Tuesday, December 27, 2011

day seven.

december nineteenth.

winter in libya is an impersonal thing,
the proverbial croak of death before
the birth of spring, people freeze
retreat into rooms, under blankets
relationships left to hang from strings,
libyan winters are chilling things.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

day six.

december 18

today, the sky
tried to drown us all

forty-two years of famine
has left the country parched,
the ground is thirsty

mouth overflowing, 
the clouds pour her more
than she can take.
streets flooded, the city
is a woman pregnant,
two weeks over due,

but hopeful.

i go to sleep
and dream of swimming
through deep water. 

day five.

december 17

you love me less now,
and i understand.

i think,
i think i may
love you less 
now too.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

day four.

december sixteenth.

fashloom is a bride with a scratched face,
an abused daughter being married off
to a merciful man, she is glowing

draped in red and green,
lights drip from her neck 
and wrists like gold,
her mahr hanging from 
her earlobes, shining.

her cousins dance in the street,
clapping and stamping,
singing songs
to send her off
to her new life. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

day three.

december fifteenth.

the boy who gave me tissues
when my nose bled has a gun
and a future, a sister with a 
smile like tomorrow, 
and a face full of noor

she wears a necklace
made from a bullet
shot at her door.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

day two.

december fourteenth.

you are green.

your loss eats at you,
bites at your tongue and lips,
your cheeks are raw.

your bile is poisonous,
building in your chest,
choking you,
the hate you want to spit
leaks from your lips

you are green.

my dad says it's easy 
to tell the thowrieen 
from the tahalib.

he says, 
"just look at them.
are they happy?" 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

day one.

december thirteenth. 

from the sky,
tripoli at night looks like fairy dust,
like magic, flung out across the landscape
by the majestic, the most merciful
each light a kindled hope,
every lamp a martyr

i press my face against the glass,
fall in love a hundred times
during the descent

a soldier with a gun stands guard
at the plane door, thanks god
we have arrived safely

i thank god he's alive,
that i'm alive,
that we're free. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

this is my mother.

i have her hair, attitude, and lack of balance.

this is my father.

i have his nose, teeth, feet, and drive.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

dear girl

why do you only love boys who punch you in the mouth?
what does it say that every boy who has kissed you has hit you?
who forgot to tell you love doesn't have to be violent?

but honestly?
i blame your mother
how do girls go their whole lives
mistaking dependence for love?

who taught you that math?
how are you somehow less
than the sum of your parts?

two legs, open; one mouth,

you aren't dough, love, 
but i swear it,
he will try to beat you soft,
knead out all resistance, 
make you pliant 

you are not a weed,
but he will rip you up
your roots mean nothing to him

you are a math equation,
a recipe, a garden, a mountain
something beautiful
to be conquered

and believe me, love
he will, if you let him.

Friday, November 11, 2011

back home

in libya, the boy who gave me tissues when my nose bled mans a checkpoint. he has a gun and a sister. i think about him when i hear bullets.

Saturday, October 8, 2011


She ran her nails across her face the night he told her. Bent over at the middle, she was a flower with a broken stem. She held her stomach as though it were all she had left, as if it too, were about to betray her.

She had never felt such pain; such a tearing of self. She had never felt so naked, so rubbed raw. Her body felt hot and shameful, full of blood, ready to break out of itself. Her chest was an intense, tight thing, no longer beating, no longer fluid and constant, but frozen; frozen in the hottest way, for ice would make her numb.

"How . . . how . . ." stumbled from her mouth, tears spilling down between her lips, burning her tongue, "could someone . . . do this to another person?"

She would not wish this on her worst enemy. This was not a fate deserved of the most base of human beings. This was hell for the living. She could not breathe. Though she wished more than anything to be rid of it, she could not even tolerate the thought of giving it to another.

Betrayal was an overused word; it was empty of the emotion she needed to convey. All she felt was worthless - her being, her very body itself felt useless, devoid of purpose. Made unnecessary, extrinsic, superfluous. Before this moment, she never would have known so much of her was tied up in what this was, that one action - one word - could sweep it all away and leave her as this.

She could not bear it, the sight of his face; something that once invoked shelter now made so foreign. She did not hear his apologies. Her body pushed out air without taking any in. She felt her hair brush her knees as she sank onto them; her world was a searing blur.

He did not try to touch her as she clutched herself on the floor. She did not know if this was better or worse. He joined her on her knees and she could not look away.

