TEXT

YA BIT

call me farawla
& watch me write 

 

 

 

 

like a child discovering yellow
for the first time

your laughter like pop rocks,
your body,
an anthem

our feet are dangling off the balacona
like the wet laundry above our heads

boys who aren't allowed to cry,
playing kura on their roof,

and man, shit like this you won't see in amrica

like samia's hips,
fast and out of breath and sweaty and 

i unbury dalida's voice,
with my teeth,

and now you're getting excited

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

shit like this you can't make up

and even i feel full
with the zabala waiting to catch us

------
TEXT: FARAH EL-NAHAL

إنسانٌ بلا عنوان

العدم...
في هذا اليوم، استحممت تحت أحجار كريمة
كانت تنهمر فوق رأسي بكل رقة و تقبل بدفئ يدي
كنت أتوق للحظة عزلة، أهرب تحتها من الوحدة المزمنة
فوجدت الروبي والأوبال يمررون حوافهم المواسية من خلال شعري
لماذا خلق الانسان مع احتمال النسيان عن اي شئ
الا الشعور بأنه فارغ وتافه ووحيد وتعيس وانطوائي؟
فقد يغفل عقله عن الصلاة ولكن لا يغفل عن تذكيره بالاوجاع
فقد يتفادى اخذ الدواء ولكن لا يتفادى خياطة جراحه بالمأسي
فهل خلق الإنسان ميالاً للتعاسة ام نحن من مسخناه؟
هل يجب علي أن أعيد صباغة بطانة قلبي وتغيير تردد أفكاري؟
قيل لي مرة بتعجرفٍ ربّاني "الحياة ليست عبثاً"
ولكني أكتب لها بكل صدق كما تراني
لا يحتسب عدم تواجد صغيرُ العدَم
ما لم يزل اللا وجود متعايش في كياني

------
TEXT: RAHMA

BEARD

 I only started growing a beard because my face was thinning. My friends, uncles and aunts, and most incessantly, my mother, had been worrying about me. You look so thin, habeebi, they would say. Have you been dieting? Are you in love? Well, I might be, I would answer. But it’s none of your business. What they didn’t know, those fools, my mother (bless her) being the greatest of them, was that I had started smoking again. 

On the night of my departure, I packed my 12-pack Marlboro Reds into my suitcase, tickled my mother’s cheek with my beard as I kissed her goodbye, and left to Queen Alia’s International Airport. She told me not to worry, that she’ll always love me, that she’ll wail for the first two months, and that she’ll eventually get over it. I told her I’d appreciate it if she reduced the wailing period to thirty days. She nodded and kissed me back.

Over there, I was greeted by the smiles of fellow Jordanians who wished nothing more for me than the best of luck, and to return with a heart for change. I got on the plane, which, although was playing a crackling instrumental of our national anthem, looked cozy. The woman I sat next to, a middle aged American or European, smiled at me and nodded, and I smiled back and nodded too. Her eyes burned a hole into my beard— so big a hole I could smell my hair burning. But I didn’t really mind. It was a big, brown bush of hair. I would’ve stared at it too, if I were seated next to me. 

I had never understood why airplanes, which supposedly fly at a cruising speed of about 900 kilometers per hour, took so long. Twelve hours. Twelve, long, nauseating hours, it took me to finally reach American land. By then, my beard was a clump of ashes, all thanks to Mrs. Fugard, who turned out to be South African, after all. I nodded a goodbye to her as I approached gate 62, she pretended not to see. I didn’t mind that either. 

It took me around two or three minutes to reach security. Thankfully, the line was short, and I only had to wait around thirty minutes to reach the round, freckled man who, in his POLICE attire, looked like a badass santa. I appreciated the way he smiled at everyone, possibly stood there analyzing every one of his smiles (the way the left side of his mouth poked when it was a woman he was talking to or the way his eyes wrinkled when he was talking with a child) until my phone buzzed in my pocket and I got distracted by it. Another three minutes passed, and as I was flicking through the photos my mother had sent me of the dinner she’d cooked, I heard the man say, “Next.” 

    “Hi,” I said and smiled. 

    He didn’t smile back. “Where are you coming from?”

    “I just got off a 12 hour flight from Amman. Tired as hell!” I laughed.

    He eyed the security guard who was situated in the glass box right next to us. 

    I, all of a sudden, was in horror up to my elbows. 

    “What is the nature of your visit?” He asked. 

    “I am enrolled—I go to school here.”  

    “Your passport.”

