Innocent

Do you remember her?

She used to dream so freely

Grasping for joy and comfort

In the spaces where there was no room

For hate

Remember?

She colored outside of the lines so well

And her ears heard nothing but melodies

Her eyes saw nothing but beautiful things

She used to believe that everyone was pure-hearted

And she could laugh and smile in her own way

Without second-guessing her appearance

Remember?

Remember when she sat on her mother’s lap

And thought the world was perfect,

Just the way it was?

She used to lie at night, unburdened

Her thoughts light, her mind at ease

Do you remember her, the little girl you used to be?

The world from my grandmother’s lap seemed brighter

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In the ebony of my eyes and the caramel of my skin,

My grandmother’s smile is pressed firm—

Her brown locks brush across my cheeks and she holds me tight,

Whispering untold secrets into my ears.

We share smiles that bridge time and make history—

I find myself folded into the depths and crevices of these smiles,

Wrapped up safe in 7aboba’s toob and her secrets.

She smells like fresh lemonade and white lilies and sandaliya, all at once.

She feels like home and sounds like comfort,

And looks so much like me.

Our eyes are shaped like almonds, but carry different stories:

Hers carry depth, having seen so much—

While mine have barely learned to recognize life.

But in our eyes there is a shared legacy,

And one day I will carry my son’s daughter,

Having seen as much as 7aboba did.

For now I am content to find comfort in her embrace,

In the familiar hands that hold me close,

Fingers stained with henna and just as strong as they are beautiful.

 

 

 

“Self”

Beneath the layers

You construct

Deep down where no one

Knows you, as you pretend

To know yourself,

In the fabric of

Your fabricated lies and

Your woven untruths—

There is a part of you

That you have long since

Buried, the forgotten remains

Of happier beginnings.

She crouches in a corner of

A fragmented mind, rocking

Back and forth, teetering

On the edge of something new.

She reaches for the outside world,

Where you have learned to hide

In plain sight. But you push

Her down, into the depths of a

Miserable non-existence.

She is the only one who will fight

You, but you have long since

Given up the fight

“Fragile”

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They traipse around their glass

And crystal, mimicking the dance

Of duels fought long ago

Their stance is the same, meant

To inspire fear, but neither

Remembers that with fear comes

A certain price. It manifests

Itself in the imported furniture,

On the chairs they never sit in

And the tables gleaming with the

Jagged reality of their reflections

It is in the potted plants

And the gentle swinging of

Their chandeliers. The pristine

Whiteness of their sins surrounds

Them as they dance forever around

Each other, never once daring

To meet in the middle. Around them

The white-washed walls feed on the

Remnants of their fragile hearts

And in their cold-blooded lust for

The glamorous, they forget they are

Only flesh

To Strike A Chord

To strike a chord in the heart strings of those who seek beauty and truth, to make an unsuspecting reader smile, to pave a new wave of thought, to connect with the masses, the unseen and unheard, to show the silent that they have a voice, to merge fantasy and reality in such a way that no distinctions can be made between them, to erase all boundaries holding back the imagination, to captivate a reader in such a way that he begins to think of himself as a character, to share experiences and experience my share of things, to record adventures and make unlikely characters heroes, and to start a conversation among those who otherwise would have never met…this is what I hope to accomplish through my writing.

“A Cup of Tea”

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A tale to take you

to distant places

places where you

can be things you

never thought to be

a story to transport you

over seas and through mountains

bridging the gap

between the real and

not-so-real. Where else

can you find people

who understand

without you having to tell them

what you mean?

an adventure to captivate

the attentions of your

imagination. just you, a book

and a cup of tea

Graveside

The child unconsciously mirrors his mother’s pose. They stand with their feet apart and their shoulders hunched, fighting off a cold that isn’t there. He grips her papery hand, and every time she shifts and shuffles her feet her skin makes a raspy sound against his own. He’s too young to ask why they have come here, but his eyes register the way his mother clenches her other hand into a fist. He’s too scared to look at her face, so he scans their surroundings, taking in the willow tree that resembles something out of his nightmares. He shrinks back against his mother’s side, his other hand clutching at her shirt. She frowns down at the top of his head, at the way his blonde curls flutter gently in the pre-dawn breeze. She will have to explain to him why they are here, but she doesn’t know how. Maybe she will make something up, like the fairytales he was learning to read in school.

