from Khandaq Mon Amour


I dream of the whale every night.
I have seen it when we sailed the Mediterranean.
One refugee told me he only sees the dead now
when he looks at the sea. I dream of the whale.
I have seen it dip and emerge—
silent island, wing-tail, wing-fins.
And a mouth that swallows everything.

I love how you keep smoking.
Do all Arab women smoke like that?
I love that you call me habibi.

Arab women call everyone habibi.
Will you ever look at my body, not see
a map of your own longing?
I could get used to those light eyes of yours,
habibi, but your skin is too pale.
What a pretty little boy. Where were you born?
Paris? London? New York? It doesn’t matter.
I’ve never been to any of them.
I will other you anyway, conquer you, and tomorrow
I will say, “Somewhere West. Too cute, too pale.
I don’t remember his name.”

Tell me
your name.
Show me
your legs.
your mouth.
What is it that Fairuz is singing?

Ahwak bila amali—
I love you without hope.

Dance for me.

Stop asking me to dance
to Fairuz. I have done it last night,
I have been doing it forever. My wrists,
my arms are tired of her voice.
I prefer Umm Kulthum—
no one has ever screamed
about freedom the way she did,
except, perhaps, for Piaf (who has hands
the size of continents, eyebrows
like distant bird wings), and Dalida
(who has killed herself).

Hold me.
Why is there always the sound of cars
on this street below us, in this empty city?
What are these holes along your shoulder blades?

Note: Khandaq is Arabic for “trench.”

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