love

Strawberry and Mint

Mr. K was a lovely man – and gay
Soon my love returns from holiday
We’ll spend our time together – alone
And walk about – on Saturday

A suicide note on his lowly bed
Says: “I have chosen Death instead”
I took it home and showed my love
We promised we’d never say what he had said

Now Mr. K’s heart was fire and coals
But life’s too hard for gentle souls
They’ll deny it but they killed him, yes
Turned his white angels to wicked trolls

I love her now and she has known
Since turned my lips from lime & stone
To strawberry jam and minty zest
Told her I loved her to the bone

Everyone says our love is wrong
Like Mr. K’s thin red ruffled thong
My love told me: “Be careful too!”
I said I had been all along

Now Mr. K’s chances didn’t long stay
He bet his life just yesterday
My love wonders: should we bet like him too?
That love like this don’t fly away?

I don’t know what to say to her
Don’t want us ending like Mr. K
Guess only the man himself would know
So, Mr. K, what do you say?

Thank God it Was, Thank God it Wasn’t

Thank God – you know,
I didn’t thank god so much as when
I thanked him for the first time – when I thought:
“God is beautiful and loves beauty”;
well then: that explains it.
Thank God it was you who dresses to kill – and not me
I couldn’t pull off a leather jacket
half as well as you; see –
when I wear one, I get compliments –
but you do it and the planet forgets its own… gravity –
does that mean things start floating about uncontrollably?
Not necessarily – it just means you are opium,
and the world wants to get high – on beauty.
It upsets me – to have to share a joint with the world because yes,
I’ll say it – I act selfishly!
Because He – sent you, and He
Doesn’t play with dice and doesn’t –
Act randomly – Will you excuse me?
If I paint your name on the insides of my veins;
like shop signs in vulgar gold lettering saying proudly:
“Welcome!” and admitting – quite openly – who the shop owner is.
Thank God the names
Of the prince of Arab poets, and the prince of Persian verse –
rhyme comfortably: Al Mutanabbi makes poetic love –
to Ferdawsi.

—side note: the first one means
“One Who Claims to be a Prophet”
and the second means:
“Arising from paradise”—

Thank God, honestly – because I get to claim prophethood and you
as my own miracle – from Divinity!
In school they told me: God sent the Arabs his word
because they were people of poetry;
Then I must be the people of love, Lovely;
they believed instantly – Those people
Of pen and word and book
My God is in your eyes, darling
And like them –
One look was all it took.

Mother, I’m a Thief

I needed a wooden box to store all
my leftover love; so I
stole one from my mother’s cabinets
which, incidentally, store her dresses from back when
her hair met her thighs
on every Cairo street
And fought with her shoulders
in cursed bedroom heat
My mother was the kind of pretty on the faces of assassins –
growing to life,
I stole her complexion;
and growing to walk,
I stole her black polka dot heels,
which extended me higher, up to her chest,
but never to her dreams –
because the second she first saw me,
I was already there:
I have “My Mother’s Greatest Dream” written
on my forehead
in the eyes of God.

This wooden box here I stole from my mother
is not the first thing I steal
a quick peak at my record would reveal –
a litany of crimes; I should be hanged.
But up there, hanging by the split skin of my neck,
I would not be able
To wipe my mother’s tears
should I have to, from her eyes
(which are mine – I have her eyes too)
And I know Death is an hardheaded fellow
who cares nothing for pleas; but please
not today, Death, not tonight
while her breaths still increase –

A mother from Egypt is a queen bee
who still does all the building work;
that’s why her cabinets are full
of kitchen utensils,
and clothes she bought – for my sisters and me;
That they will never use,
and neither will he!
But a mother worries, believes – and yet
Cares nothing for thieves; how else
Have I stolen so much from her
– from all the different cabinets of her life –
And never been punished?

