chickpea pasta and other small truths

When I write you poems it is always type delete type delete. Is there anything left to say? We know nothing gold stays. What I felt for you was childhood, pure and then left out in the rain. Playing cards and porcelain dolls. The ones you aren't allowed to touch because they look like art. Mother said so. In high school I left a book under Nate Donmoyer's window and he found it under two feet of snow nine months later. "I was too late getting to this," he said. Years later I would go to his first show and find pages from my old sketch pad framed around the stage. "I found these in a DC garbage three years ago," he would explain. "I wonder whose they are." Time is an ocean of snow and she always retreats enough to show us what has been hidden beneath her wide body.

I loved you like that book. It was called "The Stranger."

New Year

New Year, don't come to our homes, for we are wanderers
from a ghost-world, denied by man.
Night flees from us, fate has deserted us
We live as wandering spirits
with no memory
no dreams, no longings, no hopes.
The horizons of our eyes have grown ashen
the gray of a still lake,
like our silent brows,
pulseless, heatless,
denuded of poetry.
We live not knowing life.

New Year, move on. There is the path
to lead your footsteps.
Ours are veins of hard reed,
and we know not of sadness.
We wish to be dead, and refused by the graves.
We wish to write history by the years
If only we knew what it is to be bound to a place
If only snow could bring us winter
to wrap our faces in darkness
If only memory, or hope, or regret
could one day block our country from its path
If only we feared madness
If only our lives could be disturbed by travel
or shock,
or the sadness of an impossible love.
If only we could die like other people.

- Nazik al Mala'ika


 ...Perhaps life is a choked moment where my gaze

annihilates itself inside in the pupils of your eyes—
                      I will mingle that sensation with my grasp
of the moon and comprehension of darkness.

In a room the size of loneliness,
my heart’s the size of love.
It contemplates its simple pretexts for happiness:
the beauty of the flowers’ wilting in a vase,
the sapling you planted in our garden,
and the canaries’ song—the size of a window.

Alas, this is my lot.
This is my lot.
My lot is a sky that can be shut out
by the mere hanging of a curtain.
My lot is descending a lonely staircase
to something rotting and falling apart in its exile.
My lot is a gloomy stroll in a grove of memories,
and dying from longing for a voice
that says: I love your hands...

 - Forough Farrokhzad 


All of them arrive: river and train 
sound and ship
light and letters
the telegrams of consolation
the invitation to dinner
the diplomatic bag
the space ship
they all arrive
all but my step towards
my country . . .


- Mourid Barghouti

you look around and every street, every boulevard, is its own special art form

We planned to meet in person on the corner of Dundas during the 2012 Toronto Film Festival. You, the man who emailed to say I looked like the kind of girl who liked Woody Allen movies, approached from the left. And I, the kind of girl who would not learn for many years that you already knew her better than she knew herself, watched from an alleyway like a vintage shop made of windows no one ever looked in. I bit my knuckles as you dialed my number over and over again. I liked your shoulders and decided I couldn't meet you that day, maybe never. I turned, and left. Had I crossed that street we might've laughed a little bit and touched one another's flesh the way strangers do before they become strangers again.

It has been four years and when I write poems now they remind me of the present, which is to say they are unsatisfying. You call me drunk from Dubai at least three nights a week to confess your various sins. I whisper "meet me at midnight in Beirut" and mean that I'd cross two oceans to hear you list every vile thing you've ever done just so I could tell you that I love to walk in the rain, too.

 "And if the dead by displacement and the dead by weapons and the dead by longing and the dead by simple death are martyrs, and if poems are true and each martyr is a rose, we can claim to have made a garden of the world."

Mourid Barghouti

I used to collect feathers

I want to write to you in secret code. Handshakes. Navajo talk. I used to beg you to speak to me in Arabic. I only know pleasantries and am therefore a delight. I don't know words like snake. I was warned you would break me like a bone, a lock, a promise, but when I was small I would go hiking and wander off trail in search of treasures. Feathers. Tsidii. Ts'in. "Something poisonous will bite you!" they'd yell from the path. It took seventeen more years but something finally did.

the labours

I would've taken you to all the places I love best. Long wooded trails where the earth sweats streams from between boulders. You'd stretch long limbed out on the bank while I would weave you tales like headbands, baskets, webs. Feed you raspberries from my fingertips like a lovesick Amelie. The gods threw these rocks here from the heavens. The gods threw these rocks here just for you. The strength of Hercules only conquered the foes of the god he served, never his own. This is why I daydream about dipping you into the river. I'd grasp your ankle like Thetis with Achilles and let the water give you power. I could hold a man with but one weakness.

