Photo credit: Raghu Nayyar
I was raised in desi loudness
where rain met its lover on the street
and a doomed smell pervaded
of too many elaichis in biryani
for their union, too, is clandestine
like the grenade of bark-like bitterness
imploding when located and bitten
inside buccal cavities
serrated by spices and reckless swearing,
eviscerating red tastebuds
with a painful pleasure,
this loudness is painfully poetic too.
the jangling sitar’s serenade populates our idle hands
guitar strings waiting to be strummed to the beat of the rain and its lover but this is not all that dances
rush hours of red and a haggling lady in pink
sweet pungency of sweat singing the air with passionate industry,
account books done and dusted
shelved for the day next to Faiz
and a stingy bearded man called Chilli’s reverie because the rain panders on like
dough whipped into blistering goodness of curvaceous samosas,
filling up bellies with an afternoon daze
and lullabies on old radios that take us back to love.
I am not brave enough to spell our love;
for it is not a tale, sung in these scents nor a fable
exemplars of human
of an unpleasant kind
biting and bitter, sweetly sour
epochs of giant tragedy
plague this veneer of cut glass
like the wings of mottled butterflies hidden in the trees stripped bare by our own little lies.
hissing, the clothes dye, a motley of sugary promises
a light shower of color touches
those who float by
like curdled milk on carrots:
rapids of flavor run down our faces and yet the color
doesn’t settle in my soul – settlement is a fallacy
agreed, shook upon, now we move on.
meanwhile the dyer’s business booms
and the changing shades of our dupattas are evidence enough:
we do not settle.
like skinny dogs panting by the pavement
even the clouds ache to devour
a tickle of this scent
there are cloves cooking in the air
repulsive and enticing, pendulums of dangerous curiosity marinating stories
never leaving lips bitten down for too long.
they pry these two folds apart
and a film of color plays into
canals dug deep into their bodies;
an irrigation scheme for the heart
challenging the waning Ravi and her panache.
in this desi loudness,
agreed upon, seen, tasted, heard, burnt,
quiet still prevails unheard,
for by a rattled window downtown that refuses to be hushed
someone drops a sizzling chili into a steel pot
and there it lies
squirming deliciously in the brew.
Photo credit: Csabi Elter
The Space Between the Letters of Your Name
I shall become an apprentice in the art of the unspoken words,
the poetry of your unknown,
how to shape the space in between the letters of your name
and when I fail,
I’ll leave the space, between the letters of your name, to describe you.
Photo credit: Eugenia Maximova
The pain rots and sheds,
as it smoulders her bones
and burns her skin third degree.
Loss and jealousy enwrap
her scorched heart into ashes,
while lava flows off her tongue
as it promises vengeance.
She becomes a vortex of emotions
engulfing her own life,
dwelling in the
merry go round thoughts.
Until she picks up the pen
and tucks the rage and ache
within the 26 alphabets
to sentences to paragraphs.
Ashes and embers stain the paper
as they ebb, blot and flow,
crafting the cathartic relief
until the paper stains darker
than the shades of her mind.
The blues that would pour,
become the budding flowers
in her chest.
cobblestones into steppingstones,
amplifying her narrative.
She tosses the losses
and crosses beyond the horizon.
A candle flame burns deep
inside her solar plexus
as she transmogrifies the shards into a mosaic;
the strings of the web she was entangled in
weaved into embroidery to embellish her soul.
The cries and lies,
made her wise
as she built from the same sorrows
she was drowning in.
She put her ache on cadence
and turned up a brain wavelength.
She finally found her salvation
a dive deep and wide into
the depth of introspection
pulling from the cronies and nooks
the parts built and undiscovered.
She armed herself with
empathy fueled passion
as she has burnt,
and learnt to yearn the better
while she steers forward
with a transfigured mindset.
For the people who came,
now leave as poems.