And this, my last offense, a wooden box to steal;
And hide in all the greatest
I’ve ever owned to feel
I have a lot of love that needs to live longer
Than my loves have ever lived! – stowed away,
preserved whole, until the day
I unpack it; the only prayer I make
is that our life – ours, you and me –
is only starting;
timing is a bitch, darling
I know that better now –
and now isn’t the when my love needs
That, I’ll allow – but hey
I’m going for checkmate anyway
And my back never to bow
Today, with this wooden box with all my love-things inside
I figured out – how.

Everything

I bet this has been written a thousand times
in a thousand different rhymes
but her love is like a village I walk through
and thoughts of her
church bells and chimes
alerting the old blacksmith
that God isn’t dead
and waking the napping child
still lazy in bed; in the morning sky, she is…
the purple-and-red, wake-from-the-dead – light!
there instead of some instant fulfillment:
the sky could’ve just had an on-off switch
but where’s the romance in that?
She is like that: more than the adequate,
the necessary,
if my life were a hurricane
– and it is –
she’d be the aftermath
because as roaring as the hurricane wind is
the destroyed silence afterwards
hits harder
She is the top crust of the orange fire
in a small gas-lit flame
so maybe the best things in life do rise to the top after all
– or maybe the most beautiful of the glow
naturally separates from the rest
the subtle orange grace
separating from ugly blue base –
She is the impeccable silence when you shake your head – unable
to describe something
but for every moment I spent mute
with everything to admire and nothing to say,
I’ve spent ten moments making sure everyone around me
would want to fall in love with her too
She is the worst and greatest of everything
broken in two
so that sometimes she shares it with me…
you know – she doesn’t usually share
and if I were her I wouldn’t share myself either
but then that’s why I’m ultimately grateful
she is not me
and if silence is everything, I’ll say:
she is not me,
only my –

On Love, Eternal Truths, and the Personal Risks of Writing

Having a blog is a hybridised form, lying somewhere between having a personal diary and a personal media platform. Of course you forego the privacy of the first for the publicity and — still relatively modest — public penetration of the last, and you take all sorts of risks involved with making content available online. But rather more apparent (and punitive) forms of retaliation aside, the blogger/writer/content purveyor faces a few personal risks of which I’ve found mention is required.

But first, a sojourn in lovecountry.

I’ve had a reliable record of blog-posts that are essentially reflections on life as well as travel-writing-esque in their meticulous, savant-like recounting of daily happenings and bizarre encounters, albeit (like all travel writers) with a small, forgivable embellishment. Travel writers do tend to fall prey to beautifying their scenery, their events, their dialogue and pace. But for the enjoyment you derive of vicariously walking in their footpath, and the lessons you might divine from their experience, you forgive them their offenses against truth. At least, this is what I’ve learnt, both from my (comparatively) decidedly paltry experience, and what I’ve read from and about travel writers themselves. Anyway, these blog-posts I reference usually have the convenient titles of: “Of Something, Something, and Something-something,” where every something is a concept, an idea, a feeling, a person, something; hints intended to entice further reading, and the difference of which implies having discovered a certain revelatory connection between things.

Like this post and its title.

These posts also perform the self-serving function of being the closest things to journal entries I’ve consistently written; what they lack in privacy they make up for in length (I tend to make them long) and triggering conversation: when anyone can read your “journal entries”, they will probably tell you about it, and they might even relate it to their own experience. In this way, your writing does what reading other people’s writing is supposed to do: offer you a different perspective. A different view of a different life from different eyes. A different story.

Anyway, when I sat to write this post I didn’t have any of this in mind, and actually intended to write about the different ways that love changes you. The most immediate of these changes is that songs and love poems become yours through sentimental appropriation. I could swear that a thousand people have (like me) considered the “I’ll always be waiting for you” at the end of Coldplay’s Shiver to be the most perfectly appropriate and profoundly correct expression of their thoughts as people in love. But this is the least significant of my findings, if the most touching.