"I . . . I . . ."

She was shocked by the flash of pain across her belly, something alive in a dull world. Electric pain across a slow burn. It woke her up, snatched her awake. She felt a seeping, an outpouring. A vital, vital loss.

Her hands made the slow travel down her swollen belly and between her thighs. They came back wet and red, shining bright against the diamond on her finger. In dull horror, she held them out to him. The ring slipped from her finger and fell, bloody, onto the carpet between him.

She stared at the open fear, frozen on his face. She felt her body open up and she knew it was too late. Once again she could not look away.

He moved to take her bloody hands and she pulled them away before they met.

"You did this," she whispered as her body let go. "You did this to us."

he told her, "don't sit so close to me."

she replied, "i'm sorry that i smell like home. i can't help it. it's in my skin."

Sunday, October 2, 2011

september sky

the sky last night
was like a child throwing a temper tantrum,
like a husband with an unfaithful wife,
who comes home smelling
like another man

it was violent and hard,
it was a beating.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

my mother looked like rosewater the day i was born.

i am the desert version of her. darker and smaller, my body reflects the sun.

the day my daughter is born, i will look like sand.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

all praise due to the most high.

the sustainer, the maintainer. the giver of life and bringer of death. the steadfast. the witness and the judge.

Monday, August 1, 2011


may the clouds press down on you,
may the earth and sea rise up against you,
and a sandstorm meet you at every side.

and may you look out at all you've created,
and have no place to go.

ramadan kareem

to every last one of you. may our fasts be accepted. 

all praise due to the most high. 

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Monday, July 25, 2011

bullets for eyes and machete hands.

your children are not weapons,
but using them as such
will make him sharp.

they will hate themselves.

it does not feel nice,
to be the knife
your mother uses
to cut your father open.

you are astonishingly average.

i don't remember forgetting you.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

ashes to ashes

dust to dust. those once with them are now with us.

Friday, July 15, 2011

the prince's tale

severus snape, you are beautiful and misunderstood. you loved a woman, and it saved you. even as it ruined you. you were the enemy that saved them all. the hero everyone spat on.

you were the traitor who saved the world. the man who loved the woman who died for the boy who lived.

rest in peace.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

jidi, pt. 2

My father ran away from rallies, refusing to pump his fist for a tyrant. His father told him to beg in the streets before he spied on people. He said, "We aren't those people, who bow and spy and tell others' secrets."

Monday, July 4, 2011

pt. 3

remember when mutasim raised an army to rescue one woman?


My father was twelve years old on September 1st, 1969. He woke up and turned on the radio to hear military music. My father asked his own father what was wrong.

He doesn't say this when he tells the story, but I imagine my grandfather's spine straightening under the weight of heavy future. I imagine the room being thick with cigarette smoke and morning light, the remnants of breakfast, olive pits and scraps of bread, strewn at their feet. I imagine my father, younger than my brain can fathom, looking up to his own father for guidance, explanation. I imagine my grandfather's eyes as heavy, tired things.

This is the scene I set in my mind when my father tells the story. When he gets to the part where my grandfather says, "The government has been overthrown. Libya will never see the light again."

Sunday, July 3, 2011

word from tunis.

tripoli is a war zone. nobody breathes. people disappear in the night.

our history, pt. 2

remember when richard, with the heart of a lion, shook like a leaf before salah al-deen?

our history

remember when the tigris ran black? when the river bled our words for months?

Monday, June 27, 2011

february sixteenth (revolution eve).

her aunt drank tea in a yellow dress
on the eve of a revolution.
she caught her mother kissing her father
in the alcove in the kitchen,
her uncle hugged her and his beard smelled like dinner,
her brother's feet left tracks on the veranda tile,
the neighbor's had a wedding next door

and she was lying in the grass, under the sun
behind garden walls that felt unbreachable
the first time she heard bullet meet flesh

her aunt scratched her own face bloody
her mother vomited in the flower beds 
as her father held her,
her uncle's beard filled with tears,
her brother's body left blood stains on the tile of the veranda,
the wedding next door turned into a funeral,
and she washed her first body
on the eve of a revolution.

