Month: November 2011

This Poem Has Been Written Before

This poem has been written, before
Perhaps in better words, perhaps in ones that bore
More meaning
And more life.

This poem has been written before,
On a bathroom door in red
Lipstick that glowed against fluorescent light
This poem has been written before,
 Out of the images of a dream
A sea, a whale, a sound and a wail
And a scream.

This poem has been read before,
 In a haste or on a train, or in the clawing grips of pain
Or there where the wind kisses gentle faces
Or warm inside when there is rain
Drop, drop, drop,
It falls.

This poem has been been written before, on a meadow,
Or on wet sands when the tide is low
By a happy face, that teared as it did
 Crystals against the green,
The white,
The beautiful scene.

This poem has been thought of before, when the sun stole away
And hid
To where the flowers bloom
This poem has been loved,
 And kept safe within walls of chest and heart
And in a red leather purse, beside a single photo
Of her love.

And this poem has been hated,
It has been a crumpled sheet,
Thrown with cry and a shudder
On a streetcorner
For someone else to find.

This pen will now stop
For this poem has been written, read, loved, and hated
And will now cease to exist
For everyone who has ever read it has died.

Carved In The Clouds

Suspended high up in the clouds are words engraved in white
Ever seen by but a few and entirely made of light
The biggest secret ever kept, that which can set things right.
Words such that can move a thousand hearts, your soul they can ignite.
 Written are the words of loves lost, of fires ever shining,
Of laughter set alight.

 Their writer spent a lifetime writing them, and nearly died of fright
 It’s said they say what we only feel, hold thoughts of fear and plight
 Every day they are effaced, erased by the dead of night
And every day they’re born again, carved out of twilight
Every day they live once more, seen by angels at flight
So many have battled, and failed,
To see them
So many have lost the fight.

 To see and read the words above the sky,
Above the heavens, they are so bright
But unattainable, they will always be, it is no matter of might
 And so, forever there they will remain,
Forever out of sight.

Have You Seen Amy?

People walk past me on the sidewalk as they leave. I don’t have any energy left, and I can barely stand any longer. I drop to the cold concrete sidewalk floor, rumpled picture in hand. I’ve spent another day stopping people and asking whether they’d seen her. No one has. It’s been two days. People pass by me now, smiling, with their signs and flags and bullhorns. The square still lives well into the night, but people are starting to leave.

The first day, after I’d lost her, I circled the square in a panic, clawing frantically at the jeering crowd and wailing her name. “The people want the regime down!” they shout, higher and louder than I’d thought possible. The square roars in chant. The voices, ever-growing, pierce sky and cloud. Between chants, a silence falls, only to be sliced by deafening sound. In their time of short-lived silence, they tiredly pull in breaths, and the square empties of sound and air. Then, as quickly as they’d stopped, they chant.  Again and again. They know no surrender. They will accept no defeat. I chanted along, and so did she. Until I hadn’t, I had held Amy’s hand in a vice of my own palm. We pushed our way through the crowd. It was nine o’clock, the time the protests are at their biggest. There was no stepping-space, and I wondered at how we fit inside.

Sometimes, because I stop them, or because they’re concerned at my worried face, or the square’s too packed for them to stand anywhere else and they have to, people stop to ask me why I’m shaking and holding a crumpled photo in my hand, who the person in it is. I tell them. I describe her: her long locks of brown hair, how she’d held a white sign with red lettering, the azure blue shirt and jeans I’d last seen her in, the purple sports shoes (I bought these myself), her wide thick rimmed glasses that she’d always thought made her look like our favourite librarian, her seas of blue eyes, her undying smile. Some frown at me, some say words of encouragement, some don’t find the words and walk away. All say they haven’t seen her. Some stay awhile, thinking their keeping me company will help. It doesn’t. They ask how I lost her, and I tell them.

I tell them how when the protests were at their loudest, we chanted along. How I carried her on my shoulders, and dropped her the first time I tried to. How my grip on her hand never loosened, until it had. How, pushing through the crowd, I was pushed and lost grip. How we were separated. How I lost her. How I haven’t left the square since. How I know that, with the gunfire and flying bullets, often, to lose someone for hours in Tahrir square, now, is to lose them forever. It was easy to lose someone there, then. How I have to leave them to ask more people. I only tell them what happened expecting them to tell more people about Amy. That and I need someone to talk to.

I stop an exhausted couple that walked in front of me. I ask them if they’d seen Amy, I show them the picture of her. They haven’t. Disappointment again.

