You Really Got a Hold on Me - Smokey Robinson and The Miracles
A Smokey kinda day.
entrepreneurial street kids
Hend and Haneen
were scuffed unclean,
soft curls matted down to stone,
infancy primed for the nightly grind,
innocence excised —
no other life
Cairo roads their home.
in the cold lap of El Hussein,
for the entrepreneurial roam,
the beginner’s hustle
for pennies from abroad.
Thrown a pound, a quarter,
a euro — sparks
to fly through brick alleyways
catching the souvenir man
with the frowning face,
Nefertiti’s bust (Made in PRC)
staying whole despite the snap
from jagged ground,
give me coins I know!
a cold exchange
profit from small
to large hands —
mere street regulation,
just like any other job.
Light the sheesha
to smoke him out,
make him lots of cash,
coal ash patted
off a yellow dress,
by El Hussein.
as almonds were tossed
into steaming sahlab,
lips licked with every plunging sliver,
small eyes stirred along with the spoon,
but no cheap roles
were being acted out
by this one,
I bought her a roast chicken.
Seated in the warm lap
of foreign compassion,
negligible morsels torn carefully, torn
off the poor poultry’s bones-
congested throat, greasy lips
solved with stacks of cotton tissues,
Pepsi sipped casually,
she nodded to the lecture,
you could be a doctor, wallahy,
you could leave this place.
Allah, the pleasures of benevolence!
No such oratory
was directed to her before,
surely she’d remember -
smile, wave cute
to the stupid foreigner.
don’t aim to save the wretched child,
mocked, a righteous mockery,
irretrievable innocence shuddered
behind threatening eyes,
we gave up on you, crude child
yet, you were not the problem.
Hard-to-follow tales of hateful women,
lewd baby girls and desecration
behind the marble of the mosque
told from a child’s POV
tainted the taste of my tea
don’t tell such stories, Hend!
and, spitting, little girl,
doesn’t make you pretty!
fed to a child who does not eat —
I’m spit on.
Behind El Hussein
she blew her nose
on a mustard skirt
while Haneen prevailed,
a fearful existence.
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a love story in apathy
Curfew shuttered out and unadmitted
from passing through,
slits in a Cairo balcony
built generations past
Society was lifted in the living room,
time overthrown, no reigning fear
before I awakened to a melody,
breezing through my youth,
I listened for the very first time,
sweeter than the years of hearing,
I then rose naturally, unafraid
raw and simple,
unpolluted, unlike my Nile,
heels lifted following a flattened ankle
after the other, one more time
pointed toes to every rattle
after which a chin
touched “thud” onto smoked parquet.
The tyranny of a pelvis is overwhelming,
psychological complexes dissolve:
We watched horror stories
with characters that resembled us
splattering blue and red hue onto our walls,
Through the purple haze hatred blossomed
in every corner inhabited by the “servile”,
the offspring of poverty:
four-fingered enemies forfeiting
to heroic nationalism in camouflage, clap
clap your weary hands out
for the military,
as “brothers kill!" was chanted
But the roads were slick past 7,
reflective palettes of steel, light and dust
paved the streets in calm,
silence, silence, silence—
then honks a Peugeot
dedicated to shaking us out
of wet dreams
of the respective Pharaohs
our own creation
the nerve of them,
locking us in our homes
forced to watch their comings
lost in the details
of our nation’s tragedy, lost
plummeting into comparisons
of Bangladesh or
- Allah forbid! -
Fairy tales with characters
that resembled us,
myths binding us
to our squalorly to-come.
But nothing passed through our room,
disinterested and disconnected
in aims of sanity
voice too hoarse
to verbalize apathy,
our stories mattered more
the nights tucked
in the suburbs of media exploited chaos
of it all,
All was dampened cushions,
amber skin compared to the rough of palm,
freckles on youth-bent noses,
sighs annihilating the desires of philosophy,
a Mounir track and muted lies—
the audible fabric
enrobing our search for truth
in a ragged city of falsehood,
the fleeting hours
at changing angles (and shades),
beneath the moon:
Straight ahead, sunset red, perched atop the Sea.
Chin lifted, shying away, full and apricot.