“Ah, yes. Yes, right here,” I almost dropped everything as I rummaged through my backpack in search for my passport. I could feel my cheeks burning, the very tips of my fingers lubricating. A whiff of my own sweat seared the inside of my nostrils (which I assumed was the result of the twelve hour flight), and I knew that everyone was watching me. What truly petrified me was when I saw three security guards approaching our glass box. A few seconds before they arrived, I finally snatched my passport out and placed it on the counter in front of me. They didn’t stop. 

    “Step aside please. Put your bag down,” one of them, the taller one, said. 

    My eyes stung with tears. This really was happening. 

    “We need you to come with us.” 

    I couldn’t find my words. 

    “Sir, drop your bag, and come with us.” His voice was louder. 

I was shaken, my feet glued in place. “Okay,” I squeaked, and what an ugly thing that was for a man to do, my grandfather would’ve probably said if he were there. 

One of the men grabbed my arm, and twisted it behind my back. I knew he wasn’t trying to hurt me, only to get me to walk with him, but he was hard-muscled and I wasn’t. 

It was when I started walking with them, as the eyes of every man and woman and child I passed ate at my flesh, that I lost all control. I was crying like a mourner, cursing myself for not replying to what my mother had sent me and worrying that I would not get the chance to after this. I knew, also, that if I were to move an inch of my body, I would be pinned to the ground in less than a second and throttled to death by the chunky knee of that security guard. So I just walked, floated even—behaved so that Mr. Bearded-So-Automatically-Terrorist would come out of this alive.

------
TEXT: NATASCHA TAHABSEM
ART: (CONTACT ARTIST)

 

FIVE POEMS

 

Gardenia // Ghardenia

The cream, the ivory
the soft petals floating
in tamed waters. 

Dig your hole into the palms
of an earth smooth, smooth
it might crumble.

Like the words, an effort
of the throat, lips, 
tongue, and heart. 

Where did I leave the cup
the one with the floating
gardenia? On the balcony

the door open so that, yes, 
the air might slip out, 
and the dawn might spill in. 

I heard you wake up before
the light had a chance to put on you.

I heard the soft crash
of glass on the balcony. 

Jasmine // Yasmeen

The first time she held a jasmine
she threw it up to the sky
as tribute.

The small petals crowned her
tiny fingers, their short reign left traces
of herself in them.

Nearby birds let themselves
get carried away
by swinging branches.

The first time I saw her spine
through the hospital gown
slit with flowers sandpapered

against her skin,
samples of undefeated blood
colored some of them purple.

The bare IV vines wrapped
over her open mouth
over some part of her that is now missing. 

Narcissus // Nargis

When I gather the water of ablution, it is
to force the disappointments to streak
my face, to check the soil in the pot
to forget twice a week, to feel dry
the top inch of soil like the layer
of my mother’s skin, wet always
when she prays.

It is the distant rumble of late august
the too soon out leaves
of bulbs bloomed to chill from six weeks
to six months to a life.

Time new again but still the old meaning. 

 

Poppy // Khaskhash

Since the late august sky
Pressed together its evening dusks.
Since the water began to flow
backwards in the Barada river,
smoothing the riverbeds, its fatal
caress the talk over dinners.
Since the street signs in geometric, 
familiar letters were replaced
by their counterparts in a rigid, straight
alphabet. Ever since the grace
of dawn receded to the untidy eclipse
of scattered afternoons one after the other
after the other. Since
One phone call and eleven years of ruptured quiet
grieving while fingering her rosary, since
my mother left the sand banks
of a thousand elegized city
she no longer returns to. Since marriage
since children, since the early tide
of a long war. Ever since she catches
her body over the bed, 
somewhere near her throat, 
her fears are caught too. 

Tuberose Season // Mawsim al-Zambaq

The tuberose has a short season
of wilting and growing. 

Her fingertips smell of it, 
I left them in a vase by the window.

The perfumery in Damascus has crystal
bottles of different sizes, all clear
full of liquid flower.

He measures out 50ml of tuberose—
travel size containers from Syria.

The smell wafts
from the bottle as he dips it
towards her wrist, she rubs together
skin and tuberose and oil. 

How does the smell reach her fingertips, 
her hair, the corner of her eyes—
tuberose-shaped smells.

But the flowers here are limp
whenever she walks by the flower stand.

Outside of Syria they have a weak smell,
she says, so she handles them

softly between her fingertips.
the bottle of tuberose liquid
is down to its last ml.