Photo credit: Eugenia Maximova
بقلم خديجة أجعوض
.فقد أكلتُ قلبي أخيرا كما تمنيت
فلا الكحول عادت تنفعني
ولا الحانات ولا حشيش عبد الواحد
.ولا الشعبي ولا الرّاي
..فنصفي أنت والسحاب أنت والعالم
في خشوعي أنت وصدري وصلاتي
،يوجعني الريح وأنت منقذي
ثم يضرب على بابي ألفي ضربة
تدفعني، تجعلني مكان الشوك في الأرض
.ربنا إنك تعلم ما نخفي وما نعلن
Photo credit: Jose A. Thompson
Our eyes tell a story
when they stare back at each other
sparkling like a glimmering lake
kissed by the sun
we utter no words
they speak volumes
they recite poetry of the heart
that the subconscious can’t comprehend
our eyes tell a story
this time they are smiling as they tell the story of our hearts
Photo credit: Dhuha Awad
By Dhuha Awad
ضُحى is my name
she wished to call me Sally
she thought about calling me Angie
Anne was another name she adored
the name of a princess that lives on
while I slowly moved around in her tight womb
She flipped through pages of names in her head
what shall I call you? She asked while stroking her bump
Sally, Angie or Anne?
Darling husband what do you think?
“No, no, it has to be an Arabic name.” He insisted
And I was born to the 10am arms of the clock
to the Sun up in the sky on a November morning
cold and bright
sun glistering, shivering in the cold blues
reflecting on the golden leaves, scattered on the ground
Autumn with its cool-warm embrace
to that moment my cries of a new life emerged
My calls for a reunion with those I knew and yet met again for the first time
I screamed and shrieked
struggled and fought
and gave up all at the end
to one true loving cuddle
And they called me ضُحى
A morning prayer
A sacred time in the day
mentioned in the Quran twice
with two dedicated chapters to its honour
A name with the Sun on its way to approach the centre of heaven
A name my parents decided to give me
The name of a daughter’s friend
A name they loved, and still love
but to the world around me I am Dhuha
or Doha the capital of Qatar
or Duha a call to God
or “Shall I just call you D?”
with another classic “Have you thought about changing your name?”
Moments when my longing for the sound of ضُحى overwhelms me
only three letters
as hard as the name sounds
as musical as it is to my yearning ears
I miss being called ضُحى
I crave it
for I have lost myself in the sound of Dhuha
with all its variations and accents
and ضُحى becomes a far distant memory of a little girl
long gone to play
and did not make it back
lost in the winds of time
Dh for the ض
my father would say
but Dh can never replace the ض
the hardest letter to utter
an H can never make the sound of ح
I was born in London
I was given the name with the hardest Arabic letters to pronounce
I live with it every day
I live with a name where people avoid calling me
I live with a name that makes it easier for me to forget others’ names
and no guilt attached
for I am certain they cannot recall mine
and yet my desire to hear ضُحى mounts
grows with passion and lust
She wanted me to be Anne or Sally
how different would I have become as a Sally or an Anne?
as names imprint on us
and we become the name
that engulf us with the aura of its letters
I would never know what would have been my other fate
for I am and I will remain ضُحى
a.k.a. Dhuha or D
Photo credit: Bianca Berg
I’d like to think a parallel universe exists where
our tongues do not bleed biting back the words
‘I really wish you were here’
Where goodbyes never make it past
your lips as they finally mold better
Airports are no longer places
3 a.m.’s no longer choked prayers
disguised in unsent voice messages,
the pillows are no longer wet,
and the sheets no longer calling you back to bed
I hear reality knocking now and I let it in
I hang its coat, offer it tea
and let it keep me company until
you and I are ready to meet again.
And if this parallel universe forgets that we exist,
I know you will remember that I am here
Habibi, I am still here.
Photo credit: Ahmed Hasan
By Naz Karadede
What is hope?
is it an idea, an utterance, a feeling?
is it waking up in the morning, the air blurred with the haze of dreaming?
is it spring,
when all the birds inscribe their songs into the misty air,
when the trees whisper in the cover of their dew-coated leaves
when the sky is smeared with the shades of the ocean
when the air ripples with the aura of warmth and softness.
What is hope?
is it believing?
is it wishing you could get the love you deserve,
without lying, hurting, deceiving?
is it a colour, a shade,
is it the canvas of dawn,
smeared with the smoky hues of crimson, gold, jade—
is it a whisper
that ripples through the air like a heartbeat, a current, an unforgotten promise;
is it the thought that makes you smile, at midnight, twilight,
as you dream through the night,
as the stars blend into the rough fabric of the cobalt sky
and the air becomes heavy with the possibilities of tomorrow.
What is hope?
is it the flicker of light that blinds you in darkness,
is it the murmur of music in an eternity of silence—
is it love, or trust or loyalty,
friendship, success, generosity—
It is all of them,
Hope is knowing you can overcome all your sorrow
in the hazy uncertainty and impossibility of tomorrow.
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