Poems

Poems

LITERATURE AND CREATIVE WRITING

Poems

Andrew Riad

April 2019

I wrote the following poem on a trip in Paris. My love for Paris has always been almost palpable and yet every time I witness the glorification and worship for the Louvre, my heart breaks a little for Egypt. The Louvre houses one of, if not, the largest collection of Egyptian artifacts outside of Egypt in the world. While a lot of the artifacts are found objects, being obtained “legally”, quite a few are stolen. Regardless of how the artifacts were acquired, I don’t want to see or hear people say “I want to see Egypt” when visiting the Louvre. You will not find Egypt in there, it does not belong in there, and will never belong anywhere else other than Egypt.

.تحيا مصر

Profiter du Louvre

Bask in the glory of the Louvre!
Indulge in the history and the stories
In a building holding
Stolen stories
And reconstructed histories.
Aller! Profiter du Louvre!
Profiter des souvenirs volés
Profiter des artefacts volés
De mon pays.
تحيا مصر
When you go into the Louvre
Remember Egypt.
When you witness the glory
Of the sarcophagus
The power of the sphinx head,
The paramount statues,
Remember that the mummies do not lie there,
The pharaohs do not live there,
History does not belong in there
But in the blood of the Egyptians,
In the depth of the Nile,
In the speck of sand of each pharaonic pyramid.
تحيا مصر
Quand t’amuser et profiter du Louvre,
N’oublie pas L’Egypte.
Quand vous voyez la statue suprême
N’oublie pas L’Egypte.
Quand vous marchez dans le Louvre,
descendant des souvenirs d’une ancienne civilisation
c’était une fois en Egypte.
Cela a déjà appartenu à l’Egypte.
I am not asking to return our memories.
I am asking you to remember.
So go,
Enjoy the beauty of the Louvre.
But remember,
You are not stepping into what was once Egypt,
Though it may seem like it.
Remember that you are walking down
A hallway filled with artifacts and memories
Of a civilization that did not belong on this land.
،مصر
لك حبي وفؤادي
Mais,
Aller! Profiter du Louvre! C’est incroyable!
! مصر أم الدنيا

Click here to see a performance of the poem in front of the Louvre in Paris.

The following two sonnets come from my working collection of “skeletons of sonnets,” which include a plethora of poems built in the molds of the sonnet form. The following poems discusses a topic that I hold close to my heart: the implications and limitations of a toxic manly ideal and its detrimental effect on young boys. They currently do not have titles.

If boys will be boys
Then let us wash away our tears,
Pick up dolls for toys,
Release our built-up repressed years.

If boys will be boys, then
Let us write away toxicity,
Paper to heart, to pen,
Creating authenticity.

If boys will be boys, then do not
Mold your illusion onto us,
Or ingrain the manly thought.
If boys will be boys, let’s discuss 

Redefining this toxic manly ideal,
Prohibiting boys from expressing what they feel.  

 *

As a man you should always aim
To manifest and manipulate.
Manufacture a man slaughter on shame,
Mandatorily mandate your fate. 

Maneuver a manageable ego,
Make it manifolded and manipular.
A manticore of sorts, let it show,
Make it manacle, never peculiar.

Manage a masculine mantra,
Use a mandrill to ingrain the manliness.
Mangle and mantel, it into the man Tantra.
Make it mantic and filled with happiness. 

Fine tune these manly instructions, the work begins
To create nothing but emotionally suppressed mannequins.

Andrew Riad is a first-year undergraduate student at New York University Abu Dhabi.

Three Poems

Three Poems

POETRY

Three Poems

Alton Ramsey

April 2019

Everything Must Change

The Purple rain comes from the clouds
No Sun to light up the sky
And doves cry
A Sign O the Tymes
Yesterday’s page I just cannot turn

“Endless Love”

Yesterday, I dreamt about tomorrow
But somehow got caught up in today
Because it was just before midnight
When I actually fell asleep

She told me I was beyond the stars
The best thing imaginable
Her Knight in shining armor
Made her to feel of sleeping beauty
Only to awaken and find
I never knew her at all.

