amongst you lies a mad woman with a music box

hermetic to herself and her lover, but not to strangers. 

my most famous oeuvre is in the swallowing puddles of rain 

that make potholes around New York City,

each composed of 1 million tears

and nothing less.

i feel like every time i write a verse

i birth a monster

more indomitable than the last.

they'll applaud me for my honesty

i hope everything works out


a flood

a flood may have swallowed the underground

but i sat idly by

chewing on mastic gum 

gazing at puzzled railroad tracks.

what would it be like

to actually believe

we happened in serendipity

it probably happened because it happened

just for the reason that the train has arrived 

before i've even finished writing.


my egg-colored hair

will have a way of making you hate me

it will get its way 

and fight you to the finish line

i was high school, wholesome, home made 

innocent and pretty and small-mouthed 

who is she now?

radish lips 

viridescent eyes

you're flirting with fire

you're kissing the fire



is this working for you?

we could celebrate my loneliness in the grass

in your arms

at my mother's house

or right here

the bugs come and go 

the books tear and dissolve

my fruity hips, a problem and a solution

at 23, a pragmatic mess at best

the man needs a woman,

i know you have my number.

everything is sexy until it happens

this is america, baby

everything is sexy until it happens



you have stolen my shoes

my socks

my eyelashes

and even my thoughts!

don't you want to feel full again?

i'm so hungry

don't you want to feel something again?

i'm so hungry

call off the search,

i am here, i am here

you are there, you are there

you would fit so nicely in the back of my throat

won't you come give me a whirl?


even at 16,

i made the big boys cry.

my teenage self a confident liar in lust and love.

i belong at the park or museum,

all by myself

so i can scare away the blue birds

and overdose on shitty coffee.


i took all the lies they painted to me

and made my own art;


i really have become quite a piece of work.


i have become

what i always hated,

using dry phrases,

"inspiration, soulful, beautiful, creative"

and made you believe that is what you are too.


don’t you know i’m a fucking liar?

16 with no prospects,

21 with no morals,

a congenital liar before my first period. 


i was only 17 and yet i understood

that all the wheels turned because of you.

i was crying to "blood bank" and holding your hand.

we were stuck in this bus as it rained

and i thought to myself

everything revolves around you. it'll be the first and last time everything will. 

i knew i was heart broken before it even happened

because we weren't meant for each other at 17

or 20

or 23

or 45.

i'll see you in photos, i'll see you when i sleep

i'll see you when i feed the birds, i'll see you when the song plays

but never again in the flesh.

i'm not sad anymore.

i'm happy when i think about the day we got in trouble

lying on that torn up couch in a back room of the school.

we lied there staring out the glass walls and doors

turkish countryside waving hello to us through the window.

if i told you come outside, would you?

come outside.

we don't have to go back inside

we don't have to go back inside

we don't have to go back


i saw him dry up in front of me 

pruned like an apricot 

go go go!

salvage what we can 

before i dry up just the same.

(the men) no man asked me what i wanted

or why i thought what i thought

everything is rotting

you never asked what i wanted

no man asked what i wanted


tonight, there is no art in my poetry and no poetry in my art. 

you can grab a hammer, jam it in my head

i will not understand. i will not improve. 

all i want to do is hate myself in a bathtub of bubbles

and fake that i have direction or the will to create.

i do not see god.

i am no good, i should be tossed out.


or maybe

i could be baked in the oven at 400 degrees

and an idea will rise by tomorrow.

are you thinking about me?

are you thinking of me?

the saxophone

is swooning us

through the radio.

i am melting

and i can count every second

that your cologne sinks into me.

everyone is yelling over the music

drunk and spewing puerile comments...

but not you.

i can feel you tense,

do you know?

silly me.

it was only a brush of the hand,

it was only a brush of the hand...


she comes out to play on wednesday evenings

hot yellow flames breaching out from the top of her head,

hungry like a blood thirsty gator.

no waterfront will save you.

i have not had my coffee in fucking days. 

i am only desirable for so long. i burn the timber even before it is able to hold roots.

i eat your compliments in every meal of the day,

faster than you can drown in boring tepid water

faster than you can make me a decent cup of coffee.

lovely? lovely was my mother.

the oven between my thighs stay hot and angry. it says 'caution: stay away.'

i live in stasis, my arms and i, only coming out on wednesday nights so we can evade the crowd.

but you keep asking me about my day, and all i'm dreaming about disappearing in that bag of beans. 

my lack of interest is my vice,

my emerald eyes always out with a full set of teeth.


i come in eight different flavors

and 20 different shades of blue.

who will i disappoint today? who will i kiss tomorrow? 

can't you see? i am hiding beyond your dresser

taking bites out of the wood like a curious squirrel

and filing them against my teeth. 