I’ve also discovered that having feelings for someone and not telling them is actually a lot easier than telling them, and in some situations (I’ve learnt) the simple act of professing love becomes so mired in possible fucking-things-up (technical term) that, for fear of said damaging of the relationship, you keep quiet. I used to ignorantly think that if people had enough courage, they’d be able to profess their love every time. And that might be true. But what I didn’t know and what has revealed itself recently is that sometimes it has little to do with courage and everything to do with courageous discretion. The courage, then, is of a more latent kind, a kind that doesn’t flaunt itself and brandish a pocket-knife; a kind that keep quiet and retracts into silence, doesn’t get noticed, but is perhaps the most important and necessary. It is like the thankless, unsung heroes of life whose operation isn’t hindered by lack of recognition.

Perhaps to justify this kind of unappreciated resoluteness to herself, my mother would say (translation from Arabic): “Do good and throw it in the sea.” She’d say this in the knowing tones of an Egyptian mother reciting her a token of inherited proverb, worldly and suffused with bitterness. I catch myself repeating these sayings now, and wondering about the circumstances that forcibly attached them to my mother’s memory, and her mother, and so forth; the concessions to hardships they had to make with every “Good you do, bad you receive” or “We thought he was Moses, turns out he was Pharaoh.” Which isn’t to say that I absolutely believe in these proverbs, or that anyone should. Sayings are fallible like anything else and often even reinforce incorrect stereotypes. I recognise that. But I recognise their subjective truths just as much.

Another thing I’ve discovered about love is that it isn’t as clear-cut and easily understandable as we’d expect, or as we’ve been led to believe. Love isn’t a single seismic shift in consciousness and doesn’t feel like a switch turning. Love is creeping and silent, like a thief who steals only a small amount at a time so that, by the time you realise his presence, it has already stolen a lot. But the thief had always been there, tirelessly working in careful increments. Maybe that’s why they call it “falling” in love. And maybe it’s also the secret of love’s enduring mystery, of the enduring of love itself, and the reason why we plough the idea of it so endlessly in art. It affects us all so differently and so unclearly while the remaining under the umbrella-term of “love.”

Love is a drug, but an unreliable one. Because we’ve defined drugs and described their effects, but we — as a collective humanity — have not yet defined love adequately. And perhaps we should never do that. Perhaps we should always fail at restricting love with definitions too personal and meanings too given to conjecture. Let it be the eternal truth that it is. Hitherto undefined. Known by eternally being insufficiently known.

And this delivers me to the last and, ironically, first point I tried to make in this post. The risks that writers take. Divulging sensitive information about yourself divests you of your power in the way revealing secrets robs your invulnerability. An example of this is when Nizar Qabbani, prolific poet, has been criticised around me for “revealing too much” that is “personal.” Now, the erotic persuasions of his oeuvre aside (because I deem them entirely acceptable), the other major contention of his detractors is that he reveals too much of his personal life in his writing. But also because no man is an island (and especially a man as famous as Qabbani), the personal lives of the people around him. I’m also reminded of the acerbic and fiery poem that Sylvia Plath wrote about the condition of her marriage after discovering her husband’s infidelity (Ted Hughes, also a poet). T. S. Eliot, however, didn’t do this at all: he’d lock his personal life up and away from his writing. But regardless of that, it seems poets are more often understood to write about their own lives and feelings, while we normally — and incorrectly — assume that writers of, say, fiction, distance themselves farther away from their material. From my experience in writing both, I think that’s only partly true. While poetry is typically more an instrument of illustrating feelings (love, heartbreak, et cetera), fiction draws almost the same from personal experience, if in the unconventional form of subtextual wisdoms and values held by the writer, and situations inspired from and, sometimes, copied whole into the narrative. It’s just that poetry is that much more flagrant about borrowing from life. But both borrow.