When they’re not chanting or running away from tear gas canisters, I walk to everyone in sight and ask. The square and the streets surrounding it have turned a light gray, and children carrying plastic bags pick up bits of plastic and paper and metal and, if they smile and tuck them into their pockets, bullet shells. I can see the remains of fires they built for heat. I circle the square; I’ve lost count of how many times I have. I know every inch of it. I know that, here, I’ll walk by where the sidewalk breaks off and the concrete is chipped. Here is where the black of traces of fires are. Here is where the man in blue is, he’s been here as long as I have, always in the same spot. Here is where the flag sellers are. Here is where the camera crews are, it affords them a good vantage point of the square and the protesters. Here is where people come in with carloads of supplies for the protesters. Here is where, two days ago, I lost Amy.

Live bullets were shot the day I lost her. Where is she? Could she have died? Could a bullet squealing through the air have pierced through her heart or brain or lungs? Could she have died with fright in her eyes? Could what she last felt be fear and despair and pain? Could I have lost her?

Two men walk past me, see despair in the black of my face and eyes, and notice the picture in my hand. They ask me about Amy. And I tell them.

North Cold

Winds roar into being
Waves, waves, waves
The North Cold at its song.

Under the blue sun,
Bodies lay on bloodied sands
We killed them, our commands
They followed, fought, died
The face of Death frozen
Upon their eyes
Here is where the dead wait
In the cold of silence.

On these grounds, in this grass,
Their dying screams live
Encapsulated, captured
A struggle in the distance, life and soul seeping out
Man, floor, hanging on to life
Grabs the grass in petrified fists
Then he sees Him, feels Him
He is here.

Die now, give in
To the brutal sin
Die now, give us
One more name to wail.

Bloodless Bleed

I bleed
I bleed with no blood
None of me seeps out
I go back to where there is only me
Where there is only the emptiness
And the dark
And I bleed

I bleed out the death and the misery and the tears and the dying screams
I bleed out the faces afraid, the souls stolen
I bleed out the poison of sins and acts
That shatter the glass of the good of life
Take me away, stop my bleed
Sing me a bright song and take me away
To where the faces smile and the leaves are green
And the breeze will kiss my face

Until then,
I bleed

The Sound of Leather

He took me up to seventeenth floor, and with a few clangs, I danced in the plastic casing with my mates. He slid through a door that, though should have been locked, seemed to have been left unfastened and thrown slightly ajar beforehand. With his brown leather gloves, he pushed the door open, revealing the empty room inside; in his other hand, he carried me, in the bag. He walked, as he always had, his neck and shoulder stiff, as if locked in place. He appeared not so much walking as gliding, stomping the cool hardwood floor so lightly is was as though he weren’t touching it at all. It was as though the apartment were rejecting him, not wanting to have anything to do with him. He breezed in, piercing the stillness of the bare room.


In the corner of room was a wooden stool. He picked it up and placed it opposite the lowest window, the leather of his gloves creaking in protest as he did. He slid the bag open, and fished the plastic casing out. Out of the casing, he picked out my slender, angular body with his fingers. He twirled me in his fingers, then gently set me on the room floor. He pushed the window up and open.

The leather creaked as he assembled it, fitting the pieces together while looking, not at the blur of his fast-moving hands assembling the black thing, but out the window. Finished, he lay it on the stool, and positioned it facing the window, outward. A blanket of sunlight coated it now, light and filmlike. It glistened under it. He picked me up, and slid me into the chamber. 

Through the 609.6 millimeters that are the narrow barrel of a telescopic sight-fitted semi-automatic Death Bearer, you can only see so much. The world is blocked out, save for the circular Window that is the last of the barrel. Because their vision is restricted, and because precision is important, snipers take a short while adjusting where they point the barrel. During that time, they toss the barrel about until they pinpoint the vicinity of the target, and then the target. He first passed the barrel Window over the empty park, then to the right over the tarmac floor of the street, then pushed upward over the glass panes of the building opposite. Then she walked in. 

She tiredly walked into the apartment in the building opposite, and took off the jacket of her violet business suit, a suit like that of those many who meet their end by those like me. She threw the jacket onto the sofa that, if you sat on it, you faced the window and the street below. She collapsed onto the sofa so that the locks of her brown hair draped over the cotton of it. Can she see me? Can she see Him? She spent a moment staring into space, and was then interrupted by a ringing phone. She had a lengthy conversation, periodically interrupted by fits of laughter, and gesticulations in the air: she tried to convey to the person on the other end of the call a circular object, something producing waves, something falling out of the former, and the latter startling her. At the very center of my Window was her chest. When she was done she looked down at the phone, a smile solid on her face. The leather creaked once more. I spun about myself as I burst out of the barrel, out of the window, out of the apartment, out to where under me were the wails of streetcars.  I broke through her window. Then I lay there, invisible in the red. She never stopped smiling. 

