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.

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My Manic and I

Please tell the moon it’s over.
We have loved one another for a quarter of a century
so I know she will understand me when I say:
I’m tired and I’m giving up.
Tell her I’m through.
I’ve become too fascinated with darkness to let her light rule me.

Tell the moon I’m sorry.
April was a graveyard that buried me.
And I am not as dead as I would like and
I am barely who I was when I was above ground,

and moon, beautiful moon,
you keep whispering the sweetest things into my ear,
and I hear you,
and I appreciate you,

and I don’t mean this the wrong way.
I don’t mean to hurt you,
but I let the gloom take over me.

Tell the moon it’s all my fault.
I let things slip away from me.
I had an affair with the absence of light
in our bed,
an April ago,

and it has made a home out of my infidelity.
And I didn’t want to hurt her this way,
And I didn’t want to hurt you this way, moon,
but I kept seeing his face every time you looked down on me.

 

*Disclaimer: This poem is named after Laura Marling’s song, “My Manic and I”.

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.

Still

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.

Sounds

Take me where the light is.

Take me to the morning.
I haven’t seen the sun in thirty weeks and
I am thirsty for the daylight.
Help me find a glow.
Crack open a window, darling,
show me the stars.
Take me on a trip to the galaxies not at
all close to here, far
and away and illuminated.

Take me where the light is.

Take me to the dawn.
Endless nights I have spent here wishing
for a ray, a flicker.
Light me a candle.
Pour gasoline on everything I thought I loved
and start a fire, baby, let it all burn.
Spark something inside of me,
make me a flame.
Make me a forest fire.

Take me where the light is.

Show me it exists.
Show me it hasn’t run out. Tell me you’re
willing to go the distance, say you want to
find it, too. It’s not too late,
you tell me, to bring the flowers
back around. It’s not too late
to water them back to life
, you say,
and it sounds like you’re telling me
the truth.
So the next time I say,

take me where the light is,

don’t be afraid. I am still here.
Even in all this darkness and ambiguity,
I might be broken, but I am still here.

Seven Deadly Sins

When you left, I wanted to come with you.
I think about it still, every breath I take an inconvenience.
When I see you in my sleep, you tell me hearing this makes
you sad. In my dreams, you tell me to remember only the
good times but when you left, my heart,
everything good left, too.
Everything good and beautiful went with you.

When you left, I dug myself a shallow grave next to you.
I was a child again, imitating every little thing you do –
you knew you were always my role model so this was the
most natural thing I could do.
Because you left.

You left. I saw it happen.
I begged you to stay but you couldn’t hear me,
couldn’t see me, you had to go;
and I wanted nothing more than to leave everything
behind and come with you.

Wherever you are, I still would rather be next to you.

If not for me, then for that time you said nothing
was more painful to you than being away from us
and I know,
I know you’re not hurting anymore.
They keep telling me you’re no longer in pain.
But I am still holding your hand in that horrible room
and begging you to stay.
Half a year later, I am still crying at
your feet as I have to watch you leave.

Baba, you always knew I wrote poetry.
And even though you never read any of it, you were always
proud of me.
But what you didn’t know was that you had made my life so
beautiful, so easy –

I had always envied the poet who didn’t have to borrow or
exaggerate pain to write, but now I understand,
now I know,
I would rather have you here than the pain I need to write
this poem.