Dear Mama

You’ve always praised just how good I was in math, but as time goes on, I just can’t find the right equation to explain how everything about my being is so divided. Times and times again the numbers to that day, that hour, that moment play over and over again.

My heart is one vast ocean of emptiness, arms far stretched, I cannot let go of your hand. The plan is now changed, there’s much I seem not to understand.  You said I could demand this mountain cast itself into the sea, I asked only that it block the way to this now walk in the valley.

Warmth in words as family and friends tell of your wisdom and goodness, I am reminded that many in this room have not held the burden of this cup. I am frayed on all ends, sleep never begins this dream is not real, but all there is around me says that I am wide awake. Too many days past, there were so many things to say.

“What shall you do when you have no mother?” were your words of prophecy, as I marched onward thinking time would always sit at my side, and now my life seems a stand still forever.

Prayer after prayer as each teardrop falls, I wish now to see you again. Your voice hovers, the air is filled with your spirit, I know that you are there.

Alton Ramsey is an American-born Georgia native, currently living in Abu Dhabi. He is a consultant by day, poet, artist, and person of film by night. After landing in the UAE in 2011, he officially began life behind the mic at Rooftop Rhythms. He was recently chosen as Master of Ceremony for poetry performances at Louvre Abu Dhabi and currently honors a mentorship with poets throughout the Emirates.

He has been happily married to wife Benita for over 16 years and has a beautiful 5-year-old daughter, Morgan Iman.

Three Poems

Three Poems

POETRY

Three Poems

Dorian Paul Rogers

March 2019

To Kill a Mourning Dove

They say God gives
gone loved ones back
through symbols, images, and lucid dreams.
Never thought I’d pull the trigger of that Walmart BB gun
my cousin, T, handed me that one Thanksgiving weekend in 1994.  

I pumped five extra times
so I could give that docile-looking dove
the good thumping I thought it deserved. 

Thought it would thud on the ground
after the first fired pellet,
but it either was in shock
or refused to be moved from its hatchlings nearby.
It just perched on.
Had to hit it three more times
before it fell resiliently.

My mom thinks of her mother
as a small white butterfly,
a patch of God’s handkerchief,
attached to her car windshield as we drive to church. 

“There’s Jean”, she said. 

I smirk the smile of a disbeliever
and listen to her story
slightly jealous because I have yet to find my symbol,
or maybe I have already killed the sign of mine.

Squatter’s Rights

No one was occupying your heart
so I moved right in
changed the locks
fixed the broken right leg of
that sunken IKEA couch
Ripped off wallpaper
laid the primer and semi-gloss paint myself
Even made accent walls

I’m no crook or conman
I beautified your neighborhood
One less derelict domain
I have my rights too
You left it disheveled
like you had no intentions of coming back. 

Utilities disconnected
I had to rig my own wiring to turn the lights back on
Steal cable from neighbors
Scrubbed those dishes with lye and Brillo pads
What about what I’ve invested?
Who will pay me back now that you’ve decided to return?

You can’t evict
a king from his conquered land
I hand-stitched this flag of mine and javelined it deep in to the topsoil 
of what used to be your front yard 

You only want it back
Because I’ve reminded you how beautiful it could be
With hedges clipped
manicured lawn
Hammock swinging between identical twin poplar trees
Fresh mulch in the flower box
I built
Mailbox with freshly painted numbers
143

You have some nerve
To call the authorities
And show them paperwork
To summon me from my new dwelling
To unburrow me from behind deep peephole
Tell the cops to surround the house and take out the Tazers
and cattle prods
Because I like it here
And I’m not going to be removed without a fight 

Your heart is my home now
And there’s nothing you can do about it

I Liv You

I
A personal pronoun
very easy to type
unless your smart phone is notating
your voice and misinterprets what you said as eye
or aye as in “me matey”
a rare occurrence since there are few pirates left in the world
This time the phone got it right. 

