Monthly Archives: July 2010

The women I never met.


Still make me cry. Sit in your airconditioned rooms, away from even the heat and dust of the motion of cities you have appropriated but still don’t own. Ignore the need to produce, produce, produce all day from the weary head you just want to hold in your own arms, for a peaceful universe within.
Take refuge in poetry sound, the eyes of prophets domestic, mundane and ordinary, the ones who have found meaning in communication, who are the real historians of my past. I am not white, nor black, nor any color I can understand in the palette of pain they refer to.
Sit in rooms and cry, suddenly, when all you wanted was breakfast. A woman in Philly speaks to you, beyond the borderlines of my arabness and her americanness and our womanness.
This is a beautiful poem I heard today. I link your thoughts to both the sound and the image and the reading of it. Thank you for taking the time.

By Nikki Finney

I read poetry in Philly
for the first time ever.
She started walking up,
all the way, from in back
of the room.

From against the wall
she came,
big coat, boots,
eyes soft as candles
in two storms blowing.

Something she could not see
from way back there but
could clearly hear in my voice,
something she needed to know
before pouring herself back out
into the icy city night.

She came close to get a good look,
to ask me something she found
in a strange way missing
from my Black woman poetry.

Sidestepping the crowd
ignoring the book signing line,
she stood there waiting
for everyone to go, waiting
like some kind of Representative.

And when it was just the two of us
She stepped into the shoes of her words:

You write real soft.
Spell it out kind.
No bullet holes,
No open wounds,
In your words.
How you do that?
Write like you never been hit before?
But I could hardly speak,
all my breath held ransom
by her question.

I looked at her and knew:
There was a train on pause somewhere,
maybe just outside the back door
where she had stood, listening.

A train with boxcars
that she was escorting somewhere,
when she heard about the reading.

A train with boxcars
carrying broken women’s bodies,
their carved up legs with bullet riddled
stomachs momentarily on pause
from moving cross country.

Women’s bodies;
brown, black and blue,
laying right where coal, cars,
and cattle usually do.

She needed my answer
for herself and for them too.

We were just wondering
how you made it through
and we didn’t?

I shook my head.
I had never thought about
having never been hit
and what it might have
made me sound like.

You know how many times I been stabbed?

She raised her blouse
all the way above her breasts,
the cuts on her resembling
some kind of grotesque wallpaper.

How many women are there like you?
Then I knew for sure.

She had been sent in from the Philly cold,
by the others on the train,
to listen, stand up close,
to make me out as best she could.

She put my hand overtop hers
asked could we stand up
straight back to straight back,
measure out our differences
right then and there.

She gathered it all up,
wrote down the things she could,
remembering the rest to the trainload
of us waiting out back for answers.
Full to the brim with every age
of woman, every neighborhood
of woman, whose name
had already been forgotten.

The train blew his whistle,
she started to hurry.

I moved towards her
and we stood back to back,
her hand grazing the top
of our heads,
my hand measuring out
our same widths,
each of us recognizing
the brown woman latitudes,
the Black woman longitudes
in the other.

I turned around
held up my shirt
and brought my smooth belly
into her scarred one;
our navels pressing,
marking out some kind of new
Equatorial line.


Michael responds to my poem…fun.


I launched my second book recently. Will upload a link on where to buy and reviews and so on
as we figure that out this week. At the launch, we had several poeticians read and a few lovely musicians perform acoustic music. So much fun. There was over a 150 people in the audience and everyone was respectful and interested and applauded. I was very impressed with the Beiruti crowds and their respect and attention and interest in spoken word and poetry.
I read several pieces and one of them is “the rules”. A poem for my single girlfriends, telling them when to not love a man who is not available to them..its a bit heavy apparently the poem and ive had several “traditional” men from the audience get a bit annoyed, claiming not all men are like that and I should take it easy, etc. I never intended to bash men at large, it was a single piece of advice about a certain type of selfish man.
is all.
One of the best responses I got was from Michael, young Michael. He came up to me after the reading, gushing, telling me he loved the words I poured out and was incredibly sweet and moving. It made me shy…and then, he sent me a poem! He wrote a long poem in response to the rules poem I had read.
I promised him I would post it up here. So here goes. His bio is now up on the bio page of this site and I will first share my poem and then his, so that the comparison is evident and clear. Enjoy.
Thank you Michael for such energy and charm and compassion and for loving poetry!

