bread by Dahlia Dandashi

tonight, there is no art in my poetry and no poetry in my art. 

you can grab a hammer, jam it in my head

i will not understand. i will not improve. 

all i want to do is hate myself in a bathtub of bubbles

and fake that i have direction or the will to create.

i do not see god.

i am no good, i should be tossed out.

or

or maybe

i could be baked in the oven at 400 degrees

and an idea will rise by tomorrow.

are you thinking about me? by Dahlia Dandashi

are you thinking of me?

the saxophone

is swooning us

through the radio.

i am melting

and i can count every second

that your cologne sinks into me.

everyone is yelling over the music

drunk and spewing puerile comments...

but not you.

i can feel you tense,

do you know?

silly me.

it was only a brush of the hand,

it was only a brush of the hand...

coffee by Dahlia Dandashi

she comes out to play on wednesday evenings

hot yellow flames breaching out from the top of her head,

hungry like a blood thirsty gator.

no waterfront will save you.

i have not had my coffee in fucking days. 

i am only desirable for so long. i burn the timber even before it is able to hold roots.

i eat your compliments in every meal of the day,

faster than you can drown in boring tepid water

faster than you can make me a decent cup of coffee.

lovely? lovely was my mother.

the oven between my thighs stay hot and angry. it says 'caution: stay away.'

i live in stasis, my arms and i, only coming out on wednesday nights so we can evade the crowd.

but you keep asking me about my day, and all i'm dreaming about disappearing in that bag of beans. 

my lack of interest is my vice,

my emerald eyes always out with a full set of teeth.

nuanced by Dahlia Dandashi

i come in eight different flavors

and 20 different shades of blue.

who will i disappoint today? who will i kiss tomorrow? 

can't you see? i am hiding beyond your dresser

taking bites out of the wood like a curious squirrel

and filing them against my teeth. 

do i smile the way you like? are you proud of me?

i am a fibber.

i came in liking tea and i will leave loving coffee

because it is friday

and i don't like who i am. 

boxes by Dahlia Dandashi

we will never meet freedom. it will never move into our neighborhood or become our friend. it will never invite us to dinner or lend us a helping hand. 

and yet, we keep praying to have it imported in boxes,

just to dream of sprinkling it on our coffee like morning dew. 

what would it be like to wake up and not think, "what would it be like?"

we will never know.

freedom will forever come to our cedar trees packaged in plastic wrap and tape

and we will hide out behind our chalets and ancient ruins

begging the God in our tobacco shops and churches 

to deliver boxes that will never come. 

yard sale by Dahlia Dandashi

at the yard sale,

the foreigners eat our olives and wear our hamsa hands. we did not invite them.

mama! all my cereal boxes! have you seen them?
the man from next door is trying to eat my granola with some milk.

my hat! his daughter will sport it at the golf club. i think they're rich.

our stories! everything i ever wrote. all of jido's clothes. the bombs took it all. the fire stole it.

but it's mine mama! they're mine!

she says nothing is ours

except our land

and a sense of belonging.

but even those

are no longer ours.  

even the rubble 

will one day die

to be replaced by more of what was once ours

or what i see now

was actually never ours at all.

the meeting by Dahlia Dandashi

it wasn't love at first sight or anything. none of it was anecdotal.

for those short hours, we were part of each other. not like a puzzle. we aren't meant to be with one another like "that."

but we were whole. complete. i was his roots and he was my branches, swinging to the sounds of the underground and honking horns from outside. 

it wasn't romantic. it wasn't supposed to be. 

we paced around barely speaking with our lips. everything came in the beat of our footsteps.

how do you describe something unknown that somehow felt so comfortable? we already knew how to read each other. 

we have most definitely met before. and we may never meet again. 

 

morning coffee by Dahlia Dandashi

i see you in my coffee

raw, honest, unforgivable, alarming, black.

i dip my toes in for a taste

and your alligator claws tear at me.

i did not mean to obstruct your morning,

i just wanted to be near you

or in you,

it's all the same.

 

cinnamon, 

ground me up like cinnamon, 

and i'll throw a parade for all the little beans

that trot on by

and one by one,

we will bow at your feet. 

 

 

rowboat by Dahlia Dandashi

i have bought a rowboat from the man who lives across from me.

he asks where i'm going, 

i tell him "back."