“Mommy, what’s that?” he’s pointing at the willow tree, at the small hill beneath it. She had hoped he wouldn’t notice, so she wouldn’t have to do what she came here to do. Sighing, she tugs at his hand until he knows that she wants him to move. Hand in hand, their footsteps synchronized, they walk to the mound of earth beneath the tree. There is nothing there to suggest that it could have been a grave. The rain that had been cutting across the city for the past week must have wiped away the letters she’d hurriedly penciled in, she realizes. It’s a small fortune, or else the boy would have probably tried spelling them out. She could tell that the question was on the tip of his tongue, but he wouldn’t ask her again. She had taught him too well.

“This is a grave, Jr. It’s where people go after their time on Earth is done.” She makes sure her words are neutral, so that the child won’t pick up on her anxiety.

“But Gran said people go to heaven after. Like Daddy.” He furrows his brow, pulling his hand out of her grasp because she’s suddenly tightened her grip without realizing. Immediately, her hand goes to his shoulder instead, so that he doesn’t run off.

“Not everyone goes to heaven. Your Gran’s too optimistic for her own good.”

“What’s op-opta…”

She almost laughs at the way he scrunches up his nose with distaste.

“Don’t you worry about that. Come on, you want to see what a grave looks like?”

The blue eyes widened, fear and excitement mingling in cloudy depths.

“Are we s’posed to? Won’t they be mad?” The boy asks, curling into her side out of habit.

“Who? There’s no one here but us, Jr. It can be our secret.”

“Ok,” he whispers, and the fear disappears, replaced by trust. The mother smiles.

“Good boy,” she tells him, squeezing his shoulder.

It’s the first time he’s heard these words, and the smile he offers her almost makes her pause. But she reminds herself that it’s for his own sake.

Together, they walk closer to the edge of the willow, and the child’s smile matches the bright rays of the rising sun.

I Couldn’t Help But Overhear…

I was walking through my college campus when I passed a man who was on his phone, a cigarette held casually between two fingers in his free hand as he paced back and forth in front of the library. As I walked past him, he said into the phone, “the last time I saw Sis, Winnie and Grandma they seemed good. Thinks looked pretty civil.” 

Now, being a writer and a person who constantly itches for those details that will turn a good story into a great one, I immediately started going through the inevitable questions that follow after hearing such an enticing line. Who was Winnie? What was the backstory with these three people in the man’s life, and what event had caused them, in the past, to be uncivil toward each other? Had I been a braver person I would’ve gone up to the gentleman and asked him outright. But you can imagine how that might turn out:

“Excuse me, sir, I couldn’t help but overhear. You were talking about your sister and grandmother. And Winnie? It’s just that, well, I’m a writer you see. And I’ve been working on honing my craft in literary fiction. And the way you introduced Sis, Winnie and Grandma just now, they have such potential. So I was wondering if, maybe, you wouldn’t mind telling me a little more about them?”

Needless to say, that wouldn’t pan over well. But that’s what makes us writers. We will overhear snippets of interesting conversation or witness strange scenes on a day to day basis. I had an assignment in a creative writing class where we had to go to a coffee shop and just sit, watch and listen, so that we could generate a story.

The resources are there. Life gives us lemons everyday. It’s up to us to either squeeze them or let them rot. 

Character

As authors, our characters are often a part of our selves. Certain aspects, certain idiosyncrasies remind us of our own habits and tendencies. This recreation of ourselves is a subconscious attempt for the mind to understand itself better, a sort of blank slate that allows the author to mix and match, if you will, as he sees fit – until a three-dimensional representation of a human being is formed.

Our characters should never be just characters, a means to an end that is devised to help the plot progress or explain another character’s behavior. On the contrary, because they are so dear to us, because they are reminiscent of our own thoughts and actions, we should treat them as though they already exist. Instead of picturing them as things to develop, ideas to mold, notions to explain, we should see the character exactly as we see the people around us: as living flesh and blood.

As soon as the author realizes that his characters aren’t, in fact, his, that they are simply people of another dimension, waiting to be released by way of the writer’s craft, then a character becomes a person. A person with a backstory and feelings and habits just like you and me. Don’t look to make something out of nothing…everything you need is laid out for you in the details. What separates great writers from the rest is their ability to recognize the seemingly insignificant and use it to their advantage — much as a sculptor uses marble to create a masterpiece.