Rumpus Original Poetry: Three Poems by Marwa Helal





intimacy v. isolation xixi.

trees   grow towards each other
as much as they do the light

in another morning on America

the dogs walk the people while others ride
in strollers

what is whitey doing with all that yoga and

in the racial imaginary

muse is an invention from the sexist 1920s when
women couldnt have
societally accepted jobs

someone tell nasser pan-arabism happened
on the internet and now it is called SWANA

im asking the world to give north africa back to
africa im asking the world to give the world back

my greatest strength is my willingness to seek

help    look at you emailing me at night        the
most european thing
about you is your disappearance; i mean your
fear of

me. i really dont think you understand what im
going through

i was asking for the ocean and i got a grain of

heard your latest cause was tryna free yr new
girls nipples on instagram

a grain of sand holds all of eternity

i can spin this all day: abdul rahman ahmed is
105 years old.

he was born into the ottoman empire. he hasn’t
had teeth
for 42 years. “my wife took them out
with her kisses,” he says.

im working with found material

q: how do you go from the MoMA to
Temptationz Sports Bar?
a: you take the stairs not the elevator

black heart emoji *and, earlier, by newton,

who maintained: “each particle of space is
 eternal, each indivisible

moment of duration is everywhere.” (principia, III, 42).

not all transgressions merit punishment i feel.
 […] being this way will likely

                   produce eventual results that feel like
                let me count the ways your soul spliced

                                                   bluets was alright

     once i put a tortilla on my shoulder and sent it
          to the man who told me i had a chip on my
                                                  but nudes are cute

  for how long will you reenact the scenes of your
                                       childhood abandonment:

                                                      u know who u r
                                                           (yep, you!!!)

            does no one else think it’s funny there is a
           called borderline? or is it just too obvious?

    even as i kiss you i keep the language i pray in
                                                far from your reach

  the apocalypse isnt loud explosions it is wearing
         headphones and avoiding eye contact as we
 endlessly scroll into an abyss wearing polo shirts

        STAFF driving each other from gig to gig in
       ubers vias and lyfts while we take deep drags
                                                     out of vape pens
  this future can be prevented if we all read fanon

       you should really confide in your friends and
                     that’s what we do. you should try it.

                                                  we?     who is we?
                                        why i dream of horses…

        really interesting that you think yourself in a
                                     position to give me advice
                            easier to tell me what to do than
                          to take responsibility for the pain

      your behavior is unwelcome. that’s the point.

it’s still going badly. but i intend to make the
most of my time.

im retiring as a human and becoming a parrot
where i only repeat men’s lies (salary:
commiserate with experience): it was caused by
my own pain and
cowardice and fear of the love that i felt growing
inside cowardice
and fear of the love     i felt growing inside me
caused by my own pain and cowardice and fear
of the love

        slow motion for me   is this what you meant
  when you said you needed time to get    back on
                                                               your feet?

dont confuse anger for obsession or the erotic for

      you all think  youre eartha kitt now asking for
                                                         what for what


                                               coz you found a .gif

who is the muse now?

    what if i were the night sky? what if i were the
                        night   what if we hadnt been born
                                                     at the same time


intimacy v. isolation ixix.

he aint the one if youre asking yourself if he’s a
vampire feeding off of the pictures with your
head cut off silky smooth with a perfect kick of
contrast in the highlights

the downturn in the tantric attention economy fall
back in the gauze of a sodden june afternoon

    i said i loved you and i wanted music / in the
                          man’s car next to /

        i said i loved you and i wanted i wanted

                      justice under my nose

        i said i loved you and i wanted i wanted

                      just us under my nose


        Good morning. you called again a few times
                                             while i was sleeping?

       my phone was on the other side of the room i
  couldn’t get up and get it without going thru my
   back pain again and the pills had just kicked in.
                                                   next time i’ll just



                 what you know about love?
                  what you know about life?
                what you know about blood?
                pish     you aint even my type


intimacy v. isolation xx.

miya hee miya ho miya hu miya ha-ha
miya hee miya ho miya hu miya ha-ha
miya hee miya ho miya hu miya ha-ha
miya hee miya ho miya hu miya ha-ha

ay… this a special whats happenin to all my
            all my soldiers over there in i raq
            er rybody right here    what you need to
do is be thankful for the life you got
yknowmsayin? stop lookin at what you aint got
              start bein thankful for what you do got

me n T.I.   we two amreekans
sing the same lyric and mean different


in the fourth grade we penpal  gulf war  the
teacher pairs me with my best friend’s uncle last
name majers this is how i learn of god’s humor
he writes me of the brave egyptians fighting
alongside [them] he means bought and put the
sold in soldier egyptians i invite his niece to a
community picnic at sharon woods she never
shows next day at school says they couldnt find
us but i watch the news and learn to see what her
parents saw thru their car window before they
drove away i didnt say what community

this poem is for tabonbon tellin the boss at the
job a nine percent raise is great but it isnt enough
to do a whole white man’s job

you say youre making an archive for future
generations but you dont even have an original
thought you say youre making an archive but
your manager is telling you to lie about how
those prints  you sell arent even on archival paper
ill tell you this:     the archive will not be curated
the archive will not be curated the archive will
not be curated the archive will be an outgrowth

im comin atchyou live from the light unobserved

im sayin il dunyah lissah b’kheir ya

         wardeh and im whistling thru every film set
                                                    absorbing all the

   wattage for my own ways and means necessary

                         im so anti-imperial im unwedable
   im citing my sources: nile delta parker and said
                                                                  with a 3

 there go the vultures feeding [on] my heart again
     skkrrr skrr skkkrr oh oh im laughin at the man
who sees me as me skrrr skr nature was beautiful
                                                  before the internet

            in arabic bride and doll are the same word
       so i am a long way from making a truce with
                   reality you dont have to be dead to be

         im sorry for your loss i hope we are in each
     others lives for a long time i didnt mean to put
     you in this position is this how you want to be
           immortalized i ask in my best okoye voice

          self defense is intelligence until it becomes
 autoimmune: “a system of reality which compels
  them to, […] must be insane to attack the system
               to which [he] owes [his] entire identity”
                                             {baldwin, of course}

        all ur favs still operate within the hegemonic
                    demonic white supremacist capitalist

      im slidin thru to say even oprah is pro-i—–i i
            wonder how many people diagnosed with
ADD/ADHD are really just good at dissociation?
     and how some might call that grace. structural
    humility is inherited and no one talks about the
       mutation that occurs in children who migrate

 some pages are omitted from this book preview i
  recommend letting the mind rage instead of race

Marwa Helal is a poet and journalist. Her work appears in Apogee, Hyperallergic, The Offing, Poets & Writers, Winter Tangerine, and elsewhere. She is the author of Invasive species (Nightboat Books, 2019) and winner of BOMB Magazine’s Biennial 2016 Poetry Contest. Helal has been awarded fellowships from Poets House, Brooklyn Poets, and Cave Canem. She has presented her work at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the Studio Museum in Harlem, and Brooklyn Museum. More from this author →