Photo credit: Alexander Krivitskiy
Self-Love: An Interpretation by a Masochist
Reach deep into the soil of your insecurities
Fertilize it with doubt
Plant the seeds of love
Hide them away from the world
Water them with tears
Beam rays of hope in the absence of sunlight
Your thoughts are children
Tuck them in tightly every night
Please, Make sure they remain warm
Jump into the abyss of an open wound
Kiss it shut
Climb back up
Grab ahold of your body
Hug it tight
Squeeze it hard
Be the love you never had
Let your hands run across the valleys of this body
Skim through its alleyways
Fall into its cracks and find your way out
Nestle your soul in the space between your rib cage and your heart
Fill it with gasoline
Be the match to light it up on fire
Let the smoke guide what remains of your breath
Sleep in the bed of your ashes
Walk out of these flames just in time
To listen to the strings of your heart whisper a melody
You’re a lonely song
Dance to your own rhythm
A lonely song is still a song
This one’s black and red
Let your mind sing along
You’re allowed to claw your heart out
Tear it apart at the seams
stitch it back together
Wear its strings like a noose and pull
Rip your poems off the pages
And swallow the pieces
Carry them with you wherever you go
What’s a poet without their poetry anyway?
Allow yourself to start over years later
Darling, you can
Let this be proof
Feed on self-destruction
Then learn to rebuild
Go to war
Be the ally and the enemy
Your sanity’s fighting off an earthquake
Your mind will warn you
This is a foreign battleground
Don’t be cautious
Launch yourself straight into the rupture
Shoot yourself in the leg
Let it bite you
Take an adrenaline shot
Do it for fun
Look in the mirror
Speak to your body
But I’ll love you anyway
Photo credit: Hakim El Haj
By Farah Chamma
moments of sheer bitterness
come back to me
like an acid reflux.
I find it all so difficult to digest.
One memory clings to my chest,
another lingers and floats in different
places: my gut, my throat, my back—
I have urges to cry, and so
begin to distract myself with more alkaline thoughts, such as my mother listening to Abdel Wahab, humming along as she puts on her mascara. Or, your neroli scent filling a corridor. I worry that these too, become acidic,
that this heartburn becomes a habit, another void-filler, here to teach me how to live with my ability to remember;
here to remind me that not everything I swallow is good for me.
And it always kills me to think that I am suffering from indigestion.
Photo credit: Nick Scheerbart
Waltz of the Winter
By Laith Bilal
Dying orchids spring
at the feet of blooming darlings
on a shivering sidewalk;
They embrace divine disaster,
their inevitable noble end
with a timeless chassé,
a swirl of joy
leading to a jolly death.
And as the lovers hold one another
in warm stillness
Photo credit: Hakim El Haj
On Days that Repeat Themselves
knitting mornings into nights,
silence weaved into the heavy air
thickened with sunlight.
The pattern does not break
and this nothingness becomes a habit–
involuntary like the throbbing of a slit vein
leaking all over the floor.
measure their own passing
as rhythmically as water drops
fall into abysmal sinks.
Photo credit: Andreia Ioana Cismasiu
I look for other people’s words
to tell you what I cannot comprehend.
as I read their words aloud
memories of you echo in response.
and between their verses
I hide my longing.
between their verses
I pretend my love for you
is their love for another.
so, in the nooks and crannies of their poetry
there I find a love letter in your name.
signed with anguish
from all the poets who fell in love with you.
Photo credit: Joel Bengs
The Storm at Sea
By Safa Mahmood
It went adrift, adrift, adrift
unbridled and faithful to God
against our single wish
It went up and under
unafraid against the current
bold beneath the thunder
It went sloshing and splashing
along with zephyr whistles
and chaos came crashing
It went to a world unknown
four hearts wishing for the shore
as our bodies far away from home
Photo credit: Dylan Luder
Happiness, What Do You Taste Like?
Happiness, what do you taste like?
Are you the sweet taste of cloudy cotton candy on my tongue
or the warm coffee I drink in the morning?
Happiness, what color are you?
Are you the yellow color of sunshine beaming in the morning
or the calming ocean blue?
Happiness, what do you sound like?
Are you the soothing voice that says I love you
or the laughter that vibrates my ear drum?
Happiness, what do you feel like?
Are you embracement in her hug
or the feel of the way that this pen feels as I let it craft and stroke my emotions into lines?
Happiness, are you the vibrant energy of her presence?
Because my senses are numb to you
and all I sense is the abyss
while warm tears trail down my cheeks
and I feel nothing.
Check out our previous edition from 2019: