death rituals

inform everyone who cares about
them or you that they have died.
call the relatives, the neighbors,
set up the morgue visit.
ride the car there in silence.
don’t say a word.
just try to breathe.
touch their cold face even if you
don’t want to.
kiss their hands even if they’re
freezing,
even if it hurts that they can’t
caress your face.
don’t be put off by the smiling
corpse.
this is the last time you get
to see them in the flesh.
mama said you have to be here.
push through.
wail out loud in the company of
strangers and people you love,
even if you don’t want to,
even if it’s embarrassing.
have a full blown panic attack.
be the crazy woman in public
for once and own it.
now is not the time to be shy.
grab your heart like it’ll jump
out of your chest if you don’t.
let your brother carry you
when you fall to the ground.
don’t think of them
don’t think of them.
just try to breathe.
go to the mosque for prayers.
shoo crying strangers away
from your tired mother.
find her a chair.
say hi to old friends and old
lovers who have come to pay
their respects.
ignore the awkwardness of the
situation.
head home for the funeral.
ride the car in silence.
don’t say a word.
put on the funeral clothes
your friends have brought over
and greet the extended family.
look at walls and dissociate
for hours.
hide in the bathroom.
ask your best friend to chop
off your hair.
try to eat, or resist the food
being shoved down your throat.
drag your lover to your bedroom
to witness a secret meltdown.
say hi to a stranger while crying.
say thank you for coming,
but i wish you would leave,
i wish everyone would leave.
don’t think of them
don’t think of them.
try to breathe.
cry out loud and scare the sad
guests.
tell the ignorant idiot spewing
platitudes to shut the fuck up.
push away the lady annoying
your mom.
yell at the aunt telling your
sister to stop crying.
let your best friends hold
your hand.
let them take care of the little
things like they want to.
let them fight some of your battles.
forgive them for being so
worried that you haven’t eaten in
two days.
eat a little bit just for them.
kiss your mother’s crying face.
curse god for his carelessness.
look at your siblings for
confirmation the world
is now over.
decide to stop listening to
music.
decide no more make-up,
no more color,
only black clothes from now on.
don’t think of them.
don’t think of them.
just try to breathe.
even when you don’t want to.
even when you’re wishing it was
you who died.
tell your friends you want to
die.
tell them you don’t know where
to go from here –
if not out loud, then with your
eyes.
inhale, count
1 2 3 4
exhale,
1 2 3 4.
don’t think of them.
don’t think of them.
try to breathe.
do it again tomorrow.

sorry not sorry

to invitations i cannot
accept from now on,
i will start replying:
sorry, i can’t today,
something inside me is on
fire.
but when isn’t that true?
on good days there is
always inside me a
little spark,
it stings and excites,
(you can spot it in my
eyes)
on others,
inside me a forest fire
rages, angry and
destructive, resistant
to water,
even to kindness.
yes, the fire exists
even when you can’t
see it,
even when you can’t smell
the smoke.
reader, sometimes your eyes
will lie to you.
other times i will.
it is your job to figure it
out.
i would help you, but,
i’ve learned to say:
sorry, i can’t today.
something inside me
is on fire.

to my siblings

i.
but who will ever see me like
you see me? when i put on a smile
for the world, who besides you
will be able to see the
cracks in my walls,
climb in gently and fix me?
without me ever having to ask?

ii.
they say blood is thicker
than water but you are the
blood and the water
that washes away my bleeding –
you are in my veins,
even when we are cruel
to one another.
even when you’re not in my
blood. but we’re growing up,
and we are unlearning cruelty,
and we are the foundations
of this house now,
not the children running
inside. not anymore.

iii.
we are growing up, and
we can see each other clearly
now, and we can see we’re all
we’ve got. and this love
that flows from me to you
and you to me, i don’t
take it for granted.
i don’t take it lightly.

iv.
we have tended to this garden
together. we have watched it
and each other grow. look at
all this beauty. look
at all the love inside us
blooming like baba’s roses
in the spring.

v.
we have loved and held each
other through death and
heartache, even when we
didn’t understand each other,
especially when no one
understood us but us.

vi.
and i have seen your lovers
come and go, and i have seen
you become mothers and fathers,
and aunties and uncles,
i have seen the love you’re
all capable of. i have seen
how you’ve made this world
better.

vii.
we have grown,
but only we are capable of
seeing the children within
each other. and it was an honor
to watch you grow. and it
was an honor to be seen,
even when all i wanted to do
was hide.

viii.
and though the world
may separate us, oceans and
time difference between us,
we will hold each other still.
and no one will see us the way
we see each other.

my band of misfits,
my beautiful tribe,

that is both terrifying
and the biggest blessing.

ix.
let all our sins against
each other be forgiven.
let our love wash away
the pain of our past.
let us be each other’s
light in the midst of
all this darkness.
in you lies
my salvation,
and in me a river of love
flowing gently forever
into the sea
of all your hearts.

dream trip

If I cannot kiss your forehead,
place your tired head on my lap
and promise you a trip to Geneva
in the summer again,
                    without my friends,
                   just the two of us,
                   maybe we’ll tell mom,

then a kiss on my wrist where
your heartbeat meets mine
will have to do. Forever.
So many days and nights have
passed since I’ve said
your name out loud –
a denial and so deep
it has taken my voice
and rationality.  
I have resisted calling
out for you not because you
are gone, but because
you are still here,
and to call out for you is
to break that illusion.
(Death makes us all delusional,
irrational, magical beings.)

I admit,
since I cannot kiss your forehead,
or place your tired head on my lap,
since I cannot promise you
a trip           – to Geneva or otherwise,
                   but you would have wanted Geneva,
                   like you always did –

I have given up on almost everything.
These nights, you barely show up
in my dreams, but when you do,
the first thing you always do is hug
me. And in every dream, I am in a
reality where you’ve come back.
It is so easy to believe,
because you are still so real to me.
But since I cannot kiss your forehead,
or your hands – your beautiful
hands
 -, I will tell you
how much I love you when
we’re both alive in my subconscious.
I will tell you nothing has
changed. I will book the flight
to Geneva with my dream money
and take us there.
There is somewhere where you
still exist, and we are happy,
and I say your name out loud still:
                      Baba, you came back to me!
                    Now let’s go catch our flight!

a prayer

My creator:
You made me in your image,
carved me out of unconsciousness,
picked me out of a void
of nothingness – a long,
blissful sleep –
and brought me (screaming out,
to you) into this life.

You were the first thing
I prayed to
          – the only God I knew,
the closest thing to
divinity, before I understood
              divinity –
and even before religion taught
me what prayer was.

My creator,
my very first word was a prayer.
My first word was an act of
love.
My first word was an acknowledgement
of your holiness:
                       Mama,
                       my creator,
                       the goddess who gave me
                       life –
you made me in your image,
and his image,
                    a descendant of
                         mortal gods.
The only way I know how to
pray is still by
facing you.