Things I Didn't Know I Loved*

* If you are a dreamer, come in.
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer...
If you're a pretender, come sit by my fire
For we have some flax-golden tales to spin.
Come in! Come in!

(Shel Silverstein)

December 10, 2009


Naomi Shihab Nye's boy

I challenge you to watch this and not grin from ear to ear.

April 30, 2007


I Do it For the Joy it Brings

'I do it for the joy it brings
because I'm a joyful girl.
Because the world owes me nothing -
we owe each other the world.
I do it cause it's the least I can do,
I do it cause I learned from you.
And I do just because I want to...
cause I want to.'

Ani DiFranco

This post will be more earnest than I am normally comfortable with.

I recently met someone who, upon finding out I had a blog, asked me why I'd stopped blogging. I mumbled a half-chewed answer about communities, and allergies...I tried to make it sound good, sound right, then drifted off when it didn't. He also asked me why I had started blogging in the first place. This I knew: to have a place to collect my favourite poetry, to share my joy in it with others, and to have an incentive to keep discovering more poetry, new poets. The answer came straight out, clear.

The conversation made me realise that I'd stopped blogging because I had started to become so concerned with who was reading that I'd lost sight of why I was writing. Thank you, F, for asking.

I wrote this about a month ago in response to O's Charles Bukowski poem on writing.

I write to stopper tears
I write to bottle joy

I write to put a name to my pain,
to catch it in my headlight

I write to keep a piece of you

I write for company on trains and planes
and while waiting for friends to show up for lunch

I write when no-one else but the page will receive it
-It should be my first resort but is often my last-

I write to mean

I write to play

I write to pray

March 22, 2007


Should I Stay or Should I Go?

If I stay there will be trouble

'Say goodbye to the old street
that never cared much for you anyway
The different-colored doorways
you thought would let you in one day

Say goodbye to the old building
that never tried to know your name...
Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye old friend
You won't be seeing me again.'

Patty Griffin, 'Useless Desires'

If I go it will be double

'You will find no new lands, you will find no other seas.
The city will follow you. You will roam the same streets. And you will age in the
same neighborhoods; and you will grow grey in these same houses.
Always you will arrive in this city. Do not hope for any other –
There is no ship for you, there is no road.
As you have destroyed your life here
in this little corner, you have ruined it in the entire world.'

Constantine Cavafy, 'The City'

September 09, 2006



Another haiku'd (high cooed?) thought - this time, on nostalgia. 97% guaranteed literal and non-metaphoric, HV, bromise!

I am gonna miss
Egyptian men if I leave.
I won't if I don't.

September 04, 2006


Midnight Swim

A haiku about the highlight of my weekend - of the past few weeks, in fact.

Warm salty midnight
swim in lake, beautiful man,
Half-moon red and low.

August 28, 2006


Small Packages

"Good things come in small packages." - Japanese man

Yes, so I'm small. It's the first thing people comment on when they meet me/when they later describe me to the police artist. That, and lots of hair (on my head). I get: petite, tiny, little woman, wee (conveniently, also a play on my name) - I've even gotten 'teensy.' My friend La Boop, of forsooth fame – who, although a pain in the ass, is even funnier in person (which is why I keep her around) – is credited with the funniest description of me I've ever heard. It was a few years ago, and I was wondering out loud whether to get my hair cut. Her response: "Well, I love your hair, but sometimes it looks like you're growing on it."

As for the usual barrage of Cairo comments and catcalls, rather than fruity comparisons, mine always tend towards the 'soghayyar bass 7elw/bass zayy el 3asal' variety. I wonder what gives away my honey-sweetness? Is it the enraged flare of my nostrils, the murder in my eyes? E7taris man ektaraba min al ard*, asshole!

Small people are angry people. To wit:

Alexander the Great
Marquis de Sade
Woody Allen

There are many great things about being small, though:

1. You don't have the advantage of periscope vision when in the middle of large crowds of spectators (think concerts, car accidents, etc.) but you can usually - with the God-given gift of elbows - wriggle your way to the front of anything.

2. You don't take up much space: my ability to curl up comfortably on a single (cheap) seat on a plane, bus or train is a frequent source of amusement - I mean, AWE - to sundry travelling companions.

3. You never have to factor in height when choosing men.
(i.e. I like tall men, but taller women always bitch me out when I mention this so I keep my preferences quiet.)

I'm five foot one. Here is a children's poem by the weird and wonderful Shel Silverstein. It reminds me that there are others in five feet dire-r straits than myself.