Sunday, June 19, 2011


love to all the fathers. the ones living their lives to make their children's better. working in under florescent lights or dodging bullets under desert sun so the next generation won't suffer. for the ones bringing up the next generation of men and teaching little girls how to love.

this is for the fathers that the world forgot.

the ones who had to bury their children.

the ones dying so their children can live free.

the ones that the law forgets are parents too.

the ones who work and love and love and work.

the ones who kiss their babies and throw them in the air.

the ones who chase their kids through the house with a blanket on their head.

the ones who tell stories. and sing songs. and take pictures.

the ones like my dad.

baba. papa. dad.

is it hard to look like the father that didn't want you?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

ninety friends.

thank you all. i'm constantly surprised anyone wants to read anything i write. 

peace and blessings.

Monday, May 23, 2011

red and green.

her aunt told her to marry a boy
with a soft mouth, hard men
hit women, sharpen their edges
on your curves, she told her
don’t marry a boy
who doesn’t smile right,
doesn’t laugh kindly,
don’t marry a liar,
don’t marry a fighter.

marry a man who sings,
she told her, who prays,
who talks to you and
doesn’t look away,
don’t marry a man
with something to hide

don’t marry a boy
to become a bride

she married a soldier
with a mouth hard from war,
that tasted like bullets,
had hands like dull edges,
that never cut,
who laughed like a lion
and re-learned how to love
who danced through the streets
the night their country was freed,
and married her in red and green.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

before august.

finish all the puzzles in my house. the 1000-piece barak obama, the 750-piece native american mural, the two 1000-piece muhammad ali ones, and all the rest. all of them. 

keep my house clean. prepare it for ramadan.

lose twenty pounds.

exercise every day.

read all the harry potter books again.

learn to shoot.

take more pictures.

ace my summer class.

get my license.

cook every day.

pray on time. 

write more. 

talk to my brothers often. 

help a revolution.

see a free libya. 


i have made men out of mountains
but have not yet discovered how
to make mountains out of men.

not enough base.
too prone to avalanches.

i don't need you.

you need me. remember that.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

love letter to a city

tripoli, i cannot sleep,
i have to be honest with you,
tonight, i miss you like an ache

i miss the way your streets cradled me,
the way your wind whispered sweet-nothings
in my ear, the way your ancient ruins romanced me
i even miss your gutters
power lines criss-crossing between apartment buildings,
and the boys who lean against them, forgetting to lower their eyes
i miss the way you smell, like my aunt’s perfume, sea water, open air
and something i’ve never felt with anyone else

i dream about your voice,
soft and bustling, dispersed with
sounds of cars and calls to prayer

do you remember the weddings we went to?
the ride home was always my favorite part,
you’re so beautiful at night

scarf clutched to face, windows down
your radio would sing abdul-halim
to me, i can’t help it
my heart beats faster when i’m with you

i miss your old city,
and your gold shops,
and your parks
i miss your restaurants,

we’ve been apart too long,
i’m beginning to seriously rethink this separation
was i wrong?
for thinking i could leave you for longer than a year?

i can’t get work done,
i keep daydreaming
about your streetlights,
this isn’t healthy
i didn’t expect whirlwind
romances to take up so much
of my time

i hear you’re busy now,
you’ve changed a lot,
aren’t the same city
you were before

maybe you don’t have time
for old names and rekindling flames,
but i miss you
i don’t know how to put it more simply than that

i don’t know if you want me back

but i’m coming for your rooftops,
and your orange sands,
your bazeen, and your adhans 

i’ll see you in the summer,
right when you start to become
unbearably hot, because like it or not,
you’re my first love,
and i just can’t let go that easy

but for tonight, i’ll settle
for dreaming of your shores,
your souqs and stores,
your sands and your skies,
and i’ll close my eyes
and pretend it’s your waves
rocking me to sleep tonight.

a girl from tripoli 

Sunday, March 13, 2011


at eighteen she decided 
she was going to marry 
a boy from benghazi

with scars on his chest
and revolt in his eyes, 
she would trace them
on their wedding night,
fingers moving across lines,
like roads between the cities 
he fought in

he would want a woman with a 
soft body, after the hardness of war, 
something to revel in freedom with,
fingers gripping hips, leaned back against 
windowsill, he would tell her the stories
eyes heavily-lidded and half closed, 
until she begged him to stop.

she was eighteen when she decided
she wanted to marry
a boy from benghazi. 

green book.

i do not need a book
to tell me that i am a woman,
that each month i bleed,
that my body can nourish life,
or that men are not like me. 

i do not need your book
to teach me what freedom is,
or slavery for that matter.
we have already 
tasted both.

your book is burning 
in every street.

and libya is coming for you.

