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.
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.


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.

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.


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.


Maha is a Writing Club project/character. Learn a little bit about her here.


I’ve always been good at making things disappear.

Take my childhood, for instance. It lasted a good four years, and then: poof. Gone without a trace. No one even remembers it. My mother likes to joke that I was born an adult – and that’s funny to her because she doesn’t know why. But I do. And that was all my fault – despite what my therapist says. I know it in my heart of hearts.

But that’s a story for another day.

Today another thought consumes me. For months I have been eaten alive by it. My daughter distracts me and my love for her distracts me and her little hands distract me and her smile distracts me.

But it is only a split-second distraction before I am back to it again. Before my mind is engulfed in this singular thought again:

How do I tell the people I love that I so often fantasize about dying?

That I am constantly trying to find ways to escape myself without hurting them in the process?

Is it possible, I’ve wondered, to take my own life without causing a ripple effect? To steal it out from under their hands without them noticing?

How do I vanish?

My mind conjures up easy solutions: “Swallow a few bottles of pills. Jump off your house roof. Find a ceiling to hang a fucking rope from. A knife and your wrist. Do something! Go! Easy!”

But I am still here. Teaching my daughter long division and smiling at my husband. He mumbles something about how long his day was. Something about how incompetent Ahmad from work is. I try to soothe him. I try to show him I relate: ‘Mona from work is an idiot, too!’, but I don’t. I don’t relate to him the same way he can’t relate to me. The same way he can’t relate to this.

My thoughts of dying. All the time. Every single day.

What would they think of me? My beautiful family.

My daughter hands me a picture she drew at school. It’s her and I, holding hands. I smile.

But I don’t want to be here. Flesh and blood. Breathing. Alive. I want to go.

She says she told her friends I was the best mom in the world today. Even had a fight with Sara who seemed to disagree. My heart melts as I hold her.

But I don’t want to be here. I want to go.

My husband kisses my forehead and reminds me of the reservation we have tonight. I remember it’s my birthday. The big four-oh.

But how do I vanish? How do I go? How can I stop existing? How do I do it without killing them with me? Without scarring them? I want to die at my own hands – today, this second, yesterday -, but how without guaranteeing both of them a lifetime of sadness?

How do I vanish?

I’ve always been good at making things disappear.

Even that second pregnancy. One day there, the other: gone. Five months in the making. Then blood. Poof.

Tonight, I’ll try the same trick with myself.


You got to love him first.
Some days I resent you for
the way time favoured you over
me. You got 36 and I got 23,
we both felt cheated.
You loved him first.
Some days you even loved
him better, kinder, sweeter.
He didn’t hold me the way he
held you but we knew there
were parts of the both
of us in his bloodstream.
You loved him first.
Your skin is a cemetery of his
fingerprints. His closet sits
untouched in your room.
You smile.
You are bruised all over but
you are only taking care of me.
You say I have his nose.
You have his heart.
Our dreams are laced with him.
We can’t wait to sleep so he can
hold us again. He is not here
but he is here. In the walls
of the house, in our closets,
coming up the stairs. We
pretend we do not hear him
but we hear him.
When we say his name we turn
over to his spot on your bed.
Our heads still spinning.
You loved him first.
Then you gave birth to me
and we loved him together.
Now his absence lingers and
taunts me every time I inhale
and twice as hard when I exhale,
darkness instead of oxygen
seeping in and out of me.
Mama, he left us. We can forgive
him for leaving but we can
never let him go.