Poetry Suite by Kim Roger Abi Zeid Daou

Editor Sam Preminger, Poetry, April 1st, 2020

"sister, / we are particles of life / entangled."

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Poetry by Kim Roger Abi Zeid Daou

 

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To Those Who Treat My Eyes Like Rockets

 

Your Middle Eastern stories –
Tapestries woven by the thick
Strands of my hair,
Knots never undone,
Curls and swirls,
Arabic embroideries.

Orientalist fantasies?

In the silhouette of my womanhood,
The shadows of my face,
Your Orientalist gaze
Sees a coy belly dancer
Inviting you to unveil
Elusive layers.

You wish,
I had a veil,
To add to the mystique
As you treat my eyebrows like swords,
And eyes like rockets.

Devouring me like a European devours a papaya
On Caribbean islands –
Hungry, demanding, never full.
Until you get to the seeds and
Remember your roots.

 

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Ma’ alzahar Her Transpiration

 

She has a huge black leather purse,
With dangling colorful key chains,
Of cities she always wanted to visit.

But couldn’t.

New York City,
Says her shirt
Neatly hidden under her cardigan.

But you can still decipher the words.
You chuckle, it’s tacky.
Of course you do.

She rolls her R’s,
Heavy G’s
Letters that don’t fit right.
Her language on her tongue,
She had always been its mother.
She wears
Eatar everyone recognizes,
Unsure where from.
Primes thoughts of one
Of the cafeteria ladies who fed you
On the days you forgot your pocket money.
Whose face you don’t quite remember.
Do you?

Well, she wore that eatar.

Or maybe she was a neighbor,
Who distilled sage leaves,
Sage leaves from her land
She had tucked in pillowslips.

She distilled sage leaves
In drinks
She makes for you to heal.

Ma’ alzahar in her baklavas,
Ma’ alwird in her lemonades.

Her purse remains unzipped,
She had too many things.
From water bottle, to apple,
Hand cream to bubble-gum,
و sweater just in case
She or someone needs something.

The purse jiggles as she moves,
و you hear the sound of rattling objects.

Coins? Pens?

She has had the same haircut for thirty years, maybe even more.

The haircut of women whose names you forget.
The haircut of women
Who dissolve into water
When it floods,
Always expected to.

Her smile is arranged neatly,
Flag half-mast

Half happy
Half sad.

Sage leaves that heal on her palms,
Ma’ alzahar and ma’ alwird
Her transpiration.

She counts her coins
To take the bus,
Shakes them in her hand.
They rattle.

She drops a few,
و doesn’t look back.

Her labor was never currency.

 

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Self-Portrait of an Empty Room

 

A statue, an homage
To our lady of Lebanon.
Virgin Mary
In the corner,
Gardenia and yasmeen
Flowers corsage
At her crown,
At her feet.
Floral flannel nightgowns
Stacked in the armoire
Until the flowers alternate,
Swapping orchids and roses
With lilies and lilacs
Into the dresses she would wear
At the dawn of day.
Yellow fabric
Interlaced
With white flowers,
Knitted lace.
A cross under her pillowslips,
Hand-made wool socks
She had knit
At the feet
Of her bed.
Wool like
Her head of hair.
At her dresser,
Stands her yasmeen essence,
Essence of the back
Of her neck,
Her arms,
On humid days,
Held up
Always thanking God.
In her drawer
Lays sabun baladi
Traditional hand-made soap –
Salt, lye, water and glycerin.
And some olive sabun turned green.
A whiff left by
Her step.
Sometimes,
Laced with lavender
Aroma therapy.
Sabun baladi,
Oral history,
Recipes
Bestowed
From mouth
To ear,
From generation
To another.
I lie in her bed,
And think how she, too,
Has a corsage
Of flowers and prayers
At her crown,
At her feet,
And realize
Her room
Wasn’t empty after all.

 

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قصائد الندى / qasayid alnadaa

 

Real life و alternate universe, a qasida.

Follow different orders.
Different timelines.
Different rules of conduct.

In real life,
I have three ways I can remember –
Sensory memory lasts but seconds.
Short-term memory lasts but minutes.
Long-term memory lasts but years.

Sensory memory not accessible to consciousness.

Short-term memory sullied by proactive interference,
Retroactive interference.

Long-term memory but a façade,
More conditioning و habituation
Than reminiscing و recollection.

More hegemonic histories
Written by settlers
Who were never meant to be here.

Do you know of those of us who
Died for the land;
Wrists scented
Of amber and musk,
Roses, sandalwood و yasmeen?

Or the others who told their stories in exile?

In an alternative universe
There is no memory’s decay;
You can live in a world
Where there is space for all narratives.

In real life,
The amygdala,
Two almond-shaped nuclei
Located deep within the temporal lobes,
Perceive emotions in others.

In an alternate universe,
Emotions are concrete;
To be seen on my sleeve
Tasted on my lips.
My nostalgia,
Can be tasted as sunlight nadaa on my lips.
As yasmeen and gardenia nectar
In May,
In my garden, back home.

In life,
Time is consequential
And sequential.
I am today but an accumulation
Of my experiences.

My thinking schemes
Thickened myelin sheath.

In an alternate universe,
I can tell my story backwards
Sounds emanate florescent lights;
Sound waves and hues intertwine.

I am embraced by all sensory memories.
Every memory, every perspective.

The mother of the mother of the mother
Bestow onto me
The oral history of the lands’ flowers.
Their petals bound to perfume,
The nape of
My neck –
Bound to whisper secrets of the land onto my hand.

So, stories oscillate,
Qasida after qasida,
Between limbs and skylines.
We are but the ecosystem,
We are but one.

After all, the alternate universe is the land of yasmeen
In my garden, back home.

و nadaa و nadaa و nadaa.

 

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An Ode to My Backbone

 

sister,
we are particles of life
entangled.
nociceptors respond to stimuli,
sending nerve signals
to my brain, spinal cord
intertwined backbones.
complementary as
entwined DNA strands
together
cosmos
we are taking a bite out of
the whole universe,
nothing less can satiate

  

hair dark as the night
we untangle our knots,
tell stories,
from beginning to end.
both
و vice versa.
we weave prayers into our hair
wishful blessings onto our steps,
wound around each other.
girls reaching for
stars
the universe,
a heartbeat in our palms,
the hunger of girls

 

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Header image courtesy of Meagan Boyd. To view her Artist Feature, go here.

Kim Roger Abi Zeid Daou is the author of May, a collection of short stories and poems. She is a storyteller, poet, and PhD student at McGill University. At the heart of her stories, is an exploration of perceptual biases, neuroscience, and the dynamic ways in which we create and conceptualize narratives and experiences. Hailing from Lebanon, she also seeks to creatively archive collective memory, to share intricate details that touch her in ways she wishes to touch others. For more information, please visit her website www.beirutarchivist.wordpress.com

 

 

 

 

 

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Sam Preminger

Sam Preminger is a Portland-based poet. Their work has appeared throughout various publications and they hold an MFA from Pacific University.