"there's rue for you, and here's some for me..."

He asked me to tell the truth about you in the same way you asked about the others. "I need you to tell me. After all this, I know you can."
And I could've. Let cats out of bags, black cats with long shadows. Shadows like night like nights when you'd serenade sway me across the kitchen, yell under jealousy's yellow light, pull me in as a tide, push me out again. Your stray cats could roam a boardwalk beach, your stray cats would've sent you out to sea.
So I did. Tell about soft mornings and how I ached to move your own periods about. The ones with all the hurt would come before me and change the sentences around. "I need you." "Tell me." "I know you." "After all this, we."
We Neverlanded and I never landed quite squarely on my feet after you spun me around, and I fell. "Yes, I fell, I said. "And it wasn't into the sea, but a river where I drowned. And it was I who looked so at home with my woes in that water."
He nodded as if he understood what I was trying to say. That there is no such thing as a lie. There is the truth you tell and the truth you keep.

and Erin and Aisha and Esther, too

I am facing the fence that encloses the dog park, my hands wrapped around the wrought iron bars. Next to me stands a woman in an immaculate red dress. A slight breeze rumples her hair and jingles the tags on her dog's keys. I look down at him. He is white and plump and his eyes look soft but you never can tell, can you. His tail thumps softly but I do not reach down to pet him. He notices my disinterest and leans the weight of his entire body into my leg.

"Christ, they're all beggars, aren't they?" says the woman in the red dress.  I laugh.

"Oh, mine are the same, trust me."

I point to the other end of the field where my dogs are running. For as long as I've lived with them I never can tell if they're playing or fighting with one another.
Now that he wears a suit to work every day Jack has picked up the habit of coming home late stinking of bitches. And Brad, poor lamb, rarely bothers to come come home at all unless he thinks he will get to sleep in my bed. He will have to be put down soon. Steve is good. Such a good boy, yes. I am always surprised by this and often worry I accidentally punish him for the transgressions of the others. The woman in the red dress catches me smiling softly at them and clears her throat.

"Was every one a rescue?" she asks. "Oh, yes." I say. "Aren't they all?"

and the tree is still spilled across the sidewalk (or, soft organs)

I come over late and undress myself. I have never known your hands in my hair. Moonlight pools in the far corner of the room and I long to dip my toes in it. Instead I slip like a dolphin between the ripples of grey sheets. Silence. Sleep abandons you and you turn to speak to me in the language we have known with countless others. The one where your hands whisper "stay" and my pores hear "drown".

We first spoke months earlier when you called the store and I answered. You asked if I was the cute Asian with the butt and I threw the phone and told everyone their favourite was an asshole. That was before I ever ran my fingers down your spine and did not yet know all the places life had tried to break you and failed. The day you heard your brother was dying you strung twinkle lights around the house and sat guard on the back porch, daring death in all her grinning, wild eyed rot to show up, do it, tempt you. I was afraid for her. When people ask if you're still an asshole and I nod yes it is with that night in mind.

I see you always at dawn her
pale yellow fingers pressing
your shoulders into a soft surrender
your body beneath night's last remaining shadow.

My silent observance is my morning prayer.

a poem for when we never meet again

I'm gonna tell you what they won't. Abandon people like buildings, like military outposts, like hope. Quit when they do, punch out, strike like an hourly associate or McGregor. Some men learn from words and some men learn from walking. They must take all of you, your heart like an airport, leaving no unattended baggage. That's how this all works, the coming home to someone. It's like Warsan said, some come with keys and some come with hammers. Let them show up late and find the door locked.

poem for a Palestinian insomniac

I lie my head upon your belly and listen to the sounds of war. Babies are crying, fathers wailing. This flesh is a map and I follow it through generations. Across brush backed valleys. Graffitied streetways. Lemons litter courtyards where they fall from pregnant trees. Behind a picket fence of ribs your horse hoof heart beats faster faster. Great swirls of dust rise from the stomping of hooves, heels, boots. They cruicifed you on the back of a prickly pear* and yet when the harvest comes you will sip nectar only from the fruit of patience.

Why is it that you wonder why you cannot sleep?

unsent texts

I want to drop you like a china plate
send deep cracks through your artfully
drawn centre story
that cause everything that binds you to
chip away
bottom out
and after
I dispose of you, careful
not to cut myself on your broken bits
I will think of you only as a missing
piece of a larger collection
a thing I might have placed something
hot and untouchable upon
and now
do not.