Neck bent upwards, silver and distant, taunting
Far from our streets lined
in mangled spirits, neglected minds,
we swam clueless as the moon,
classifying parrot fish in the coral ruins
of our tourism industry,
even the Sea
as our minds.
Everyone in this country is lying to one another.
You know that feeling you get from super philosophical, life-affirming quotes? Don’t just let that feeling reside in your psyche for seconds, then fade, losing its potential to become praxis, inevitably falling into the realm of almost mindless (mindless!!!) cliche. Think about those quotes. Find more like them. Read full texts that change your perceptions about the world, other people and your own self, first and foremost. Let those ideas swell in your mind. Let them breathe and come to life, if not in your behavior, then in your outlook. Believe them, genuinely. Let them change your entire self for the better, Mobilize. Rise.
Don’t just re-blog and let the idea die. That’s not the point of it.
Anonymous said: Do you know the true source of your inspiration and literary prowess? It doesn't just come out of thin air. You serve a purpose. If you have an open mind, visit truthcontestcom and read "The Present". What it says will change your view of the world forever.
I read the first few pages then skimmed through the rest of the book. It’s nice. It’s like an over-simplified, somewhat romanticized distillation of everything I learned in my years studying philosophy. If you actually look at these postulations the right way and manage to internalize them and live by them naturally, which is something I’ve been working on for the past year before even knowing about this text, your life really will change. Completely. The text isn’t as wishy-washy or sophistic as it may seem, actually. But this manual, or even catechism of sorts, will not change your life if it isn’t proven to you on a day-to-day basis, if you don’t come to these conclusions completely on your own. Thanks for sending me the message. I don’t know if it’s one of those copy & paste spam-joints or not, but it really made my day… The first quote in the text genuinely affirmed something I just realized today after a clash I had. The text gave me at least a bit of clarity about an issue that’s been bugging me all day. Thanks.
To write poetry, I mean poetry, all you’re essentially required to do is think. Sit down with a pen and paper and reflect without stress. Do that for a few minutes. Better yet, a night or two. If you’re especially patient with your words, which you should be, do this everyday for the course of two months. Shit, think for a year about the poem. Think and write along. Don’t sit around and only think, which is interestingly enough an idiotic thing to do as a writer, think and write. Apart from distilling (and surprisingly, detailing) the memory, idea or concept you hope to write a poem about, you’ll then know how to utilize it to the fullest extent. Eventually, a theme will be discovered amidst the abstractions. The poem’s very own sweet, distinctive voice will begin to resonate through your thoughts. The beginning, middle and end will form themselves effortlessly, if not logically (to you). You’ll thread a figurative and structural flow through each word, line, stanza and chapter calmly and confidently. The rhythm your poem is asking for will begin to play in your mind. You’ll no longer just want to say something, you’ll need to. And you’ll know just how.
It all sounds simple and almost magical. But, coaxing your literary frame of mind into crafting art from mere memories or ideas takes unbearable dedication. Your mind has to be dedicated to the piece all day… for days on end. Can you be that patient?
Everything could go wrong, Alexandria.
You could put me down, run my body through garbage
day and night, throw neina through 24 hour chaos,
tell her not to demand her age and the age of others,
feed her cement bread, put false dates on her inhalers,
line the lanterns giddo picked from Mansheya
twist his knee tripping over potholes in Ragheb,
lay him in a bed and give him nothing but a screen
projecting murder, falsehood and division,
strip him of his value, give him chicken feed for retiring,
keep my uncle up all night watching your sky put out every star,
worried about a tomorrow unpromised for his children,
young men bleak with the fresh wrinkles of failure
yet to come, always more to come.
Put my sisters through the fear
of never being loved without secrecy,
safe behind closed doors of “religious officiality”
make them check their expiry dates, wondering
how much their value on the market of women
Birth children in littered alleys,
mind too molded to the street
to know their lives are plentiful
the representation of where we
have gone wrong,
a coin thrown to them
in repulsion and anger;
anger over what exactly?
I’ve always wanted to know.
Drown us all
then humor us with tears of Winter,
polishing our streets before they’re muddied
all over again.
