I write for my sister

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She kept him in her heart
He was her best part.

He was the sun
in her morning sky.

She was the connecting thread
in the web
of his dignified life.

Then one day
Fate stepped in
Wanted to stay
She tried to undo
what was done
But the thread gave in
The sun was gone
Her torment
had begun.

In her blinding disbelief
Her deafening heave
Her inconsolable grief
Her pain-stricken face
The colour grey
In her voice of fear
‘No! No!’
All I could hear
‘Baba! Baba!’
Ringing in my ear
That was my sister’s way
Keeping death at bay
Needing him to stay.

Days passed
So fast
Weeks came
All the same
Months fled
She hardly slept
Swept
by a confusing pain
by a depressing defect
stabbing away at her heart
wrenching her insides apart
She wept
while she lay in bed
feeling empty and dead
In the darkness of her room
In her wakefulness and gloom
Yet the burning tears that came
were tame
They never cussed
nor fussed
Instead
They silently bled
Flooding the valley
of his old city
with water
that is salty.

(She said to me)
He never leaves my mind
Day and night
he is on my mind
I feel so much pain
How can I explain?
I am the lonely sky
crying inconsolable rain.
 
(She said to me)
How can I ever forget
His mark on me
Who he was for me
What he meant to me
What he instilled in me
What he represented for me
What he changed within me
What he sought in me
What he gave to me
What he took from me
What he brought out in me
What he taught me
What he selflessly gifted me
Love, love, and more love
What I was never deprived of
To make me see
The potential in me
How great I can be
And because of he
I am secure and free.

(She said to me)
How can I but surrender
to nostalgia and remember
His serenity
His humility
His completeness
His uniqueness
His infectious sweetness
His discreet importance
His strong presence
His grandness and essence
His intense life lessons
His strong impact
A known fact
on little me
on growing me
on older me
on mother me
He was my soul’s key
My soothing sea.

(She said to me)
Please write
and describe
the extent of my pride
How he was my most brilliant light
How he made darkness bright
How he was everything clear and white
How his laughter was my cure
How his heart was kind and pure
How he was my bravest knight
How he had so much fight
How he made everything right
Record and remember
How he was my center
My faithful encourager
A man without blunders
A man with beautiful gestures
Write and tell
Repeat and retell
Don’t let them wonder
Keep alive
His relentless strives
His innocent smiles
His effect on so many lives
So that the world can read
Every great deed
So that everyone can see
pages of his glory
of inspiring he
what he used to be
what he will always be
what he was to me
The man of my world
My mountain of love
My magnitude above
My triumph.

(She said to me)
With urgency
Or with something
resembling fright
Please write
What he signified to me
Leave not a shred
of doubt
About
How I wish I could talk to him
How much I miss him
Fussing over him
Caring for me
Sitting with him
Hugging him
Our special connection
My affection
My attention
His fatherly protection
Don’t forget to mention
My complete devotion
As wide as the ocean
to my remarkable father.

(She said to me)
Please write
and highlight
The depth we shared
How much I cared
Let them be aware
How I cannot bear
That he is not there
Write
With great care
what I cannot dare
on paper
You are much braver
with words.

(I write for my sister)

She was his fair middle-child
The mother of his first grandchild
With light eyes like his eyes
Smiles like his smiles
She was his heaven’s river
His happiest giver
His sweetest letter
His personal defender
His most loyal lawyer
And I clearly remember
How generous
How gentle
How selfless
How tender
She was
with my father
No one could be her.

I write
Memories of the past
Destined to last
That touched me greatly
Made me smile fondly
How countless times
in their lives
in her unwavering eyes
in her somewhat subjective belief system
Despite my sister’s bountiful wisdom
His wrongs were always rights
His faults were never faults
His fights her fights
Shortcomings?
She couldn’t find
She stubbornly denied
The way a child
is utterly blind
To the weakness
of humankind
In her mind
He was the best
And the rest
were just the rest
Anything he said
was great and wise
Everything he did
she idealized
He was the answer
to every why
To everyone she told
He was her Captain
He was gold.

Did I write
How sometimes
she tries to hide
Unaware of her self-comprise
In the name of motherly sacrifice
To find inside
Some secret place
or space
to deal with her grief
to contain her pain
Less frequently, selectively
she timidly confides
in those few
she considers kind
Perhaps to carry on
to walk on
to march on.