Liv
An eclectic name for a White girl
raised by Hippy parents with fond memories
of stomping in the mud to Hendrix riffs at Woodstock
The misspelling of live
An ironic and cryptic word to come up on the phone if you’re texting while driving
It took a little less than two seconds to unlock his phone
touch his screen after the “v”
type “e” then slide two letters to the left
hit the delete button and replace the “i” with an “o”

 

U
A homophone for you, the word he intended
but he didn’t bother to change it since it is universally accepted
in texting culture as the same thing. 
Phone suggested words
Ukulele, update, us, until
He ignored them all
presses his thumb on send
eyes glancing down quickly for less than a second
His fiancé receives the message
reads and interprets it as
I live for you
a little cheesy in her mind
She rolls her eyes as she
is a stickler for grammatical errors

Just like that Altima is accordioned
to the back of a Mack truck
horn stuck on C 
in some distorted scale slightly sharp 

She will forever live with the false guilt that he died because of her 

Born in Cleveland, Ohio, and raised in a small South Georgia town named Albany, Georgia, Dorian Paul Rogers is continuing to make a name for himself as a writer, performer, educator, and events organizer. In 2007, he helped Slam Charlotte to a first place finish at the National Poetry Slam the world’s biggest poetry slam competition. In 2005, he won the Southern Fried Poetry Slam, beating out over 100 poets in the United State’s biggest regional poetry slam competition.

His move in late 2011 to Abu Dhabi where he started the city’s first ever poetry open mic night, Rooftop Rhythms, and international features, lectures, and workshops in Germany, South Africa, Ethiopia, Singapore, Oman, and the Seychelles have given him international recognition. He holds a BS in English Education from Florida State University, an MS in Urban Teacher Leadership from Georgia State University, and an EdD in Interdisciplinary Leadership from Creighton University.

Two Poems

Two Poems

POETRY

Two Poems

Christine Jean Blain

March 2019

Music Lesson for Beginners

women in my family said I walked like drums,
said that my footsteps were the rumble and rupture of a velvet sky.
They said the earth moaned and creaked when I moved,
that the sound of my bass outweighed the lull of my sax.
And even though I tried to make my thunder whisper
still, on holy days they’d gather and pray me quiet.
Bowed their heads and hummed hymns in petition to the patron saints of silence.  
Told me that this body was cacophony
and if I ever wanted God to bless me pretty
I needed to soften the crescendo
between my waist and hips,
pull straight my curves and flatten my bulge,
so I muted my melody.
Bound my drum section in grandmas’ girdles
and squeezed my music into notes too small
 to hold the jazz of me.
I learned to hide the swell of blue note
in the bones of corsets
laced too tight to let in beat
or break
or breath.

The Ending Passage

We took boats because it was getting harder to breathe under water.
Birthing miracles through embargoes
left bellies filled with sea and salt and sand.

These hands, shackled by history, brought freedom to your shores.
How you dare speak of ‘Anchor Children’ 
to the descendants of cargo.
You must have confused stolen with stow away,
just as you have mistaken reprieve for forgiveness.
 You do not understand silence is not forgetfulness.

This hurricane is reckoning.
This earthquake is resurrection.

We took boats because
when the devil invades your home,
the last place he will expect to find you

is in his.

Christine Jean Blain is an educator, writer and performer. She is a former writer in residence at Hedgebrook as well as a co-founder of Dubai Speak Easy, a women’s poetry and performance collective. Her work can be found in African Voices magazine; SUKOON magazine; the poetry anthology A Limed Jewel; and Michael July’s photographic collection Afros: A Celebration of Natural Hair. Christine is originally from Brooklyn, NY; a recent resident of the UAE, she is currently on a one-year sabbatical, nomad-ing her way through Haiti and Ghana, volunteering, teaching, and learning as she goes.

Pathemari

Pathemari

POETRY

Pathemari

Aathma Nirmala Dious

Author’s Note: This poem is about how the first Malayalee expats used boats they called Pathemari to make their way to UAE in the 1960s: the start of the “Gulf Boom” of Kerala, a term used to explain the vast migration of those from Kerala to the Gulf region. The boats are similar to the dhow boats of the UAE.

