Tuesday, December 4, 2012


when we were fourteen,
you were golden.
a little smoky around the edges.
i waded in deep water, watching out
for catfish and dreamed about
kissing you in the bushes. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Two days before Thanksgiving and I'm doing homework on my mother's living room floor. My six-year-old brother is drawing on my feet. The kitchen smells amazing.

I am so thankful.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


i wrote a poem to your skin once,
while your mother made me tea.
i didn't read it to her, of course.

but she gave me a note
that called me 
her daughter-in-law,
she said it was our crime.

i tore it up after she left, hid 
the pieces under my mattress.
i drink tea by myself,
and write another poem to your skin.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

ramadan kareem.

Iftar at my Christian mother's is always a treat. Ten minutes before Maghrib, and everything's ready but the salad. I'm chopping vegetables with my mother in the kitchen. A mix of east and west: southern grilled squash, baked sweet potatoes, Libyan salad, and of course, dates and milk.

My eight-year-old brother, having memorized the time of Maghrib today, shouts out from the living room, "Six more minutes!" My six-year-old brother sings "God is big, big, big, His love is wide, wide, wide" while the sun sinks.

I sing with him while I finish the salad. The adhan calls out from my computer.

I break my fast and pray. One of my brothers usually rolls my mat out for me in the direction of the Qiblah and brings me my prayer clothes. Not today, so I have to do it myself. I remind myself to thank God for my family.

We watch Prince of Egypt over iftar. Once we're done eating, me and my mother move to the couch with our laptops, where we watch with one eye and research Biblical history with the other. We discuss Moses in the Bible and the Qur'an. The differences are infinitesimal.

Before the movie is over, we've covered David and Solomon, Lot and his people, the creation of Adam, the origin of Satan, and the nature of angels.

Moses delivers his people out of Egypt. The credits roll. One out of three boys is asleep and the other two are sent to bed. I thank God for my family.

Alhamdulillah. Alhamdulillah. Alhamdulillah.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

infidel (reading).

hear it here. 


you have built entire shrines to his mouth,
living in a cathedral shaped of all his harsh 
words and discarded teeth.

stop writing psalms about his tongue,
prostrating yourself at his lips;
he does not understand 
you are hanging your moon on him.
this is sacrilege. 
neither he nor your god deserve that.

his jaw, you've made into a hollowed out ship
you ride home from loneliness.
on the sea of your insecurities,
he is like sand, scarce.
how many pilgrimages have you
made into his body?
how often have you offered 
your burnt  hopes to the holy space
inside his throat?

the way you breathe his name
is blasphemy.

i know you think burrowing yourself
into the inside of his cheek each 
night is paradise.

but when he swallows you whole,
the false gods you found in his 
wisdom teeth
will only prove wood
to the fire in his belly. 

Sunday, May 27, 2012


where do you find your audacity?
where did you lose your shame?
who taught you your head
sits higher than mine?
from where did you steal
your scepter?

i will never forget
you tried to do this.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

day eight.

i love you like
and bare feet,
and momma's voice,
and fall.

Friday, April 20, 2012

day seven.



my sister was born
on friday the thirteenth,
with blood in her mouth.

she wouldn't take our mother's milk,
stopped breathing twice in her sleep,
nona read scripture over her 
the entire first night.

aunt drina says
she didn't want this life.

she's too attracted to high places
and hot things; fascinated by 
sharp edges. we watch her
in the bath because she
likes to see how long
she can hold her breath. 

we love her,
knowing we'll 
lose her.

she's thirteen now,
and compelled by fire.
nona stays up 
praying all night.

aunt drina and uncle luca
tie bells on all the doors,
sprinkle cinnamon in
the part of her hair.

she falls asleep with the 
windows open, and
wakes up in the fields.

they say she didn't 
want this life. 

day six.

when your father left. 

your mother 
shacked up
with a milkman.

but somehow, that
didn't stop you from
growing up with holes
in your bones. 

her cardiologist boyfriend
never did much to mend
your fractured heart. 

the chef
couldn't fill
the hole 
in the pit
of your 

the empty spaces
of your father's 
always void. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

day five.

an exchange of regret. 

we were an amalgam of apologies. 

"i'm sorry," she told me one morning,
dawn light grey on her cheekbones,
"i'm sorry i made you carry my mistakes
around under your tongue."