 

how could there be such mountainous authority in syllables? in an a and an e, 

a "childish" and "immature,"

an "i don't need you."

yes, i am going back,

rowing my way to the garden where we met when i was just 17,

where i lived candid and young

and you, just the same,

but unknown yet to me

was your diagnosed capriciousness and your agile ability to dispatch me from your view.

thank you sir,

i hope to float my way back to you again. 

i hope to see you soon. 

new york with frank o'hara - ephemeral by Dahlia Dandashi

i was polluting my lungs with coffee and cigarette air in new york city

when i saw frank o'hara.

he, too, was imbibing black coffee and digesting cigarette butts 

faster than he could digest his blueberry pancakes. 

"what are you doing here?" 

it was 1963 and kennedy was just assassinated. o'hara was reading the paper like a machine. 

"oh god it's wonderful

to get out of bed

and drink too much coffee

and smoke too many cigarettes

and love you so much"

he did not look up at me.

he was like the new york subway, 

 known to me only through passing,

 eclectic and electric,

eating the secrets of mothers and daughters

and strangers and artists

and dejected wall street executives as they walked by.

it was 1963. he was an anachronistic anomaly to me, but unheeded by everyone else.

"tell me how to write like you."

he tapped the table with the tip of his pencil

and moved the chair just enough for me to sit.

he shifted a coke bottle toward me 

before writing and reciting "Having a coke with you."

 

and then i understood.

 

i continued to pollute my lungs with coffee and cigarette air,

sedentary but attentive,

eating the secrets of mothers and daughters

and strangers and artists

and dejected wall street executives as they walked by.

 

 

olive soap by Dahlia Dandashi

the sounds of syria play through my windows when i sleep.

the birds still sing. they do not believe in war or bloodshed.

the sun shines her teeth. and i can feel her smile on my hot cheeks as i doze.

 

in another life, 

i eat charred corn on a rooftop,

my short legs dangling like wind chimes from cedar trees.

i sing ballads to chickpeas and pistachios as i walk through the souk,

my plump heart a succulent pomegranate of song. 

 

when i am awake, my lonely soul calls for the flooding sea and salt.

these people do not understand.

the mediterranean is my mother,

she watches me with brooding eyes and heavy tears, even from far,

anticipating my return. 

 

our pasts died long ago in crowded shoeboxes,

photographs trapped under rubble just aching to pupate.

latakia, i still taste you in my dreams,

your arms and legs now lost somewhere in memories of olive soap and lye.

 

the mediterranean is my mother,

and she will always live on.

she does not believe in war or bloodshed,

and i will only die once she swallows me whole.

waiting room by Dahlia Dandashi

this man.

he came as quick as arrived,

a brush fire.

i smell him in trees, the blues and whites of water.

he is the color of life and despair all at once,

coming solely to wash me away.

why do i see him in my dreams?

--

it's all pink and blue and green leaves.

i'm smoking, (i'm always smoking)

my hair is long, his hands are blue 

my body is blue.

i'm not so beautiful here, but in there, i'm eternal.

in there, she is not afraid to be anyone but his.

i do not know her well.

she is tall, legs like poplar trees,

teeth sharp and white like glass.

a queen. 

--

why am i the only one who ever dies?

i come back to life only when he decides.

--

i should not have brought you here.

through the doors, they sit together with their legs spread. cigars in hand, congregated to tell tales about the inside of my thighs.

you leave your shoes at the door.

i know, i know,

the floor is plagued with scissors and hair,

coffee and wine.

my curls are scattered, but my thoughts are shy.

it's not ladylike.

do you see me?

i offer you coffee even though i know you prefer tea,

i color my hair just to chop it off,

who am i? the scissors do not know.

i invited you in, consciously knowing you had no intention to stay.

you came to visit my house, but you never wanted a home

i cut my hair.

do you see me now?

you walk out, empty handed,

and join the men in the meeting room.

lemonade by Dahlia Dandashi

he's praying to a god he doesn't believe in just so he kiss my sweetness

but he does not know how sour i've been cultivated to be. 

i bite back,

canines and all,

acid yellow and salt-plagued teeth. 

 

yet, he worships me

so i peel,

he licks me,

so i peel.

seedless, juicy,

i peel.

caustic by Dahlia Dandashi

i am critical of her.

i bite with angry jaws, hungry and alone. 

i'm either eroding or corroding

depending on the day,

the apex of disaster.

i find myself subverting my own conscious

to push myself down.

i am my own worst nightmare, 

a woman of fire and depth

so raw that only i can break or mend myself. 

rosewater - to my teta by Dahlia Dandashi

I

p

o

u

r

and pour

until the bowl can hold no more.

the rosewater takes me away,

back to times where showering with boiled water and wooden buckets was how we survived heat.