do i smile the way you like? are you proud of me?

i am a fibber.

i came in liking tea and i will leave loving coffee

because it is friday

and i don't like who i am. 


we will never meet freedom. it will never move into our neighborhood or become our friend. it will never invite us to dinner or lend us a helping hand. 

and yet, we keep praying to have it imported in boxes,

just to dream of sprinkling it on our coffee like morning dew. 

what would it be like to wake up and not think, "what would it be like?"

we will never know.

freedom will forever come to our cedar trees packaged in plastic wrap and tape

and we will hide out behind our chalets and ancient ruins

begging the God in our tobacco shops and churches 

to deliver boxes that will never come. 

yard sale

at the yard sale,

the foreigners eat our olives and wear our hamsa hands. we did not invite them.

mama! all my cereal boxes! have you seen them?
the man from next door is trying to eat my granola with some milk.

my hat! his daughter will sport it at the golf club. i think they're rich.

our stories! everything i ever wrote. all of jido's clothes. the bombs took it all. the fire stole it.

but it's mine mama! they're mine!

she says nothing is ours

except our land

and a sense of belonging.

but even those

are no longer ours.  

even the rubble 

will one day die

to be replaced by more of what was once ours

or what i see now

was actually never ours at all.

the meeting

it wasn't love at first sight or anything. none of it was anecdotal.

for those short hours, we were part of each other. not like a puzzle. we aren't meant to be with one another like "that."

but we were whole. complete. i was his roots and he was my branches, swinging to the sounds of the underground and honking horns from outside. 

it wasn't romantic. it wasn't supposed to be. 

we paced around barely speaking with our lips. everything came in the beat of our footsteps.

how do you describe something unknown that somehow felt so comfortable? we already knew how to read each other. 

we have most definitely met before. and we may never meet again. 


morning coffee

i see you in my coffee

raw, honest, unforgivable, alarming, black.

i dip my toes in for a taste

and your alligator claws tear at me.

i did not mean to obstruct your morning,

i just wanted to be near you

or in you,

it's all the same.



ground me up like cinnamon, 

and i'll throw a parade for all the little beans

that trot on by

and one by one,

we will bow at your feet. 




i have bought a rowboat from the man who lives across from me.

he asks where i'm going, 

i tell him "back."


how could there be such mountainous authority in syllables? in an a and an e, 

a "childish" and "immature,"

an "i don't need you."

yes, i am going back,

rowing my way to the garden where we met when i was just 17,

where i lived candid and young

and you, just the same,

but unknown yet to me

was your diagnosed capriciousness and your agile ability to dispatch me from your view.

thank you sir,

i hope to float my way back to you again. 

i hope to see you soon. 

new york with frank o'hara - ephemeral

i was polluting my lungs with coffee and cigarette air in new york city

when i saw frank o'hara.

he, too, was imbibing black coffee and digesting cigarette butts 

faster than he could digest his blueberry pancakes. 

"what are you doing here?" 

it was 1963 and kennedy was just assassinated. o'hara was reading the paper like a machine. 

"oh god it's wonderful

to get out of bed

and drink too much coffee

and smoke too many cigarettes

and love you so much"

he did not look up at me.

he was like the new york subway, 

 known to me only through passing,

 eclectic and electric,

eating the secrets of mothers and daughters

and strangers and artists

and dejected wall street executives as they walked by.

it was 1963. he was an anachronistic anomaly to me, but unheeded by everyone else.

"tell me how to write like you."

he tapped the table with the tip of his pencil

and moved the chair just enough for me to sit.

he shifted a coke bottle toward me 

before writing and reciting "Having a coke with you."


and then i understood.


i continued to pollute my lungs with coffee and cigarette air,

sedentary but attentive,

eating the secrets of mothers and daughters

and strangers and artists

and dejected wall street executives as they walked by.



olive soap

the sounds of syria play through my windows when i sleep.

the birds still sing. they do not believe in war or bloodshed.

the sun shines her teeth. and i can feel her smile on my hot cheeks as i doze.


in another life, 

i eat charred corn on a rooftop,

my short legs dangling like wind chimes from cedar trees.

i sing ballads to chickpeas and pistachios as i walk through the souk,

my plump heart a succulent pomegranate of song. 


when i am awake, my lonely soul calls for the flooding sea and salt.

these people do not understand.

the mediterranean is my mother,

she watches me with brooding eyes and heavy tears, even from far,

anticipating my return. 


our pasts died long ago in crowded shoeboxes,

photographs trapped under rubble just aching to pupate.

latakia, i still taste you in my dreams,

your arms and legs now lost somewhere in memories of olive soap and lye.


the mediterranean is my mother,

and she will always live on.

she does not believe in war or bloodshed,

and i will only die once she swallows me whole.