Rumpus Original Poetry: Three Poems by Noor Ibn Najam





questions arabic asked in english (colonial fit)

how the blood it fit into the body? how the body it fit
into the family, and how the grandmother she fit
into the blood? how grandmother of me she fit into
tongue of her? how gender of her it fit into
mouth of her, and how mouth of her it fit
into the language? can woman she fit gender of her
into end-letters of the words the arabic?


yes. God has willed it so.


oh God, where gender of me? no can i i find it
in letters of the alphabet, not the arabic,
not the english. no can i i read it when i read
verses the qur’an      and no when i read newspaper
the motherland           it drowning in blood the queer.


read i article concerning parade pride of the queer
in lebanon, and when no i i found blood at all
on the pages, they returned the tears
to heart of me, and they put down salt
of sorrow of them, and reemerged them
clear from eyes of me, and celebrated them
because were we expecting the death and no we found it.


gender of me it fit into the language the arabic?
gender of me it fit into the language the english?
why no can i i read it? why no can i i find it?         i ask questions


which i am knowing answers of them already.
gender of me no it fit, no it translate good
between the english and the arabic
because the gender it live in body of me,
and no can the body follow when switch the tongue
into code new. i am knowing this. but the violence it fit
in very good behind teeth of me, all the time it waiting
hidden in mouth of me, in language of me
the arabic, it spoken as speak the children
no fluent.


grandmother of me no heard me
in speaking language can she understand
never. there is blood on tongue of me.


no heard i grandmother of me
in saying word queer, never.
there is blood on tongue of her also.


tongue of her it fit
into mouth of me?
and is this queer?



Like a pear, less sweet, denser and more fibrous.

Thicker, tougher skin. I’m asked why I say اذا بتريد so much.

We rarely add please to demands from our loved ones

Here. Teita says اعتيني بندورة

I oblige with no pleasantries. She takes the tomatoes. In exchange, a piece

Of a firmer fruit passed into my hand. Teita & auntie Nuha

Handle the tomatoes. They pick & replace them, red & plump

From a bowl. They move quickly & without piercing

Any piece grown soft with time. They lay down newspapers

Without reading the words. On top,

A thick wooden board. Nuha, sweet machine,

Dices with knobby fingers, arthritic lumps bulging

Unashamed between skin & bone. If there’s discomfort

She won’t say. Gripping mint & onions firmly in a bunch, she minces

As if she were made of ageless steel.

I’m chewing my quince. Teita says: Syrian food is difficult

& time-consuming to make. Now I must resist the war metaphor

This is not a poem about death.


Call It Aria

She holds the last note, I shatter the glass.

My lover pours herself into a shotglass, she says
She was aiming for my mouth. Now I see
What’s been hidden at the dead-end

Of the bottle, so deep the light couldn’t reach.
A pill. If she took it, she might be happier
She might not. She won’t. She can’t

Fit her fingers in the bottleneck.
My lover chases shots down her own throat
She warns me not to follow. I watch her pass out

Of herself via FaceTime — this time
It’s as if I’m there. She pours more shots
I reach to drink. To keep her from drinking

No. I’m sad, too. It tends to chase me
In arcs and spirals, sometimes
Sadness wears my face.

Today it wears hers and laughs,
Guttural, slow
Hysteric — dizzy, dizzy. I can disorient

But I can’t lie. Back to the beginning.
I’ve been a glass made for catching
Since before I met her. I won’t break

Until there’s no more need. My lover pours
Herself into my mouth and I swallow her
Like liquor, call it sex, call it

I emptied every bottle.

Noor Ibn Najam is a Callaloo, Watering Hole, and Pink Door fellow. His work has been published with The Academy of American Poets, BOAAT, Blueshift, the Texas Review, and Winter Tangerine, among others. His poetry will be included in the third volume of Bettering American Poetry. His chapbook, Praise to Lesser Gods of Love, won Glass Press's poetry contest and will be published as a part of their 2018-19 Chapbook Series. More from this author →