Do I think it’s acceptable? Yes. Do I think it’s desirable that involved parties feel outraged that  their secrets be bandied and utilised? No. But it’s important not to forget that the writer’s intention often isn’t to embarrass (unless it is) but to retaliate, or explicate, or just express something that otherwise would fester and grow bitter inside you. I’ve written for this purpose before and it does work. Of course it’s not a panacea and your hardship (if such exists) will still be there once you’ve finished writing, but the writing helps. It lends a measure of beauty to the ugliness that, for a moment, makes it seem like the two balance out.

So it’s necessary. But that doesn’t mean that what’s necessary is what will eventually be done. Sometimes you don’t take the self-interested option even if it is logical, even if your transgression is reasoned and necessary. Life is more complex than to be truncated to comprehension through simplistic rules. You see, that’s the relation between the items of the title: love, that eternal truth of life, along with the understanding of another of life’s eternal truths — that it is complex — is what leads you to accept, or refuse, the personal risk of writing. And that’s why if you’re reading this on the blog, it means I probably decided the risk was worth it.

If not, maybe next time.

حتى تُسمع صرخات الكراسي الخالية

كم أتمنى

أن آخذك إلى عالمي

لأعرفكِ عليهِ

لكن ليس قبل أن أقدِرَ
على تحريرِ بيئتي كما تُريحكِ

و تُريحني

كما تُحرر النصوص من الآفة الضارّة

فهنا أمحو قذارةً

أصابت جبين الشارع قبل أن تطأيهِ

وهناكَ أُزيحُ رجالاً و مارّة

لأخلي لنا الطريق

آخذكِ للمقهى حيث أذهب صباحاً

لكني أُبعِدُ النادل و الطاهي
و كامِلَ الفريق

فأختفي لحظة

و أسترق من مخيلتي هندام النادلِ أرتديهِ و آتيكِ

ممثلاً، ساعياً من الزبونة الحسناءِ

بسمة

ًفإذا وجدتها أهرعُ للمطبخِ
حيث أنا أيضاً
بقبعةٍ بيضاءَ طويلةٍ عبطاً
أُعِدُّ طلبكِ الذي