Other times she shies
from those stoic types
And pities the ones
who dehumanize
the old who die
The ones who know her
but continue to belittle
knowingly or unknowingly
the pain she feels
Or rudely ignore
her cheeks’ wet trickles
Or do not acknowledge
her unstable flowing tears
as they appear and disappear
In her quiet mind
they signify
with their mean features
Earth’s most egoistic creatures.

(I write to my sister)

My dearest sister
My heart’s listener
Despite the thread
that became undone
Despite the fact
that the light is gone
Despite the tears that
stung
and the sadness that clung
Despite their drunken stupor
and insensitive tongues
despite what you have endured
and how vulnerable you have become
You won!

My sweet strong sister
Stay strong.

Baba was, is
your morning sun.

By Razan Abdul Majeed

Where I Found Fernando

FP
Here’s Portugal’s main man! The one who once wrote ‘What is merges with what, I sleep and am. And I’m, Not feeling; sad I’m not. But a sad thing I am.’ From I’m Scanning Things I Can’t see, Portugal, 1933

My most cherished buy and souvenir of Lisbon was my Fernando Pessoa ‘Selected Poems’. Not only because I love buying and collecting books; not only because it is great Pessoa and my strange connection to his work; and not only because English translations are hard to find. It’s all of the above plus this important fact: I bought this poetry book from Bertrand Chiado!

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My FP Book – Stamped by Bertrand Chiado Bookstore, Lisbon, May, 2017

Bertrand is the oldest bookstore in the world. The one which has been in operation since 1732. The one which is beautiful with all its antiqued bookshelves and arches. The one which smells of old books, tradition and history. The one which made me think of intellectuals and friendly ghosts lurking in corners. The one which reaffirmed my need and passion for books and reading. The one which made me think what a dream it would be to work in a bookstore like this one in a city like Lisbon and be surrounded (on a daily basis) by endless greatness and giants stacked on old wooden shelves. Anything which has history has a right to be romanticised – a simplistic view leaning on idealism but worth every thinking cell in me!

All the more reason for falling in love with Lisbon. Lisbon – the city of FP. The one which screams history in every corner; Fado music echoing in little streets; romantic benches; purple trees; sunny sun; cotton-candy clouds; and hidden treasures if you look closely and if you just make a point of searching for these treasures with an open heart, renewed eyes and a pinch of human curiosity!

Inside of Bertrand Chiado – the oldest bookstore in the world, Lisbon, May, 2017

 

 

Uruguay’s Big Man

mario-benedetti
M.B. 

This image is of a Uruguayan man who – in the non-Spanish speaking world is not very well known or not as well-known as he should be but who – in the Spanish-speaking world – is considered one of Latin America’s important writers.

Uruguay is the smallest Spanish-speaking country in South America, but it has always been well-populated with poets and the poetry scene there has always been hyperactive (my idea of paradise). I didn’t know that until I stumbled upon this man’s poetry years ago and dug deeper – only to find out (to my dismay), the availability of English translations for Uruguayan poetry is quite limited.

Who is this kind-looking man?

His name is Mario Benedetti. He was born in 1920. In his 88 years, he lived as fully as many of us now could only dream of living. He had an eventful life, an important one. One of art; travel; politics; and exile. He was a journalist, novelist and a poet. In the 1960s, Uruguay saw itself as the cradle of revolution in Latin America. Che Guevara was welcomed there as a hero during a brief visit and that was the period many writers in Uruguay were writing in magazines and providing theories to back up revolutionary practice. Mario Benedetti was the poet of that moment! He became famous throughout the continent for the direct style in his verses of anger, resistance and love.

Mario Benedetti published 80 books and won international awards. Some of you may even know ‘La Tregua’ which inspired the movie The Truce in the 1970s. He was married for 66 years to the same woman and his death followed hers 3 years later. I found his last poem before dying to be quite melancholic. The first line goes like this: ‘my life has been like a fraud’.

Mario Benedetti wrote beautiful poems. Many about love. I personally like ‘Little stones at my window’. But what made me enter his world was another one. It was this one: Táctica y estrategia. For the Romantics, here it is.

My tactic is
to look at you
to learn how you are
to love you as you are
my tactic is
to talk to you
and to listen to you
to build with words
an indestructible bridge
my tactic is
to remain in your memories
I don’t know how
nor
with what pretext
but to remain with you
my tactic is
to be frank
and to know that you’re frank
and not to sell to ourselves
simulations
so that between us
there is no curtain
nor abyss
my strategy is
in contrast
deeper and
more simple
my strategy is
that one of these days
I don’t know how
nor
with what pretext
you finally
need me.

