We are all, by some means, loyal. To someone, to something, to an idea, or a place. We belong by natural disposition to something of our choosing, hence defining and defending our restrictions in case any insurgence should occur. In a civilised world, most of us (I'm looking at you, Kuwait) have passports that tie us to certain cultures despite our unwillingness to adhere to them. We are children of that land, that is the basis of the system. Problematically, however, for citizens of wonderful Arabia, this appears to not be the case. Whatever land you were born on is of no concern, the real concern is "where can we dump you?"

I'm legally Yemeni, as Yemeni as Yemen gets. My passport is navy blue with a hawk or an eagle or whatever that squinty bird in gold is. I speak my dialect fluently, a gift of my culturally-proud parents. I'm even marginally good at Yemeni cuisine, something I never thought I'd need to learn because, well, I'm also Saudi. I'm Saudi in the sense that I was born here, Saudi in the sense that I've lived nearly 25 years here, Saudi in the sense that I'm more familiar with sand than I am with greenery, Saudi in the sense that I have to ask my mother about Yemen when I effortlessly know the littlest of things about life here, in Saudi.

And so, my loyalties are hazy for I love Yemen. I love Yemen, with its poverty and insufficient infrastructure, its perfect weather, divine architecture and otherworldly scenery, its generosity, hospitality, and wonderful food, Yemen has captivated me. But Saudi has always been home, I can navigate through Riyadh (via driver) with incredible ease, even mastering the detour maze where I insistantly fail a simple left turn behind my house in Yemen.

My loyalties are hazy, and have always been dormant, but now they're not. They're tested, tortured. Stretched from extremity to extremity to the point of laceration. Bombed in instalments 1200 air raids so far that set the cities alight. Terrorised every night for the past 2 weeks dusk till dawn. Annihilated. Demolished. Devastated.

It is very easy to point your finger at an Apache, ripping your sky up in half in patronising force. It's even easier to parade that force in a relaxed air of military supremacy, like a lion strutting out in the afternoon to stretch. It's somewhat difficult, though, to lie in the lion's den and cry for it to come back home. 

My loyalties take no hue, they're not leather-bound pages of pride. They're words of plea away from rubble, glass, and blood.

cover photo // steve mccurry 
more photographs of yemen



I'm a forest that's filled with sadness,
An ocean that feels so blue.

A continent that has cow madness
A man that has gotten the flu

A half eaten donut; a dropped ice cream cone
The shattered cracked screen 
of a spanking new phone

A black ugly bruise, a closet of grey,
I'm the lone thread of a dangling fray 

I am misery, mind that you don't forget me
I am much stronger than happy could be

Ouch! Stop that! Don't pelt me with pointy rocks-
Painted in colors and covered in frocks!

No! Don't! Get back from that brownie!
Don't crawl into a duvet that's quite downy!

Stop being content! Start feeling bad! 
Remember all that you could have had!

Oh phooey, I quite give up on you.
You're arrrghh-ptimistic, oh bleh! Pee-yoo!

I'll go to some other ridiculous child
I'll do my magic and they'll go wild.

Fine, okay! Yes I'm leaving now!
No need to dance and shout and-ow!

Okay! Okay! Hold your galoshes. I'm gone.

But let me leave this door open just a crack.
You never quite know when I might be back.




and with the ink of my lost solitude
my lugubrious temper
my furious traits 
I write thee
with the plumes of
the gloomiest dooms
I write thee
and with the colour of despair 
that had ever since tinged every curve of the bosom
I colour thee
with the fragrants of
the "plaguest" of the plagues
the sediments of bygone years that yearn everlastingly
with all the paradoxes
the dilemmas
the unsilenced
I mourn me
and I scatter thee upon the grounds of purgatory
though I know
aye, I know
that wind shall contrive against me
and sow your seeds again
upon the land of me




A man walks about 
carrying a gate
chanting praise songs;
seeking to stock an open field with fire and sheep

he had seen Signs in his sleep
bingo! in the mind of his sheep
only, reality nullifies his dream

he supposes he holds its key
and his myrmidons, thoroughly afraid 
of hell must believe and behave 

he forewarns doubters anyway;
he’ll make them into scorpions
into serpents
into spooky wonkies
into reptiles and have them snacked upon 
by three-tongued cerberus, the CEO of hades 

he’s soon to see more passers, 
more doors, 
more sheep
more doves, saner people
walk past his door, unscathed by mischief 

they'll watch him kicking at the open door
frothing in the mouth, restless, insatiate, 
yet none caring if he be a seer/dreamer
or the new town clown out of sync 
with the rave of the now – the dance party of change

a frocked man walks with a gate
chanting war songs;
seeking electorates to stock in fire;
fire that’s bound to char his cloak with vex.