
The darkness had fight in it
still. Day in and day out, it
fought to leave and you fought
back, choosing your love
over your life.
Until that day on that hospital
bed. Until your very last breath.
The monsters crawled out.
The ugliness resurfaced.
My world shattered.

I am oh so tired of existing without you.

Song

My mother sits in the renovated room
you didn’t live long enough to see –
your room: the one you two shared for
twenty-three years –
and she smiles at me.
It has been over a year.
Things are different and
things have changed, and I,

I want to ask her:
Is everything that happened in your absence
even real? What good is any existence without
you? Why are we all still here?
Why haven’t we just disappeared –
gone to wherever you exist still?
So many questions;

But I digress.
She’s smiling at me and I’m trying to hurt less,
she birthed me so she knows what I look like
when my heart’s a mess,
And she lost the love of her life when you left,

so this isn’t just about me.

I know my job now is to make her life easy,
to smile at her whenever she looks at me,
to lie to her and tell her we’re all done grieving –

This is what you would have asked of me
if you were still here. But you’re not,
so I have to recreate you from memory,
tell her things that will put her beautiful heart at ease,
look her in the eyes without crying because
that’s what she needs of me,
and I’m still your brave little girl so when she looks at me,
I’m unshaken.
Over it.
Strong.

Like you were.

And I’m praying she doesn’t mention your name.
I hope to god she doesn’t revive a memory.
I keep her busy so she can’t see the extent of my misery –
and she’s not talking about you yet,
so we joke and we laugh forgetfully.

The art of avoidance is simple.

So when she plays some music,
I welcome the distraction.
I listen intently.

But then comes the inevitable moment
her voice starts to shake,
and we are no longer mother and daughter;
only sisters in heartbreak,
and here we are
no longer putting up a façade for one other,

she says she sings this to you
every night before she sleeps,
but you never listen to her,
you never come back
and she is still begging:
ارجع كما انت … صحواً كنت او مطرا

but you remain gone.

Myth

And I resent the world for continuing to
spin on its axis.
And I hate the flowers for having
the audacity to spring out from the
ground still,
when you are still so gone.
And there are so many things I
do not know,
like where you are now
and if you forgave me before
you went there,
but I know that centuries from
now, the world will talk about you.
And some will say that
you could not have really existed:
that you must have been a figment of
someone’s imagination;
that you must have been a mother’s
way to reassure her children
that there was once good in the world.
That you were just an idealist’s
hallucination; the devil’s nightmare;
a myth at most.
I know that one day,
someone will bring you up.
And everyone will recognize your name.
And you will be a symbol,
a dream, a guide, and the room will light
up with your presence –
as if you’d never left.

And I cannot talk about love without
talking about you.
And I cannot forgive the sky.
Because you waited and waited
for the rain to come,
but the sand did not stop storming
until it buried you.*

 

*Disclaimer: the last four lines of this poem –  in Italics – were written by my sister, Dimath.

Still – Translated

وما زال

أحبَبتِه أولا
وفي بعض الأيام أجد نفسي أبغَضك لأن الوقت فضلكِ علي
فحصَلت على ٢٣ وانتِ ٣٥
ولكن كلتانا غُدرنا
أحببتِه أولا وفي بعض الأيام كان حبك أفضل و أحن و أعذب
لم يحتضنني كما احتضنك ولكن علمنا أن أجزاء كلتانا تجري في دمه
أحببتِه أولا.. فجسدك مقبرة بصماته
و تقف خزانته غير ملموسة في دارك
و تبتسمين
ورغم الكدمات في جميع أنحائك تغرقيني بإهتمامك
تخبريني بأنني أمتلك أنفه
أنتِ تملكين قلبه
و تبقى أحلامنا مطرزة بحضوره
فنتطلع للنوم لنحظى بحضنه مرة اخرى
هو ليس هنا ولكنه حاضر
في حيطان المنزل وفي خزائننا و صاعدا الدرج
نُسرع بالنظر إلى مكانه الخالي في سريرك عند ذكر اسمه
و نبقى مُشوشين
أحببتِه أولا
ثم أنجبتني و أحببناه سوياً
والآن يطاردني غيابه و يسخر مني في كل نَفَس و الضعف عند الزفير
ويملأ الظلام موقع الأكسجين متسرباً
لقد تركَنا يا أمي
و بإمكاننا غفران رحيله
ولكن لن نودعه

This is a translation by Nora Al Madhi of my latest poem Still. I wrote this piece for my mother and translated it for the same reason. For her. I decided to share it with the world because I am proud of how my translator allowed nothing to be lost in translation and captured my words and emotions perfectly. And for my non-English speaking friends: I’m sorry it took this long to try and reach you.