One Inch Tall

If you were only one inch tall, you'd ride a worm to school.
The teardrop of a crying ant would be your swimming pool.
A crumb of cake would be a feast

And last you seven days at least,
A flea would be a frightening beast
If you were one inch tall.

If you were only one inch tall, you'd walk beneath the door,
And it would take about a month to get down to the store.
A bit of fluff would be your bed,
You'd swing upon a spider's thread,
And wear a thimble on your head
If you were one inch tall.

You'd surf across the kitchen sink upon a stick of gum.
You couldn't hug your mama, you'd just have to hug her thumb.
You'd run from people's feet in fright,
To move a pen would take all night,
(This poem took fourteen years to write
--'Cause I'm just one inch tall).

Shel Silverstein

*Arabic proverb, roughly translated: "Beware those close to the ground."

August 23, 2006


Sense and Sensuality

Today I blindfolded a near-stranger and passed aromatic spices under his nose. The room was silent, save for the shuffling of spices and this single-word exchange.

Me: Cumin
Him: Kamon
Me: Kyoo-min
Him: Cumin
Me: Yes

Me: Cardamom
Him: CardaMOOM
Me: CARDamom
Him: Cardamom

Me: Cinammon
Him: Cinabon
Me: *laughing* yes, that’s the name of the pastry chain. This is Cina-mmmmon
Him: Cinammon

Him: Uhh…cumin?
Me: Try again…
Him: Wait wait wait wait…cardamon!
Me: Yep! Carda-…?
Him: mom. Cardamom.

I am, among other things, an English teacher to adults; a great one, but often recklessly – unadvisedly – creative. I came up with this particular activity in a food-themed class with another group a while ago, with half the students “dispensing” and the other half “smelling”. It worked beautifully, but was an intense experience for all involved – I’d forgotten how intense. And now, here I was, trying it out in a one-to-one class, slowly realising my mistake. The room was hushed, thick with focus, and intimate – way too intimate.
Note to self: stick to the coursebook on occasion.

On my way home I remembered, years ago, going to a ‘attar (loose translation: apothecary) in Old Cairo, with someone who was then very special to me. I was bone-tired and didn’t want to be out, but he asked and I couldn’t resist him then. We were in search of the perfect perfume oil blend. I remember the ‘attar dabbing essential oils on the back of my hands, all along the pale vein-streaked skin inside my wrists, and up my inner arms. He was leaning in to sniff jasmine in the crook of my elbow, lavender in the flesh between my thumb and forefinger. We walked out of there after close to two hours, with a tiny bottle, in a drunken haze, heads spinning, nostrils tingling. I looked across at him, with this huge ridiculous dazed smile on his face and that look in his eyes; I must’ve looked the same. It’s not one of my favourite memories of us together – the perfume was for another woman – but definitely one of the most bittersweet.

Today, I got home from my class to this poem (I am not, in the eternal words of Dave Barry, making this up) in my inbox.

The Cinammon Peeler

'If I were a cinnamon peeler
I would ride your bed
And leave the yellow bark dust
On your pillow.

Your breasts and shoulders would reek
You could never walk through markets
without the profession of my fingers
floating over you. The blind would
stumble certain of whom they approached
though you might bathe
under rain gutters, monsoon.

Here on the upper thigh
at this smooth pasture
neighbour to your hair
or the crease
that cuts your back. This ankle.
You will be known among strangers
as the cinnamon peeler's wife.

I could hardly glance at you
before marriage
never touch you
--your keen nosed mother, your rough brothers.
I buried my hands
in saffron, disguised them
over smoking tar,
helped the honey gatherers...

When we swam once
I touched you in the water
and our bodies remained free,
you could hold me and be blind of smell.
you climbed the bank and said

this is how you touch other women
the grass cutter's wife, the lime burner's daughter.
And you searched your arms
for the missing perfume

and knew

what good is it
to be the lime burner's daughter
left with no trace
as if not spoken to in the act of love
as if wounded without the pleasure of a scar.

You touched
your belly to my hands
in the dry air and said
I am the cinnamon
Peeler's wife. Smell me.'

Michael Ondaatje

Some of my favourite smells:
strawberries; just-ground black pepper: good, earthy, pungent;
fresh wet mint leaves (their fragrance is fully released with moisture); minced garlic crackling in hot oil;
that sweet smoky smell of burnt candlewick just after a candle’s been blown out – reminds me of childhood birthday cakes.
And cinnamon, of course.


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