But when the sky over the Mediterranean
grows apricot, palms a shadow in the maghrebeyya,
sea still and silver, dressed up
in clouds and embellished
with golden lights, showing off—
we forget it all
and understand why,
despite it all, Alexandria,
we can’t leave.
Learning to take it slow.
I’m so utterly consumed by this idea that it’s somehow become its own separate entity tagging along in all of my travels, accompanying me into every dream.
don’t drown me, Alexandria
Alexandria tugged silver sardines onto the shore
a disappointment she witnessed by the sand
an hour spent in wait
for the net to reach land
by the transgressing microbuses
coughing death into her sea,
we waited and watched
and tiny silver sardines twinkled
under the clouded sky,
I worshipped her
while watching her shake
from utter disappointment.
I cried elegies for my city
when a woman with a tied up head
lost a shoe to a puddle by tram Victoria,
granny begging in brown chuckled
sense of humor alive
despite the cataract clouding her life
and the grit in her crumbling teeth.
My people have nothing but Allah
keeping them sane.
A boy who spoke emotional tales of science
muttered fears between sedative clouds.
On her boulders he rummaged
through theories to back up all of God,
and I understood my self,
the events around
and inside of us
were beginning to make sense.
Give me one day
where I need not maneuver cautiously
through my own streets,
no mother’s-body-part cussing
in the name of Allah and vindicated manhood.
One day without dreams of meat
being unrealistic, one day
without the hunger that’s lead to animal methods
of survival, immorality normalized.
Protect me for one day, Alexandria,
carry me through your moody Sea,
don’t let me drown—
Don’t drown me,
don’t drown me, Alexandria.
lessons from a grandmother who never dreamt
"No, no, no!" Neina put her hands to her chest. Taken by what I had just said, she closed her eyes tight, trying to escape the condition she had conjured up in her mind. “She lived to be 145?!” She shook her head melodramatically, pushing her plate aside from a loss of appetite. “May Allah never show anyone such an awful fate!” Neina was dead serious. The idea of living another 70 years thoroughly terrified her. “What was her memory like before she died?”
"I don’t know if I believe this, but they say it was perfect. No Alzheimer’s or anything,"
"Oh no!" She gripped the jam jar as if it would keep her steady. "Poor woman wasn’t given the blessing of forgetfulness?! No, don’t let me imagine it!" If you had gone up to her that very moment and told her you were stuck with a rare terminal disease, she wouldn’t have shown you the same sympathy. There wasn’t an ailment more severe to her than old age.
"You wouldn’t want to live another 70 years, neina?” Looking up, she focused on my face with a pleasant balance of confusion and utter condescension.
"Don’t ask me that question, my child! I don’t want to imagine it, 7atta.” She shook her head like she was being offered a portion of pork feet, if not repulsed, then completely put off. “Let’s not discuss this anymore, by Allah,” Her soap opera reaction was pure dahab.
"Why not live to be 145, neina?” I asked again with an air of sarcasm. The conversation would surely be teased out of her.
"I can’t, habibti. There’s no way!” Her “no” lasted for about a minute. “75 extra years in our times would’ve been liveable, maybe, But not in yours!”
"Our time’s more difficult?" I pretended like it was my very first time hearing this.
She nodded furiously. “Of course it is! The odds are against you kids!” She started reciting supplications for our poor, wretched generation. “Poor kids. No jobs, no marriage, the streets are dirty, people are unkind. Poor kids. Tab’an, our days were better,”
"Maybe they were "better" in that sense, okay. But could you really say the odds weren’t against you at all, neina?” I passed her the translucent container of salty, white cheese.
She received the Tupperware nonchalantly. “No, they weren’t. Really.”
I nodded. “Then why wasn’t it possible for you to become what you wanted to become?” Of the things I knew about my beloved grandmother, I had absolutely no knowlege of her dreams. I didn’t know what she dreamt of or if she ever really dreamt at all. I just assumed she did.
"What did I want to become?" She was asking me. Looking me in the eyes, wondering if I knew. “I never wanted to become anything.” She shrugged and bit into her half moon brown bread.
