Wednesday, September 30, 2009

libya in lowercase, days 6 - 10

I went to Libya this summer to visit my family and wrote a poem for every day gone. This is libya in lowercase. The next five days.

- + -

april 15, 2009. wednesday.

i’ve never been so glad to see orange in my life

and as i make my way through the small airport

and the man in the faded suit asks

“nadia kamal?”

i don’t think i’ve ever been more happy to be who i am.


april 16, 2009. thursday.

i am changed now, here, in my fairytale land.

i am binti kamal – masha’Allah!

i never want to be remembered as anything else.


april 17, 2009. friday.

i sit in a smoke-filled garage

amongst too many cats and just enough aunts

and eat barbecue.

the weather is nice


the smoke chokes me

until i can’t breathe.


april 18, 2009. saturday.

this place is truly beyond words

i swear i had a dream about it when i was younger

before i had even set foot on orange sand.

you wouldn’t believe me if i told you.

i think that’s why you will never understand.


april 19, 2009. sunday.

i wonder, fifty years from now,

if i will remember this day

where i went

what i said

who i kissed

or hit.

and will i laugh or cry?

Monday, August 3, 2009

libya in lowercase

I went to Libya this summer to visit my family and wrote a poem for every day gone. This is  libya in lowercase. The first five days.

   - + -

april 10, 2009. friday.

as i make sujud against the back of an airplane seat,
i dream of orange sands and count the hours til i'm there.


april 11, 2009. saturday.

vomiting in a london shopping market
and being asked about morning sickness by a japanese woman
was not how i imagined my vacation thus far.


april 12, 2009. sunday.

london car rides make my head spin in the worst way possible
so i avoid their suggestions about going out
and entertain them with my american novelties.

oh my god. becky, look at her butt.

who the fuck issues a passport that expires in two years?

three more days.


april 13, 2009. monday.

this day, i can already tell,
will be irrelevant in the scheme of things.

i know by the way it stretches out way too long
but by the time i lie down to sleep,
i've already forgotten
most of everything
between now and the time i woke up.

two more days.


april 14, 2009. tuesday.

i’m more comfortable the second i step into the libyan embassy
than i have been for my entire trip to london

i know these people have a sense of kinship with me
that they know about the owul september boys
and their eyebrow smiles.

i wonder when was the last time they’ve been to sabrata
or eaten bazine, as i wait for my passport.

afterward, i wander london with an arab girl
with blue contacts

she asks me if i hate myself and i laugh.

why is she asking me?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

the grapes are coming

i wish you were here to see them.

my eyes

there is a man
with a blind wife

he calls her aayuni

i still don't know
whether this is kindness
or unspeakable cruelty

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


this music makes her cry and cry without knowing why
shaking her in places she's never been touched,
healing and ripping in tandem,
teaching her things she never knew she didn't know.

what kind of music is this?

"this is music for God."

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


i would like to hear you sing me to sleep
but i'm afraid your voice will crack and break
with all the things you do not say.

and then i will be forced to admit
i do not know you at all.

swim to me

i will miss the smell of your skin
when i go across the ocean.

i would ask you to swim to me
but i know you would laugh
and think it was a joke.

and that would hurt me more than you know.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


i watch you change opinions like clothes
and try on love like shades of lipstick.

lipstick always tasted to me like a prison
chemical and thick, coating and smothering.
the ruby red
makes your teeth look brighter than they are.
you are so comfortable in deceit,
your second skin.

i will always remember you bare-lipped and laughing
when your teeth did not shine
back before you didn't love me.

i don't tell myself you never did
because that would hurt too much.
i know you will tell me now. i am ready.


i will remember you on flat rooftops
when i whisper your name into pomegranate trees
and whisper your description to the grape vines.

you do not fit here. flat rooftops hold my home
the world spread out before me
and you are far away.

you do not fit. i love you.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


i love you too much
to let you love me like this.

i will lie to your face and call it compassion.

forgive me, my love.


the blushes from their cheeks warm me when i am cold.
i love them, but do not have the words.

i hope they know. oh, how i hope they know.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

things i want to do with you

walk in madina qadima and pretend it is another time.
hold your hand on owul september with wedding henna on my fingers.

((watch you do fatiha with my father.))

talk in circles until something makes since.
laugh until i cry.
pray behind you.
listen to sounds that make my chest ache and maybe yours too.
listen to um kalthum and billy holiday until we forget where we are.
take pictures of you at sabrata with roman statues in the background.
compare you to the mosaics at liptis magna.
cook bazine for you.
hear your mother call me habibti.
kiss children with your nose and my eyes to sleep every night.
i haven't met you yet
but i will know when i do
because you will want to do all these things with me too.