I am pathemari
one with many names

Arabia calls me dhow
as I carried her children across the Arabian sea
watch them dive to dangerous depths
to find a grain of sand
lost from their desert home
turned pearl by the waters
not caring for the danger
perfect pearl worth dying for

as long as it feeds their families back home

I am pathemari
one with many names

The Indian traders called me dov
as I carried them from Indian ocean
to Arabian sea
watched them dive into dangerous depths
for neither the sea nor money have mercy—
found sand turned pearl by the waters
exchange spices and cloth in return
not caring for the danger
perfect pearl worth dying for

as long as it feeds their families back home

I am pathemari
one with many names

Kerala named me Pathemari—
I watched her children sneak into my belly
crouch under my sails
as if I am a promise

Of hope

Of money

Of a better life

vishvasam, athalle ellam*
Trust, isn’t that all?

I hear the prayers of their mothers
their cries in the crashing waves
tears, rain
The voices of the children
Hoarse by sea air
sing over the three months
as I took them from Indian ocean to Arabian sea

“Paisa kitteettu
           After I get money
Paisa ayachittu
           After I send money
Njan veettil varaam
           I will come home
Ennithu Jeevikam”
           Then I will live

Oh, children
Will you not live then?
There may be no coming back to the shores you came from

some could not survive me
just like the food and water didn’t
I watched them dive into dangerous depths,
With madness only seas
and survival can bring.
To remember them
I carry their cries
for their mothers
In my belly

as they sink

Lungs an anchor
Made of homesickness
How can I tell them
the weight

never

goes

away

Kerala named me Pathemari—
|I watched the survivors of my belly,
dive into dangerous depths
Swim to the shores
of Korffakkaan

Sang to keep their lungs afloat
Njangalude kudubathinu vendi,
(for our families)
Njangalude kuttikalkku vendi,
(for our kids)

They sang
while trying to make sand
From the coast of Kerala,
fisted in their hands,
pearls,
by the waters of the gulf,
not caring for the danger
or the pressure needed
to make sand grain into
perfect pearl worth dying for

as long as it feeds their families back home

I am pathemari
one with many names

Kerala named me pathemari
My sails have now become wings
I fly the skies

Over Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea

I still carry her children
To the shores
Abu Dhabi,

Dubai,

Sharjah

Airports

shores

Her children swam to
One after another
Still singing the same song
They survive me now
But the shores?
How can I tell them
Return is a journey
they may never know?

I am pathemari
one with many names

Kerala named me Pathemari
I am now woman

I am now mother

My belly carrying her children
Children that will swim out,
Womb of water,
Into the dangerous depths,
Of a shore
They don’t know
Whether to call home.
Their cries echo

Others,

I still carry with me

Oh my child
I brought you to another shore

by water

And water is never still enough
To call any shore
home.

njaan pathemari anu
enniku kore perukal undu
Njan nadinte kuttikalude kathakal
ente vayaril sookshichu vachitu undu
Ee kathakal aaru vayikum?
Ee kathakal aru parayum?

(I am pathemari
I have many names
I keep the stories of those children
Carefully in my belly
Who will read those stories?
Who will tell those stories?)

 

* that sentence is a quote from a popular Malayalam commercial

This poem was performed as part of the Hekayah 2018 festival at The Arts Center at NYUAD.

 

Aathma Nirmala Dious is a Literature and Creative writing major at New York University, Abu Dhabi. Her first poetry “book” involved folded up A4 papers stapled together with her short poems, accompanied by a bio written by her father and a passport picture at the age of 8.
A soul with a deep love for stories, she performs spoken-word poetry and writes fantasy fiction and personal essays.
  
Her cultural/national identity is a bit mixed-up as a result of  being an Indian (Malayalee) expat born and brought up in Abu Dhabi, an intersection that inspires not just the content but also the mix of English and Malayalam in her work. She’s performed at the Louvre Abu Dhabi and at the NYUAD Arts Center’s Hekayah 2018.