"i'm sorry," i told her on the train.
my nails were painted yellow,
because i missed the sun.
"i'm sorry i left your shame
out on my laundry line. i never
meant to air your secrets."

"i'm sorry i rubbed salt on your 
wounds," she says under an 
oak tree in the park. "i thought it 
would keep them from becoming

"i'm sorry i cursed your dead mother,"
i whispered, "and put salt in your tea.
i just wanted to see if you cry anymore."

"i'm sorry, i'm just sad."

"i'm sorry, i'm just tired."

"i'm sorry, i just miss you."

"i'm sorry, i'm just too
sorry to do this anymore."

and one day, our apologies
ran out.

Friday, April 13, 2012

day four.

a death story.

you have romanticized death.

you need to know that it won't be beautiful,
it won't feel like flying, you won't be at peace.
there will be no moment of clarity 
before you hit the ground,
swallow your tongue, 
watch your own brains hit the wall.

you'll just be a terrified girl,
bleeding out on the bathroom

they won't remember you for it. 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

day three.

the verdict. 

cancer is a curse word in our family
a vulgar blasphemy, a profanity,
a death knell no one
with our surname has survived,
we shrink from it.

naima slapped herself in the face
when they told her it had come to you,
let out a sound like a dying animal, 
she was wounded,

"we can't get away from it,"
she screams, tries to tear
at her face before they stop her.
"it's following us."

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

day two.

tale of a journeyman.

your father sowed a restless seed in you,
curling fingers, migrating tongue, 
you were born fidgeting.
how did he manage to weave his 
inconsistency into your dna?
it isn't fair that you were born into
your mother's arms a wanderer,
the soles of your feet itching.

i don't know how
to teach you to stay. 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

day one.

april fool.

"you fooled me,"
she says into the receiver,
lips slick with pink lipstick
and disappointment.

by now, his name has begun to sound
like a dial tone, like a busy signal,
she doesn't remember what it was like
not to miss him, not to be waiting on him.

his voice is just the right amount
of apathetic, and her nervous heels
leave scuff marks on the kitchen floor.

"april fool's," he says.
the dial tone hurts her ears.


thirty poems in thirty days. join me?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

do you hate him sometimes

for looking like the father that didn't want him?
like the lover who left you?
do you rest those burdens on his shoulders too,
let them settle into his skin like silt?

he's only six.
you shouldn't make him carry
your mistakes around in his stomach,
your ruined love letters
burrowing deep between his teeth.

you sing him the songs
you and his father used to dance to,
even though they make him cry. 

he will never stop loving you.
he will never forgive you.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

afternoon thunder storms.

the sky tried to kill us today
murder by drowning,
the clouds a boy pouring water
on unsuspecting ants.

but the land here is greedy,
catching every drop in the
mouth of her skirt,
concealing the crimes
of her lover.


chusi misses home.

says it doesn't rain enough,
that the sky here is too stingy,
the ground always thirsty. 
she says the land makes her feel barren.

she cries when we take her to the canyons. 
she says that where she comes from, they 
believe hell is made not of fire and brimstone,
but rock and sand, bone dry, 
eternity for the damned is a desert.

she wants to know why we brought her here.

chusi dresses like the water tribes back home,
hair in half a dozen braids, hanging long down her back,
leather sandals and long skirts. her legs are strong.

made for swimming, she says,
not navigating jagged wastelands.

we found her sitting in the fountain 
in aunt caroline's back garden,
her skirt floating around her like a lily pad,
her fingers grasping at the plaster bottom,
searching for soil. 

chusi misses water,
says she's drying up here.

she braids her hair by the fountain,
and talks about the swollen bases
of the cypress trees back home. 

Monday, January 9, 2012

bil salama.

my last morning in libya, and the sky is so blue i want to cry. i want to break off a piece and stir it in my tea. take it home and put it on my dresser. give it to my father and tell him, "here, some libyan sky. it misses you. it says come home soon."

Thursday, January 5, 2012

i danced on the veranda today.

the wind whipped from every direction. rain water puddled in pools around my feet. my aunt told me i was going to die. it was lovely.


is a city torn open,
but not broken.

homes hang from hinges
like bullet-ridden hearts.