Neina had her answer ready and drew it out quickly. “I never had the opportunity to aspire in the first place, habibti.” She spoke as if it were a matter of fact, as if it were something she didn’t need to even say.
I didn’t know what to say.
Until recently, I had no idea what it felt like to live solely off of the hope of fulfilling one very specific dream. Now that I do, I couldn’t imagine regressing to the mindstate I used to inhabit. It made me wonder, are most people like neina?
Naturally, the most potentially remarkable women are the ones struck with the most devastating conditions. Neina fell neatly into this pleasant cliche. Neina’s mother passed away when she neina was still a kid. Being the only girl in a family of seven, she was responsible for more than what normal children these days can even comprehend. Obviously, with a tight domestic schedule, she was forced to leave school before completing her i’dadeyya. After which it only became a matter if time until she was wed off.
"Of course after I got married, I became even more dedicated to my domestic duties. I did everything." She tilted her head back slightly, playing with the butter knife. "I stayed here for the kids. That’s my only dream, actually; to raise my children well. It’s all I ever wanted. I stuck around just for them."
Neina had been fleshing out a ton of regrets lately, primarily regarding my grandfather. Generally, giddo and neina had become noticeably grumpier than they used to be. They had both went from handing us candy and termis, to imposing upon us grim advice on how to treat others. They were from an age of trustworthy, simple Egyptians. The Egypt we now live in isn’t theirs. They fear the theif, the harasser and the terrorist. All their recent ideologies revolved around their fear of this foreign, squalorly Alexandria. Their grumpiness not only affected us, but also one another. Neina’s old wounds were just now beginning to anger her.
“What do you mean you ‘stuck around’? Did you want to leave, aslan?” I slumped my shoulders.
She shrugged, pretending she didn’t want to go on.
"You know, a woman stays grounded just for her children. I stuck around just for them."
"But, wait, you didn’t answer me. Were you ever interested in leaving, neina?" I wondered if I had gone too far pressing on with this question. However, if she proceeded to answering it openly, I was 100% sure she would eventually steer the conversation into the topic of her marital woes.
"Of course I did! I thought about it a million times. He waa awful to me. His entire family. I was locked up, you know? They all lived in this building. Can you imagine that? And woould he ever stand up for me? No, never! And you ask if I ever wanted to leave. If I ever thought about leaving. Of course I did!” She waved her hand at my apparent naivete.
"But, did you ever think about it enough to actually plan to do it, neina?”
She paused for a moment. “No, never”
Egyptian women hardly ever leave. They hardly ever “escape” or run away. They hardly ever place their interests above their children’s. I remembered a friend of mine telling me about the day her mother ran out on her and her father. Knees bent, sitting on the curb, she called her mother “selfish” and “destructive”. Bearing nothing but bitterness, she couldn’t excuse her behavior even when she imagined what it felt like to wear her mother’s shoes. A mother must let her dream go if it interferes with the happiness of her family. It was an implicit notion to most people. No need to even elaborate…
It was apparent neina’s mind had gone elsewhere, much as mine had. Eyes far, she said, “Even if I had left. Where would I have gone? I’m uneducated, so I have no job, no money, no way to support my children, no home of my own. Would I go to my brother’s home? No, he has his own children, I couldn’t take mine there. I had nowhere to go. And even if I did? Where would I go to escape the talk?”
"Ah," I didn’t have much to say. All I ever did was complain about how my autonomy was supposedly stomped on the day my husband told me to pull out my nose ring. It made me put things into perspective. But more so, it made me wonder how much longer women will have to "put things in perspective" in order to willingly settle for the degree of liberty they were given. ‘We’re better off than others’, we say. But, it could be better. Why can’t it just be better? I had left neinaand visited my own issues.
Neina had grown restless, I could tell. “Yallah, alhamdulillah,” She started clearing the table, putting lids on respective containers then refilling the fridge.
“Alhamdulillah,” I said genuinely.
"Like I said, all I wanted was for my kids to be brought up well. To know that when they have children, they’ll be just as good if I had brought them up myself. That they’ll be intelligent and enduring. Alhamdulillah, God made my dream come true.” She patted me on the shoulder and took the plates into the kitchen.