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  Mar 2019 Nesma
Silver
Laura Gilpin writes about the two-headed calf. Above the north field, there are twice as many stars as usual.

I am from Cairo, and the North is a death trap. My body was not made to march through snow. I am from Cairo, where beer is served in green glass bottles on crowded rooftops; where sunlight bursts through dull gray clouds and makes sweet love to dusty windshields.

With liquor throbbing through my temples, the world hazes by like a dream. Tonight, everything is double. The gentle flicker of traffic lights, the sycamore guarding the iron gates, the wrinkles in my father's palm. Tonight, there are twice as many stars as usual.  

In Cairo, that means none at all.
Nesma Nov 2018
I looked for love,

In high language novels about men who always dress in plaid shirts, big glasses, and intellectual endeavors.

In independent films with moody pianists for protagonists, or extravagant detectives, or mad prophets.

In disappointments dressed as post-12 AM conversations with strangers smoking outside an underground theater.



I looked for love,

In old photographs with brown spots, and wrinkled covers of vinyl records.

In candles with mysteriously inviting names, like “white musk” and “black forest".

In dictionaries that show how nostalgia and exoticism are alike: a type of longing that turns the beloved into a painting so expensive that it’s never on display.



I looked for love,

In between the lines, and tucked into metaphors.

In the closet where I used to hide as a child whenever I played hide and seek.

In everywhere except for the coffee shop in plain sight where a 23 year old goes to have coffee, and write about how love is nowhere to be found.
Nesma Oct 2018
Dear Sabah,
For the past forty-four days I have been waking up at dawn so I can reap sunlight the way an old peasant in a jasmine farm does.
My brother said he might have seen sunflowers but he never saw suns flowering; “the sunlight you reaped is useless” he said “why are you collecting it?"
My grandfather collects stamps, my mother collects china sets, my father collects rare books, my uncle collects money, and my grandmother collected hearts. “Because I want to be like Teta”, I answered him.

Dear Sabah,
I have been waking up at dawn, and I can assure you that they lied about dew being playful.
Dew doesn’t slide on a rose petal the way a child does in the park.
Dew sits still in an ungenuine grace the way an aristocratic woman does in a third cousin wedding; Dew is my aunt Fatima in her brother’s wedding.
However, they didn’t lie about how early birds get the worm..
This morning, I saw a bird eating two worms, and the eldest of my cousins cutting off his brothers’ allowances right after taking over his father’s company.

Dear Sabah,
I read in The Little Prince that people like watching sunsets when they are sad; that he watched the sunset forty-four times in one day when he had a fight with his rose.
So for the past forty-four days I have been waking up at dawn and morphing my notebook into a camera lens.
I now have 44 synonyms for your name, and each evening, I read the scribbles of morning I managed to pluck: fresh, fragile, blue and pink hues, childlike, clean grass, birds chipping, family…

Dear Sabah,
This morning, when my uncle told us how his son is now running his company, my 11 year old brother asked me if our family is a monarchy. “No, Hady” I said, “our family is an Arctic morning; for six months straight it is a cold dark environment, and for the other six, the sun doesn’t set.”
Sabah means morning in Arabic
Nesma Oct 2018
DD
Dear Donia,
I found myself writing your name because I have always preferred alliteration to rhyme.
I prefer alliteration because beginnings are always exciting, passionate, and full of life, and endings are always a brown shade of autumn.

Dear Donia,
Spring is a lover whose hands were cut in war but never failed to gently trace the lightening strokes so called stretch marks
Spring is a lover who would build his tongue a hand, and leave me in awe because hands grab but tongues grasp.

Dear Donia,
I hope your lover never falls short of using her tongue the way a poet uses his.
I hope you find meaning between the folds of her body.
I hope her kisses taste like your favorite words.

Dear Donia,
I hope she helps you see the free verse that you are; full of alliteration, and with no rhyme.
Nesma Sep 2018
My mother taught me to count each of my prayers on my fingers, so here we go...

The first time I fell in love with you was on a spring day. I was lying on the grass and you were lying on the back of my mind.

The second time I fell in love with you was last summer. Your deserted skin glistened a dune in the sunlight, and your hair danced to a breeze that was not yet quite there.

The third time I fell in love with you was this autumn. I unfolded piles and piles of myself trying to connect the weight of the word that is me to this season; each fall I fall for you.

The fourth time I fell in love with you was a couples of winters ago. The snow gave me cold feet, and was up to my frozen tongue; but each time I would look into your eyes I would feel a burn in my chest.

My grandfather thought that we get clarity from the dew of dawn but I have always found my prophecies in my Isha prayers; The fifth time I fall in love with you will be on a spring day. I will be lying on the grass, and you will lie on the back of my mind...
Nesma Aug 2018
“Two teaspoons of coffee, one teaspoon of sugar, and pour it right before it boils down”, my mother said smelling the coffee she is cooking to perfection. I stand there and wonder what scent Hamlet was smelling when he said “Something’s rotten in the state of Denmark”, I’m guessing it’s the same scent colonizing this house. I look at the ***** ceiling and start sniffing the air. My mother looks at me and says “your nose is nearing the skyline, keep it where your feet are. Men don’t like prideful women”.

I looked around trying to see what smelled so repulsive. My grandmother lit incense, my sister baked a fresh orange cake for celebration, my other sister splashed a few drops of the musk that the Arab man gifted us all over the house, and father held a stack of 500 Riyal banknotes to his nose.  

The rich Arab that knocked on our door last week asking if we have an extra womb for sale is visiting again today. My mother prepared a hot bath for me an hour ago; she said I have to smell like freshly uprooted Baladi roses, so I soaked in the bathtub trying to figure out what is this repulsive scent I am smelling.

Right after I finished my bath I told my mother “something stinks”. Her reply was dragging me to the kitchen where she teaches me how to make coffee. I say “mother, nobody drinks coffee here”, she says “You need to learn how to properly make coffee to serve our sheikh some tonight. Remember, eyes on the ground”. I reply reciting the lesson she just taught me “Men don’t like prideful women”.

I hear people in the city overlook what lies beneath their feet; a 16 year old city girl will never know what it means to have to walk 30 kilometers with a broken shoe in order to read one book. I guess farming taught me a thing or two about looking down. I remember reading before that African slaves were shipped to America to primarily work in farms, coffee and sugar farms to be exact. I realize now what this stink is. I look at my mother and tell her “I will not marry him. This ring reeks of slavery”. She looks at me in astonishment, and I reply reciting the lesson she just taught me “and pour it right before it boils down”.
my writings are usually inspired by something I've seen or heard. Sense of sight and sense of hearing play a great deal in my writings, so I tried to incorporate sense of smell here..
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