The Rules.
For all my lovely single girlfriends.

Never love a man who has not called to
anxiously check whether you did get sick and could possibly be in bed
retching your inner guts while making excuses for
his busy self, traveling.
Never love a man who answers your
explosive letters with one liners
that lead nowhere,
who wants to rip your clothes off only when they are
fishnet stockings and does not
encourage you to hold his hand
in public, never let that
man be your waking hours,
be your insidious dreams in morning desire,
never ask him how he is seven times in an evening because
he was tired a week earlier, never jump off the
tired couch with your tired hands
on your tired feet
to give him the ease and comfort of soul with your
magic fingers that heal, never cancel your work, your
dates, your coffees, your time
alone for a man who forgets to check his phone
who does not hide in office corners to call you,
never buy him little gifts you see everywhere, because somehow everything, everything
now reminds you of him, even little trinkets
he most certainly will
hate become objects of worship you claim he ought to have
in his home
without you.
How he needs a larger mug for the tea you imagine
drinking together. Never fret about what to give give give
a man who will always leave you,
never look in the mirror and see your curves through his eyes
wondering if he can notice in the dark
the extra hairs you forgot to shave
the blemishes you can’t erase
the three pounds you may have gained, the skin
stretches, the flesh dimples,
and never let yourself make love in the dark, even if it
feels like the only way,
never wait on him, never wait for him, never
hang breathless wondering what
he is going to say, staring at ceilings while he moves in
other worlds ambivalent,
never let yourself be curious as
to what he’s thinking, word by word,
action by action,
deciphering minutiae of nothing to the madness in
your analysis, play by play,
while he books tickets
to amuse himself,
makes plans that are a schedule for person one.

Never tell him you love him
you want him
you miss him
you think of him
in all the languages he can speak
you ache for him
and never let him into your room, to come
and go as he pleases,
to flee and then return at midnight to stay, never
ever deny yourself love for him, deny yourself
food, music, magic, the
sisterhood that is your ancestry,
books and aloneness and your own inner deity,
never have his children,
never let go of your private
oceans and jungles and deserts to chase his name,
and never,
never ever I say,
never admit that this too is a poem for him.

–And THIS is Michael Oghia’s response—

Composed in response to Hind Shoufani’s poem, “The Rules” dedicated to all the kind guys out there waiting to be noticed.

What of sweet guys, and sensitive sides?
And the compliments about your shoes that are said in near silence,
For fear of man and beast, and the hybrid in-between.
And all the flowers we pick from the side of the road.
And all the magic we create in the bedroom.
And all the caring kisses we plant on your hand,
Your face,
Your neck,
Your head…
To complement the embrace from behind.
And all the shy accompaniment to shoe shopping we actually like.
And all the smiles we paint on your face with our stupid jokes.
And all the embarrassment that’s caused when your heel breaks, and you fall down.
And all of the hands we extend to get you back up.
And all the anxiety you don’t have to feel when you are late for work.
And all the times we lose ourselves in the fragrance of your perfume.
And all those times when we notice how your hair is just a little bit shorter,
Or the book you are reading,
Or that cool thing you did with your eye shadow,
Or those new earrings,
Or the smaller dress size,
Or the bigger dress size that we don’t mind,
Because we still think you’re beautiful just the way you are,
And you make our heart beat as if it were running from God,
When you walk into the room and look at us.
And the hairs you might have missed that we find surprisingly sexy.
And the days when we get to spend time with your mother, and enjoy it,
And the kiss on your finger when you break a nail.
And the toilet seat we put down so you don’t fall in,
And the coffee we surprised you with before a long day, to supplement the tequila we shared after it.
And the beautiful poetry we write, swearing it is not for you.
And the meals we make to cheer you up when you have stomach cramps, bloody tampons, and heartache.