أعرفه سلفاً

كم أتوقُ

إلى أن أشدكِ من يديكِ

إلى الشاطئ ليلاً

وقتما

تتكاسر الأمواج على الشاطئ

شأنهه شأن المراهِق البَرِمِ

تُلوّحُ بالذراعِ ازدراءها قسطاً حميم

ثم تَرجِعُ لصديقِها خاجلةً
بأسفٍ تقدمه بيديها و العين مُنَكسةٌ

للقرين، المسامح الكريم
نجلس معاً نشاهد شجارَهما

فكلما تقاتلا أو يا سيدتي
رَفَضَ الشاطئُ الاعتذارَ بعدها

ضحكنا حالَها

أو إذا رَضِيَ الشاطئ بها

سعدنا بسعدها

و تأملنا طقوس رجوعِ الوِئَام

من هدوءِ البحرِ و دندنتهِ ليلاً

في آذان الصخور النيام

كم أتمنى

َأن نرقص

على قمة جبل

حتى أقولَ بعدها سنيناً أننا

سَرَقنا من السحاب جمهوراً

و من السماءِ عريناً

و من جبلٍ بأكمله حلبة رقصٍ

موسيقاها تتدلى

من الملائكة في الأعلى

خالصةً كالحُب العذبِ…الصِرْفِ

و من أنغامِ الرياح عندما تُصَفِّرُ

و تنضمُ راجيةً

لفرقة العزفِ

كم أريد

أن ألقي هذهِ القصيدة عليكِ

في مسرحٍ أنتِ فيهِ المشاهدُ و الناقدُ الحَكَمُ

حتى إذا أخطأتُ انسيابَ اللفظِ صرختي

ووبختني، و أرسيتي القاعدةَ

و على سليقةِ الأداءِ شدّدّتي
و بقينا على الحال نُشحذُ
أقرأ و تسمعي

أفشَلُ فتنصحي

أصححُ فتفخري

حتى إذا انتهيتُ
و صَرَخَتْ المقاعدُ الخاليةُ إعجابها

و بكيتُ أنا مع آخر الكلماتِ

صفّقَتِ و ابتسمتِ  

و قلتِ نجاحاً يا هذا الواقفُ على المسرحِ

فقلتُ لا، بل هو حبي و له الفضل كاملُ

فقلتِ برعتَ

فقلتُ أجننتِ؟

فقلتِ حبيبي

فقلتُ بل أنتِ


لست ذئباً إلا بكلماتي

بدايةً و في البداية العبرات و الافتراءِ
أوضح خشية التعثر و الالتباسِ
الفرق بين كنيتين لا اشتراك بينهما
كي لا يُساء الاستيعاب من من نَسَف الزمانِ فهمهُ
أنه ليس كل من لام بحاقدٍ مجرمٍ
ولا كل من أدعى الكمال ملكهُ
إذاً فالمقام الأول للمتضرر و الثاني للقاسِ
فوالله ما كل معاتب خُيِبَ بكارهٍ
و لا كل قادح باطلٍ كالشاعر المهاجي

و لكن بعيداً عن هذا الاختلاط المحتمِ
و ما الاختلاط إلا بمحتمٍ و الجميعُ عارفُ
فماذا نقول في أناس آمنوا بحلم زائفٍ
مؤداه ردع البشر عن اختلاطهمُ؟
فهل يظنون الرجال و النساء و الفتية شأنهم
شأنُ ذرات أمخاخكم لا اختلاط بينهمُ
و لا يتلاعبوا؟

قلنا كثيراً عن ذئاب الرجال الضارية
و اتفقنا جميعنا على نبذها رغم أنها
تجوب الشوارع أمامنا و حولنا بألسنة تعفنت من اللهثِ
فدقيقة تراهم – أقصد أهلنا – يثنون على الشاب الجائر حق الفتاةِ
و الأخرى نعاقب بناتنا عندما يسلبن حق المشي و المكان و الشخص
و الذاتِ
و آخرون يتحدبون على بناتهم كالكِساء للعراة
و ما العارِ يا كرامُ إلا وضوح تنكيل ابنائهم بقيود الآباءِ
إذا ما بدت ظهورهم عند السهو أو الابتعادِ
أتظنون حقاً أنه كلما تحججوا بالمذاكرة عند الأصدقاء ليالِ الامتحاناتِ
لم يقصدوا حقاً الرفيق الممنوع و سائر المحرماتِ؟

و لكن ماذا عن من يُختصر مقامه مقام الذئب ظلماً
و هو ما بذئب أبداً لولا التنجد بالكلماتِ؟
أدركت مؤخراً لِم أصبح ذكرُ الأهالي مقترناً بالمصائبِ
فأنا ما إن وجدتُ صبياً أصبحت لهم إهانةً بمحضي
و أصبحت لهم اللص و المعتديَ و فاض البكاراتِ
و لكن مع ذلك يعز علي اللوم يا أعزائي
فكل من عقلهُ بفرجهِ مُردى و قابعُ
ظنّ سائر العقول أضحت للفروج سكانِ

قالها جبرانُ و أكررها للتذكارِ
أبناؤكم ليسوا لكم بل أبناءُ الحياةِ
غفل كل مغفلٍ ظنه أن  المستقبل له
بينما المستقبلُ على الأبله ضاحكٌ و معه حق الملاكِ
سحقاً و سحقاً أخرى لخطوطكم الحمراء شامخة لحظةً
و الأخرى يمسح بها نفاقكم النعل و قاع الحذاءِ
أفضل أن أظل للأحمق جاهلَ سنّة الحياة إهانةً
على أن ألقى منه التمجيد أو الحب و الاحتذاءِ
و هل في الوجود من مثيلٍ حقاً
لإهانة تبقى في الذاكرة أبد الحياةِ؟