------
TEXT: LUBNA SAFI
ART: (CONTACT ARTIST) 

 

RE: YEMEN

I only knew what home meant when I left
Home within home
Sand, sunflowers, mountains
Going abroad and coming back
Home isn't home without it
People make me proud
Heritage is holy
Culture is everywhere
Stability
An envy
In one spirit

 

Note: this was translated from arabic, by shaima. the original words were by her mother, when asked about her hometown

------
TEXT: SHAIMA ALSSLALI

HEY MARIA

The loneliness of living dawns on me occasionally. It’s a massive dark shadow that lingers among failing lungs. It’s a trembling emptiness that envelops my limbs. It’s a truth that stands shaky, naked and wet, before me, while I hide under the sheets. 

No one wants to give you anything that matters. No one really cares about the tides of your stupid happiness. You’re reduced to a selfish little girl who is too afraid of the world — too afraid of its men. All they want to do is touch you, they want to taste you, they want to ultimately break you. They don’t want your big dusty fears. They don’t want your emptiness and tears. They damn sure don’t want you to shed your spiritual skin for them. All you need are your trembling knees and a mouth that tastes of fruity scum. You need every one of your 50 hundred eyelashes and 10 painted nails and those fucking dim eyes of yours. Just make sure your skin is milk and your dress is pretty. You’ll be fine if you show them your big teeth and rested brow.

Satisfaction is a marketing ploy, forget it. Love, happiness, people that care, they’re all bullshit and fiction. You’re better off good and pure and miserable. Just don’t bother people, don’t bother the streets and concrete. They don’t want to hear your ancient rambling and your silly trains of nausea-infused nonsense. Bruise your face with a smile and fill that busy head of yours with small talk and sweet prose.

You’re fine now. You’re so very fine.

------
TEXT: AMNA

TO FADE

human beings are tightly programed to see and detect faces
they've seen faces everywhere, on skirts, on lamp posts
on the kitchen sink
they have especially seen the face of jesus christ
a couple of times
he was crying
and people think its a miracle
there is nothing miraculous about a man crying.
human beings, however, are equally talented at absolutely dismissing faces.
I'm so tired i could hardly breath. the festering air in this room pressing against my chest.
I'm so lonesome I could drown instantaneously, and it would be a blessing.
it is the sort of thing that is so terribly unimportant it swells gradually into
something utterly overwhelming you cant even react to it
it was not an event there was no catastrophe
only the state of things

my favorite poet did not kill himself
he only grew old in a city only miles away from his wife and daughter
whom he hadn't seen in a quarter of a century
they did not seem to really mind
the extended electric neurons inhabiting his scull
neurons that nourish on verse and meter
had slowly auto-digested the part of his brain responsible for detecting certain faces
in his 74 year old brain his dark eyed wife looked like
a burned blur
I for one
have run out of ways to handle the corners of this box I'm carrying
always carrying through the desert through the cafes through the family gatherings
at one point I dug in it
at another I wrapped it with floral white paper
I kept it in the back of my closet and heard it whisper to me whisper my name recite my poetry
and kept the closet locked.

I think I am going to eat a little and write a little
and grow patch of lilies in my backyard
magnolia too
pretend, wash out the parts that know I
was propelled from my mothers womb to instantly fade
or better yet
to wish to fade

------
TEXT: ABBY JAY

THE MAZE

 

The emptiness that is me cannot be filled with presence.
Cannot be satisfied with feelings.
Cannot be healed with tears,
Trails of smoke,
Or words.

The hollow existence of which I cease to be.
With nothing but the sounds of my waves of thoughts.
Crashing the walls of my mind.
The drops linger on my trembling hungry lips yet die young.

I am not what I once was.
I am not yet what I want to be.
I am stuck in a maze that I once thought was a straight line.
People that I once held on to left to find their way out.
and the longer I stay,
The more lost I get in the twists, twirls, and turns.

I am stuck.
I am trapped.
I am estranged.
Yet become familiar with the tiles and the cracks creeping up the seldom walls that are wrapped around me.
They never changed.
They never left.
And I start to wonder if I want to find my way back.

With nothing to lose,
I am empty. 
I am content.
And as close as I will ever be to happiness.

So I stop the race with time.
I stop running after the ghost of promises.
I plant my feet in the solid ground.
I dissolve in the paleness of the aging walls.

For the first time,
I stop.
I surrender.

 

------
TEXT: DINA DIAB
ART: EMAN ALEGHFELI