IF THE WORLD IS ENDING, I WANNA GO DOWN DANCING
for George, Hazem, Jess, Nader, Noor, Noor, & RAWI summer 2019
The world is ending. I am still afraid of everything I was yesterday.
The world is ending and my friends are in love. All of us, at the wedding, might as well be in love, too. Here: I feel at home dressed in black & lace & a wine glass delicate at my fingers. Looking posh. Black Widow. Shit-talker. There are so many lives I have no time to live. I am at a wedding and already mourning. My friends are in love and so they dance. My friends are in love and I cry. For the first time, I hope I have time for this, too.
The world is ending and we are at the beach. I am most calm when I feel wind on my face. Cold, sharp, an intentional caress. How air sign of me, to love the only element you cannot see, untouchable. Yet, a love unconstrained. This, too, is something I want. I decide I want to be seen. I decide I want to be heard. I yell into the ocean, I yell a song, I count seconds in laughter and count seconds in yelling and yelling has never been less of a bad word.
There is not enough them in this poem. I am not alone. All of my friends live in a little box and isn’t that the most apocalyptic of them all. Paradoxical. They are with me but never near me. My eyes are tired. My feet are tired, I am off them eight hours a day and forget how to step. I’ve been singing again. There are no choirs around and so I become my own noise. I will not be alone when the world ends.
If the world is ending I want to be unafraid. I regret so much and it is always with a song attached. At a concert I close my eyes and let sweat and stage lights stain my lashes. This room is queer & Arab & I am in love with knowing how it breathes. I have been blissed before. 4AM, the three of us, heads arranged to a point on a mattress living on the floor. An ending song, approaching gently. My eyes are closed but I pretend I am not asleep, I have never asked for more time until now. Touch is precious, so precious that proximity is commodity, too, and I have never been so frustrated by the cost of fuel. My heart aches in all cardinal directions. Pre-emptive. I have always been mourning, the world has always been ending.
I know I know I know I hear laughter between Celine Dion tracks & conspiratory whispers among birds like they know who I know. They’ve flown over both of us, before. They sing, chirps falling into the ocean floor, fossilized as water rises. Songs that always ached.
IN THE LITTLE MERMAID 2 MELODY UNDOES THE LITTLE MERMAID (1989)
with lyrics from Mitski
i face the waves, legs bare; they have not seen the sun in many years, scruff speckling the spots where scars do not grow. i learn from a daughter that yearned for the sea / long after her mother lost her voice—or, a scream no longer reaches across the ocean / she recounts an occupied childhood idyllic / their bodies marked with every sign / but at least we seasoned watermelon with the sea’s salt. at least we had each other. at least we wanted to live. i approach the water in silence / i need a quiet place so i can scream / and so i fashion one out of my own throat. pulse sand against pink flesh / please cave me inside thought / i think i’d like to become seafoam. the ocean floor sings come find me. the daughter that asks for fins instead of legs did not know this to be a fact of return. my father says we began along the jordan river / my father tells me the dead sea heals all wounds / i panic & so my father tells me his meditation / pictures a house i do not remember / warmth in the fireplace / or: an unnamed beach. the waves are crashing. he is not afraid. i can taste the salt, imagine it to smell like the almonds he eats each night. a glass of brandy. my father & consistency. seafoam, too, knows only this. baba, i am afraid. do not watch me go home / i was made to be seen / i just need a quiet place so i can scream. they say the little mermaid uttered a bloodcurdling scream when she stepped on land. in exchange for a tongue we ask a daughter to learn her legs better. did we know she would always smell of salt? did we know she would end up underwater anyway?
AT THE MET CLOISTERS
I count what does not belong.
In the rare treasures room, heads shuffle
closer from across display glass.
People fall in love around stolen objects.
I long to drink out of the cup from
“Somewhere in the Near East.”
The label reads crusaders & merchants alike
loved to carry fragile objects from the
Holy Land, even at risk of breaking. Encased in
glass, we are remembered for when they were fragile.
There is only one object labeled “Somewhere
in the Near East” in the rare treasures room.
How often were they careful with our bodies.
Rumpus original logo art by Mina M. Jafari.
We Are More is an inclusive space for SWANA (Southwest Asian and North African) and SWANA diaspora writers to tell our stories, our way. Curated by Michelle Zamanian, this new column seeks to disrupt the media’s negative and stereotypical narratives by creating a consistent platform to be heard, outside of and beyond the waxing and waning interest of the news cycle. We’ll publish creative nonfiction, graphic essays, fiction, poetry, and interviews by SWANA writers on a wide variety of subject matter. All prose submissions should be between 1500-5000 words. Poetry submissions should include 4-8 poems for consideration (up to 12 pages). Please inquire for interview guidelines. Submissions should be sent to [email protected] with author’s name and title/genre of work in the subject line.