Whenever Two Eyes Meet

Whenever two eyes meet for the first time, cross each other’s path, a bridge is formed. A feeble, delicate bridge formed out of the two people’s souls. In that moment, the people’s lives travel along the bridge. All of their lives: all happiness, all heartbreak, that night you spent in the park laughing till it hurt. You know the person inside out, for a moment. Knowledge. All of who they are is spelled out for you – some people call that love at first sight. (Ever felt like you knew someone but couldn’t tell how?) Then, as quickly as it is formed, it is lost. Burned away. You forget. It has happened to you, but you can’t remember. You forget the souls you housed in your heart for a moment. And they forget yours too. Most people forget.

  I don’t.

Laughter in a Glass Bottle

He had figured it out. He had found a way to fit laughter into a bottle and trap it inside. My Grandfather did.

Throughout my childhood, every month without fail, my sisters and I would leave our city home for my Grandparents’ house. At dawn, my Father would storm into our rooms banging a wooden spoon on a cooking pot to jolt us awake, and we would leave to spend the day. My father would drive and speak to my mother, they wouldn’t make eye contact, my sisters would exchange stories about school, and I would look out at the greenery and wonder if anyone lived among the trees. I’ve always done that.

My Grandmother would greet us at the door, kneeling as low as her fatigued body would allow, to embrace us and, when our parents weren’t looking, slip a thin strip of sweet licorice into one of my pockets; red for my sisters, black for me. “For later, Rola,” she would say to me, and wink trustingly. She stopped doing that as we got older. We would eat our smuggled treasures on the drive back home. My Grandfather would be sitting on his rocking chair on the edge of his room, a tattered plaid cushion buffering his back from the wood of the frame. And he would show us the bottle.

He had the bottle in a leather bag beside him, and when we pleaded for him to show it to us; he would slide his hands into the bag and pull it out. He would look into our eyes as he did. He would cover it with both hands so the contents weren’t visible. He’d tap the bottle gently, like he had rehearsed doing that, and, still looking deep into our eyes, he would say, “Its awake now.” He never told us what it was, nor where he found it, nor how he managed to trap it in the bottle, but he did tell us that in order to know what it is, we would have to do what it wants. He would pull the bottle closer to his ear, and listen for the instructions. Then he would pass them onto us.

“Bloop bloop.”

“This is how I speak to it,” he would say. “It understands that.” He laughed.

One time it wanted my younger sister to pluck a flower out of Grandmother’s small collection of pots and sneakily slip it into my mother’s purse. And once it wanted me to tell my mother that, “for no other reason than it being true, I think she is a wonderful person.” Another time, it wanted my older sister to hug my father. They laughed. We would eagerly do all of that on the hope that we would get to see what was inside the bottle, and every time we did my Grandfather would say, “Not yet, it wants more.” We never did find out what was in the bottle, and we eventually grew disinterested.

Even after I left for college, I didn’t lose touch with my Grandfather. I would write him two letters a month, and he would return every one of them. My Grandfather never really could operate computers, so we used the post. I would mail the letters to him on weekends, and in doing that I befriended the clerk at the post office, Ameer. Reading my Grandfather’s letters, I would imagine him writing them on his rocking chair, knowing that, for a time, I was all he thought about.

 He would, as conversationally as if I were sitting across the room from him, tell me about his life. He would detail his other grandchildren’s, my younger sister’s two daughters’, monthly visits: how he showed them the bottle, how he found it endearing when they upset a shelf and broke two of his crystal figurines, how little Nora wept with guilt afterward, and how he held her tight and whispered in her ear until she calmed and came to, and how he wouldn’t let go of her until she smiled and her eyes glistened. Sometimes and perhaps unintentionally, he would allude to the loneliness he felt in the old family house, how on some days he would half-expect my Grandmother to walk into the room, mug of coffee in hand. She never liked her coffee with cream. Leukemia when I was 16. She died on the nineteenth of April.

Three days ago, my sister called. He had died in his sleep the night before.

I drove to the old family house the next day. It was a cloudy day and, by the time I arrived, the rain had stopped. The lock on the front door was broken from when the police or paramedics kicked it in. The shattered remains of the lock were held in place by a yellow length of plastic loop. The house wasn’t as silent as I had expected. The rooms were awash with light from the opened windows. The melodies of songbirds fell inside. Somewhere a branch thrashed against a wall of the house and the sound if its indiscretion wafted in. I found a few plastic bags on the floor of the living room, and on the dining table were two cups of my Grandmother’s coffee set; cold, black coffee in them. One was half-consumed, and the other full and untouched. I walked into my Grandfather’s room. I sat on his bed. A creased suit hung on a wooden hook on the back of the door. Beside the bed, under the bedside lamp, was his leather bag. I reached for it and emptied out its contents on the bed. With a few clangs, out fell a lighter, a pair of horn-rimmed reading glasses, and a glass vessel with a rubber lid. The glass vessel my Grandfather lovingly obscured from view all those weekend days we came to visit. I picked it up. It was empty. It had always been empty.

 I laughed.