Aathma was voted Best New Artist for Rooftop Rhythms 2017-18 season and has written for The Gazelle, NYUAD’s student newspaper. She also enjoys photography, her violin, movies, food, and advocating for POC representation in the arts. 
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Untitled

Untitled

POETRY

Untitled

Jorge Monterrosa

February 2019

1

We are the bastard children of god,
A tribe of bereaved people mourning each other,

My family tree is kindling, for my one bedroom, cave at night,
Where I open up my flesh like a zipper and use my father’s blood
to deconstruct the composition of my life,

I was never raised,
I got boosts from strangers and hitch-hiked to twenty-one,

My heart is weary, it’s not easy always having to be strong,
My mind is tired of flexing, and I wanna cry the way my uncle said that men shouldn’t,

I look into the mirror and watch as the seasons change,
I was born on the first day of spring,
And though the flowers and the trees said otherwise—
My mother’s tears let me know that I was born in a time of letting go.

2

When I was younger, I thought if I touched a tree while looking at a star,
I could connect the two,

I wanted to understand what the neighbor’s dog was trying to say,
But it all sounded the same,
I wanted to understand what the man in the television was trying to say,
But it all sounded the same,

 I wonder where pawnshops keep silence because the ocean never spoke, but it said volumes about coming and going,

On the day my father left, I knew that he wouldn’t be coming back,

You can tell a lot by the way a door closes.

 

3

I’ve never forgotten the way the sun seeped into the dusty dim lit cathedral,
Sifting through the stain glass windows like corn turning into maza,
The battalions of uniformed flower arrangements,
The women in their long black dresses,
Veils draped over their faces like sad curtains,

The men in their dark suits,
Standing strong and dignified,
Holding their womenfolk,
Tiny rain clouds billowing in their eyes,

I’ve never forgotten the way everyone gathered around the pine coffer humming their lonely dirges,
The way I peered over the casket and observed how the stranger inside had a chin like mine,

The way I let the image of the stranger marinate inside my gut before I stepped out
to have a cigarette and a silent conversation with myself,
The content of which remains a mystery to me,

The image has never left me—
It permeates through my fingertips whenever I touch someone I know I’m gonna love,

For so long I cursed my poetry for being inspired from a dark place,
But every poem seeks to heal,
Looks inward,
Is an offering to the glassy-eyed little boy who lives on the other side of my stare,

As if my mind was bred to be a beast of burden,
I have carried the weight of emptiness,
I’m made up of scars and bone,
My pupils are the period at the end of a suicide note,
There’s a fist sized hummingbird vibrating inside my chest,
I have a continent on my shoulder,
For 24 years I held my father inside my heart by his throat.

4

I’ve seen cardboard neatly aligned on Skid Row, and I stared long enough to know that Hope is a one-way Street,

The university had walls, I did all my experimenting in the projects,
In darkened alleyways I prayed for enlightenment, or that God would manifest himself in a bowl of soup.

The moon followed me home, but it was a hypocrite because it shone the same way in those other worlds all those train tracks away,

I carried the weight of my father’s absence in the basket of my smile,
but the cicatrize was in my eyes and in my voice.

And in my silence,

Some nights I watched the television cast an inebriated shadow on the wall,
And though the figure of a mother was poorly represented,

I knew she was there,

I wasn’t properly educated, but I learned to read eyes the way that some might read books,

I don’t know the square root of 312, but I know pain so intimately that I can feel it when it’s near,

Give me curtido with my pupusas, give me Salsa with my Blues,
Textbook clenching squares trying to fit into pyramids,
Not knowing that you had to be wounded for poetry to pour out of you like that.

Jorge Monterrosa is a poet and short story writer. Originally from Los Angeles, Jorge moved to New York to study writing at Sarah Lawrence College. He graduated in 2009 with a liberal arts degree. In 2012 he graduated from Long Island University with a master’s degree in education. Jorge taught high school English in Brooklyn for six years before eventually moving to the UAE in 2015. Presently, Jorge teaches English in Abu Dhabi and is working on a manuscript.

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