But what of how I feel?

What of your embrace we cannot possibly replace?
Or for sadness and despair that no one can repair?
What of the nights of sadness and fear, comforted?
What of eyes filled with tears, shed in pleasure and in pain,
Breathing emotion into life, but scornfully disapproved of?
Hidden from view, but open to all,
Inconceivable, yet in plain sight,
Nearing the edge of eternity, of desolation, into the oblivion searching for the light to show us the way,
Demanding the answer, but only getting another question, never to be fulfilled.

And what of love and passion?
And the gentleness they require?
The urges and the temptation that always seem so dire,
Or the madness and excitement they create,
Getting us high on anticipation and desire,
Burning in an intrinsic fire of commitment, caressing, of respect for her,
Of orgasmic sensation,
Of getting the most satisfaction of holding her afterward,
Hearing her breathe as she falls asleep into you.

What of the self-conscious?
Or the role that goes unfilled,
Instead replacing it with one of responsibility and tenderness,
Replacing sport with romance,
And sex with lovemaking,
And numbers with only one.
What of virginity and purity?
Why are they only reserved for a woman?
And the child we dream of raising,
Why deny us the faith?
The courage?
The will?
The ability?

What of elevation and nice words,
Chiseling you into a perfect sculpture,
Only to be constantly bombarded with loneliness and false-hopes,
Eroding you,
Something that will not go away because the world is often not so kind,
And time is a cruel bully getting cheap laughs out of kicking you down.

Then you sit in the artist’s studio as a beautiful wonder,
This forsaken masterpiece.
Gathering dust as the obnoxious paintings around you are taken,
Yet you go unnoticed.

And what then of disillusionment?
Standing out, yet not fitting in.
Being accepted, yet not loved.
Existing, yet not being appreciated.
What of every weight lifted in vein,
Of every rose cultivated, wasted,
Of every poem wrote, read by blinded eyes,
Of songs sung with a self-conscious voice that falls on deaf ears,
Of nights waiting, only to be abandoned…
What of a never-ending numbness,
One that hinders even the strongest apathy,
Burning into its skin the chains of this loneliness that manifests itself as a poverty
Whose hunger no wheat can satisfy,
And whose thirst no water will quench.

And all around you, you see angels courting demons,
But inside, all you have is a black hole
Robbing you of your iron will,
Your self-confidence,
Your understanding.
Pulling you down into a deep, dark place,
For which no one can escape,
Where word and reality dance together,
But neither shows up at the ball.
They lie,
They cheat,
They go to the same place,
But do not leave together.

And when the perfect heart beats quickly so that everyone will notice,
No one does.
It self-internalizes this hurt,
Its sadness,
Its disappointment…
And it ceases to beat at all.

Inner torment.
What is wrong?
“Why!?” you ask, repeatedly,
Constantly analyzing the failure before you.
You follow the rules,
And even break them.
You make new ones,
You make your own.


Maybe she never really knew me.
Maybe she never really saw me.
Even I ask, “Who am I?
What the hell am I doing here?”

You don’t know me.

And when this heart comes running in with a larger mug,
For the tea he imagines drinking with her—together,
The mug falls and shatters at the sight,
This apathetic heart—crushed,
Breaking like fate destroying the perfect wave,
By introducing it to the shallow shore.

It sees the girl whose face was once his canvas illustrated with smiles, sad.
Caused by the world around her,
Culminating with one rotten heart,
And an ugly soul…
The foul decisions we make.
One that cares about nothing,
Not even her.
Just him.

Yet this broken heart feels no sympathy.

Bitter as it beats.


That is all it feels.