The Moon Is Not Your Plate
With shredded bits of stars clinging to your fork,
I watched you try to swallow the sky.
Your mother always said you were hungry for things
you could not have.
This world was not built for you to stomach.
As you cough up fireflies
remember that light cannot be chewed or digested.
The Universe cannot be contained
within an ice cream cone, so chew your planets
The way he used to back then
Brittle and folded over
He’s forgotten how
And read her aloud
Become so soft and quiet…
That it’s stifling.
l o s e
©2013 KUDiYAH CA’LYSSe. All Rights Reserved
reasons why I am a shitty best friend:
I haven’t told my best friend
about all the boys I’ve slept with
or how much her boyfriend bothers me
and I think she deserves so much better than him
and she doesn’t know that my scars aren’t fading
she doesn’t know I went to the hospital because I stopped eating
and I keep my cigarette stash a secret from her
because her father is a smoker
and I know she disapproves
and sometimes I don’t reply to her text messages
because I know she’ll know something is wrong
but she’s still my best friend
and I know she’d still be my best friend if I told her all of this
but sometimes it’s easier to keep things a secret
when I used prescription drugs to get high
my hands would go numb
and my vision would blur
as if I had been spinning in circles
like I did as a kid
and there’s nothing like the feeling
of not quite knowing your limbs
and having each movement you make
be an adventure
I miss the heaviness of my tongue
and the numbness of my lips
which only you could kiss away
but I do not use prescription drugs
to get high anymore
and you do not kiss my lips
to the drunk guy on the subway who repeatedly tried to grab my ass
as children, we were paper dolls.
while our clothes had been lovingly tailored
from the pages of old storybooks, our bodies
were made from monday’s newspapers:
we were the headlines that emblazoned
the disappearance of yet another young girl,
the accusatory editorials faulting ‘promiscuous clothing’
for still another’s rape and murder.
such was the way we came to learn ourselves:
we were kitty genovese. we were jenny isford.
we were madeline mccann, and at age 11
i was taught how to break someone’s nose,
“just in case”. the fear has been tattooed into our skin
so many times over that many of us know nothing else
and while i have since grown out of fairytale dresses
i still reflexively put my keys between my knuckles
when walking home alone at night, just in case.
so when you call me pet names and lean in too close
you’ll have to forgive me for not thanking the gods
before offering to fuck you right then and there.
and if, upon rejection, the pet names give way to words
like ‘bitch’ and ‘slut’ and ‘whore’ then so be it,
because i am no longer a fragile paper doll
yet the fear is still sewn into my skin-
and i imagine it will always be that way
so long as there are people like you
leering at girls on a subway car
as though they’re something you’d like to eat.
i am certainly not yours
and i owe you absolutely nothing.
“Write down: I am Arab my I.D. number, 50,000 my children, eight and the ninth due next summer --Does that anger you? Write down: Arab. I work with my struggling friends in a quarry and my children are eight. I chip a loaf of bread for them, clothes and notebooks from the rocks. I will not beg for a handout at your door nor humble myself on your threshold --Does that anger you? Write down: Arab, a name with no friendly shortcut. A patient man, in a country brimming with anger. My roots have gripped this soil since time began, before the opening of ages before the cypress and the olive, before the grasses flourishes. My father came from a line of plowmen, and my grandfather was a peasant who taught me about the sun's glory before teaching me to read. My home is a watchman's shack made of reeds and sticks --Does my condition anger you? There is no gentle name, write down: Arab. The colour of my hair, jet black-- eyes, brown-- trademarks, a headband over a keffiyeh and a hand whose touch grates rough as rock. My address is an unarmed village with nameless streets. All its men are in the field and quarry --Does that anger you? Write down: Arab. You have stolen my ancestors vineyards and the land I once ploughed with my children, leaving my grandchildren nothing but rocks. Will your government take those too, as the rumour goes? Write down, then at the top of Page One: I do not hate and do not steal but starve me, and I will eat my assailant's flesh. Beware of my hunger and of my anger.”—
Identity Card, Mahmoud Darwish (1964)
Written when the poet was 22 years old.
(John Asfour translation)
the grown-ups are afraid of us
the grown-ups say we’re an epidemic
we find them hiding
in their SUVs
or behind their TV trays
or under their desks at work
and they come out with their hands up
and their eyes sewn shut
they squirm and say
we’ve got it all wrong
there is too much passion
in our suicides
and too much ice
in our murders
we have no censor
and no off-button
we’re only going down
if we self-destruct
and it shouldn’t hurt to ask
but they rip our questions from our throats
like cheap necklaces
just to hang themselves with another lie
they don’t care enough to answer us
we have no home
and no family
we have no temperance
and no fear
we can’t live like they do
we can’t love like they do
the grown-ups are afraid of us
they should be
“Sometimes, there are moments, pockets of time where time stalls and the space between us is drawn into insignificance, as if fate’s very own hands had created a black hole and swallowed the distance between us. In these moments, I sit and watch, not with my eyes but with my heart as you sculpt the silence into something so beautiful, it tears away all shreds of reason leaving the sweetest sense of belonging to crawl beneath my skin.”—
I’m not your sweetheart. I won’t be your shadow. I was not made from the bones of thine ribs. I came from my mother, just as you came from yours. I breathe in oxygen and expel carbon dioxide. I have ten fingers and ten toes and a head on my shoulders that carries the most important part of me: my brain, my mind, my thoughts, my being. Worlds exist inside me and I am my own sovereign. I command myself and no other shall command me.