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Nesma 6d
Entire evenings spent in my university’s dark bus rides, my phone’s blue light is divine refulgence, The New Yorker is the perfect pre-midnight religion.
My faith in magazines was restored because of The New Yorker, and today marks the first time a magazine breaks my heart. Please refrain from applying any type of, for the lack of a better term, ‘wholsome’ interpretation of the term ‘heartbreak’. This is not the Kintsugi heartbreak, this is not the type of heartbreak where shattered pieces of myself grow letters and tangerine trees, this isn’t the type that is amendable by poetry.
Ironically, the heartbreaking article is on bibliotherapy. It dates back to four years ago but somehow, I just came across it today. It was going fine until I saw it... that deplorable sentence, that wretched lamentable sentence… it reads “Berthoud and Elderkin trace the method of bibliotherapy all the way back to the Ancient Greeks, “who inscribed above the entrance to a library in Thebes that this was a ‘healing place for the soul.’
My first reaction was to doubt my memory. I know for fact that that the oldest authenticated library, that of Ramses the II, bore that inscription ‘the house of healing for the soul’. I had to return to Jstor with either my heart or my memory on the line. This called for a failed attempt to get access through my American University ID card that no longer works. My heart fractured. I manage to find the article nonetheless, and it states my memory is perfectly healthy. My heart breaks.
Your average-literature-enthusiast commercial media is whitewashing what took other white scholars time and effort to find. And a brown can only quench her thirst for scholarly documentation on her ancestors through her colonizers’ language/institutions; and through another article written in the same language she second-guesses her history.  I consider writing them an email, but I know for fact it will not be read, yet my need for ventilation is greater than my full awareness of the insignificance of my voice and my experience. I remind myself I am comfortably sitting in my air-conditioned desk when there people dying because they don’t have access to food or clean water; my frustration is a luxury. I am not even entitled to this semi-panic attack; but my physical need for ventilation is greater than my full awareness of my privilege. I start crying for no reason. This is heartbreak. I have read before an article on how someone can die of a heartbreak. I can imagine another headline that brings me some solace….
“A girl reads an article on the healing power of fiction, but instead it breaks her heart resulting in her death.”
  Mar 27 Nesma
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
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
Dear Omar, 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...
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