On Loving

 

Icelandic Love
I captured this beautiful image of two gentle Icelandic horses at a horse field / stable in Iceland, 2017

There is nothing in the world that I want

but you and your love,

all other things seem small in comparison.

 

I want to keep your heart my own,

so much that I would rather love you first

and live incidentally.

 

My happiness is now in your hands,

because loving you means you can carry me.

 

Wherever and whenever you please,

in whatever shape or form you choose.

 

I have never felt my mind breathe with undistracted enjoyment,

as it does when I am with you.

 

You occupy all my senses.

 

What if you love me less one day?

It is done now and I have to admit this dependence,

I admit it willingly, wholeheartedly,

since I love you so much.

 

Since there’s no other way.

 

By Razan Abdul Majeed

Gone

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I captured this great image of Palestinian children just being children and having fun. It was the exact spot where I took my first (uneasy) steps towards my father’s lost city. Nablus, Palestine, 2012

Gone is the memory of the stories we heard as children

Gone are the people who loved us without egos and conditions

Gone is the longing for impossible things and adventurous missions

Gone are our dreams of kings, kingdoms and royal decisions

Gone are the nights we slept without waking

Gone is the time we loved, and shunned hating

Gone is the sensation of all sensations!

Of childhood innocence and liberations

We weep over the corpse of our childhood life

With a choking realization (we shout) ‘Gone! Gone! Gone!’

 By Razan Abdul Majeed      

 

 

 

Chile’s Passion: Palestine and her Pablo

A poster displaying comical scenes of Neruda and his mistress, and depicting Neruda’s playfulness and joie de vivre. It caught my eye when I was visiting his home in Santiago, Chile, 2014

Chile impressed me. For numerous reasons (you can Google them), and for very personal ones. Did you know that the Palestinian community in Chile is the largest outside of the Arab world? Up to half a million. How about this – did you know Chilean Palestinians have a professional football club in Santiago founded almost a 100 years ago? Some of you do: the ‘great’ Club Deportivo Palestino! I bet not many of you know this: go to Chile, speak to a Chilean, say you are a Palestinian / Emarati living in Dubai and just watch his or her expression, followed by a pleasant reaction and warm words. I felt incredibly welcomed.

Without exaggeration, almost every person I met there proudly told me he or she knew a Chilean whose parents/grandparents are from Palestine. And most of them continued with this theme: they’re are as Chilean as can be, but with a passion, a subdued nostalgia – that of a Palestinian in exile.

But I am not just writing about Chile and Palestinians. What prompted this introduction is my love for the devoted ‘son’ of Chile. You must all know him. He is an artist whose heart was always consumed by passion. He is a poet of love whose soul was always with the people. He was a lover of everything Chilean from its land, its people, its flora and fauna. He was born in 1904 and died at the age of 69, making him a witness of the most decisive events of his century. He shared the World Peace Prize with Paul Robeson and Pablo Picasso, 1950. He received a Nobel prize in literature, 1971. He wrote volumes and volumes of poetry (naturally leaving us with some not-so-good poetry) but also leaving us with 100s of unforgettable ones.

I found many Art expressions and this one was on one of Pablo’s outside walls at his home in Santiago. Chile, 2017

I visited his home in Santiago. And there I felt his aura and found him everywhere and in everything. He was in all his peculiar furniture (arranged cleverly to entertain many friends), in all his ornaments, his paintings, his books – and of course in his writing sanctuary. All testaments for his love of Chile. Read beyond ‘Tonight I can write’ and ‘I like for you to be still’. Get to know the man behind the poet. You will find a man whose abiding devotion to Chile is fathomless.
Pablo Neruda.

 

Poet of the 20th Century

Nizar
Poetry, by Nizar Qabbani

Nizar Tawfiq Qabbani (1923-1998) was a diplomat, a publisher and a great Arab poet from Syria. He is considered one of the most influential Arab poets of his century, revered for his brilliance and poetic style which explores themes of love, feminism, religion and Arab nationalism. I love his poetry for its simplicity, elegance and openness. His daring themes like eroticism, not to mention his ability (with successful outcomes) to transform political questions concerning the Arab citizen on the street into beautiful poetry – clearly distinguishes him from other Arab poets of the 20th century.
Get to know his poetry. It is transforming!