Friday, March 4, 2011

life has always affected me more than death.

i can watch a man die. i cannot watch his daughter cry for him.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

rels 2130

my professor has a name i've never heard before. you can't find the meaning on google. no one knows where he's from. he wears bow-ties and has a three-legged dog, and he told us this:

"no one wants to be loved in abstract. really, does anyone want to hear, 'you're my heart and soul - i can't live without you. sort of.'"

Monday, February 28, 2011

bayda to ghadamis.

boy, in jeans and keffiya,
wound tight around neck,
the aircraft can't stop you,

aiming from sky at those above them,
how could they shoot you down?
you have eyes like bomber jets 
and the mouth of a revolution,

you march like free men,
fight like soldiers,
and die like martyrs

i saw them shoot you down,
through grainy, third party video
on my shiny laptop screen,
the air was cool and i was comfortable,
i saw you bleed, as they dragged you 
towards home, i cried for an hour

imagined your mother, 
young-faced, and grey-haired, 
forced to clean blood
that should've never
been spilled in her lifetime
imagined you clutched to her chest,
"weledi, weledi"
i hear someone in the background say
he was only eighteen

we count shuhood like baby teeth,
and your sister's mouth is almost empty.

you are the face of a revolution,
shrugging off terror, 
i watched you dance under bullets,
the country became free
the day we strangled fear,
leaving her corpse blue and mottled,
at the feet of the regime.

this is a revolution.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

bombs over benghazi

it makes me ache that you,
thirteen and long-limbed,
still pale from winter,
had to learn
to wash a body.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


don't let me dream of dead girls tonight.

Monday, February 7, 2011

for my children

i want to water my daughters
so they blossom into modest women
with patterned skirts and bright scarves
covering hair the color of coffee grounds, 
tucked away for a wedding night.

i want my sons to grow like trees
spine and knees like oak trunks,
with laughter like leaves
and hands like branches,
always reached out, 
offering protection
from vast sky 

i want them both to speak like breezes
and love like lightening, need God like
a river, water to quench a dry tongue,
to think fiercely and live happily,
a mother's prayer for her children 

to remember the texture of their father's hair
and color of their mother's teeth

i want them to own memories
entwined with the smell of cantaloupe 
and rainy nights, i want the feel
of sticky mango juice
to make them smile
i want honey to
make them remember their skin
and what it is there for

i wish for them warm springs
and cool falls, forgiving summer sun,
and kind winters
rain like powdered sugar, made to dance in
and only one hurricane,
to ensure they praise God for it all,
every day.

before their birth,
their conception,
before their mother had her hands henna'd
by singing women,
or even met their father's eyes across a room,
this is a prayer for them.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

tear gas and the people without riot masks.

I have a lot of things I want to say about the power of boys with stones and girls in skirts with knees like anchors, but I don't know if I can find the words. They're there, on the tip of my tongue, flirting with my lips, but keeping coy. 

I want to talk about the raw sores left by rubber bullets, and the broken vessels that the tear gas leaves in your eyes, making you look like the morning after your father's funeral. I want to talk about an emotion that makes lost voices and broken fingers worth cheering through: hope. 

Someone once told me, "Hunger will put the people in the streets." 

Hunger for food. Revolution. Change. 

Hope is an odd thing. Fragile and tremendous, it spreads like wildfire, lighting breasts and pits of stomachs and undersides of tongues like California hillsides in July. It flickers until it spits, and spits until it roars; until it is an unstoppable tide roaring over villages and cities, towns and mountains. It is a quick-spreading thing, hope.

When Tunis fell, hope flickered through, quick as a thief in the night. Come and gone, so quick we almost missed it. Calls from person to person, spreading out like spider webs, spreading the word: "S'maati? S'maati shin sar fi Tunis? Did you hear? Did you hear what happened in Tunis?"

"They kicked the President out - out! He's gone! Al-shabab! The people! The people kicked him out - he's fled!" 

"Who's next? Who do you think it will be? Algeria? Egypt? Allahu akbar! Alhamdullilah. Praise God. Praise God."

Tyranny is a terrible thing. And after awhile, people forget they are under it. 

So for my brothers and sisters in Masr, Tunis - Jordan, Syria, Libya - Allah maak. God be with you. There is hope. Boys with rocks have been winning wars for centuries.  Girls have been anchoring their knees to their homelands for millennium. There are some things worth rioting for.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

boys throwing stones.

they always see delinquents.  

i see david.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

i don't remember

exactly when i stopped missing you.