 

i see her on the balcony,

dried flowers and ivy pinned to her curls,

sewing us into the quilts she created by hand. 

i still see her there,

unraveling our ancestry with every poke and pull through as she made us part of our soil. 

 

my teta.

 

my teta is a library of scintillating stories

and a bursting cabinet of spices.

she is the matriarch that made us, 

the queen of syria, 

the goddess that seamed blankets with historical fingertips

to build immortal armor stronger than any words of animosity.

 

they speak of us with desolate tongues, 

but they do not know how sweet my teta tastes. 

 

she is rosewater,

tangy and grounded,

passionate and blossoming,

the water of the earth that nourishes me and fills fountains,

the origin of all life that brings me back home.

woman of rock by Dahlia Dandashi

I am avid for your distance, 

As I only wish to drown in your lengths. 

It makes me the strong pillar I am, 

A woman of rock and cement. 

 

I know you do not need my legs to carry you. 

 

But If you allow me, 

I will give you myself in regiments, 

Arms and legs in the first battalion, 

Soul and eyes thereafter. 

 

And if you do not,

I will charge on, 

My thick tusks to lead the way. 

 

paint by Dahlia Dandashi

I want to live inside your nectar.

 

My teeth ache, 

Forbidden in my mouth.

 

I can only speak words through my eyes,

They flicker back and forth at the movement of your hands.

 

I am selfish and wretched, 

Only true to my pen and paper.

So i grasp them in my claws, 

As i drift away. 

 

I saw you in my dream. You were my dream.

 

Threaded in milk bedsheets, you pieced yourself next to me.

 

I saw us in the mirror. 

You were the same as before. Nineteen and handsome. Shy and outspoken.

 

Orange filtered through, your eyelids fluttering like light from the window shades.

 

You couldn't stop moving. Your body was speaking through paint,

A vessel for your visions. 

 

The colors were viscous, molding with your fingers. You were vacillating back and forth, lucid even within the confines. 

 

I watched you from the pillows, my parts scattered on the floor like a child. My legs were flailing in the air, my head braced backwards to admire you upside down.

 

You looked like gold.

 

I want to cry to you my acidulous tears,

Feed you the nectar to your ingenious. 

dahlia by Dahlia Dandashi

"but i have horrible skin," i said to him.

he was not phased. he was hungry.

"you're too old to be alone. let me care for you."

i knew what that meant. 

"i don't need anyone."

he paused.

"but i can save you,"

i almost jeered.

"i can touch you like no other man can."

they all say that. 

he wanted to clench my face in his jaws. i could taste his cologne.

"you are a precious flower. you deserve to be treated like a princess."

he was right.

i am a flower,

 and nothing than my petal is more nurturing.

i need me. 

he was in my dream by Dahlia Dandashi

i was wandering in my deepest dream when i found him. 

he was with the company of his guitar and glasses, lost underneath tall blades of grass. he was there, but he was also somewhere else. he was comfortable near the brook, one leg teasing itself in and out of the water. the mountains were reaching beyond the skies, each top coated with snow. the sun was setting, and his skin was gold. i could see my friend's soft smile even from afar. 

i stopped to the left of him, looking down at the top of his head. 

"what are you doing here?" 

he barely moved his head up toward me, but i could see his eyes. they were bolder than the sun.

he gave me quick wink before he began to strum his guitar and hum to the water.

all i wanted to do was hold him again. 

"i haven't seen you in a while."

he kept his eyes religiously shut as he continued to strum. he motioned his head to a spot next to him.

i rested my body against his side as he played. the sky was filled with words, his thoughts scrolling up and down in black font as the orange sun was beginning to fade. 

"do you have to go? just stay here, please. you always leave." 

he stopped strumming. he placed the guitar on a patch in front of him before wrapping his arms around me. i began to cry as he held me. 

he was humming again as he rocked me back and forth. the mountains began to crack and avalanche on themselves as i cried harder and harder. the smile never left his face, even as the tangerine sun was sinking into the river. it was almost over. 

"come back with me," i begged. "don't go."

the mountains were crumbling into the river, and the rapids were gaining traction. the trees were wilting to the floor, creeping their ways back into the ground. the words were shrinking and disappearing into the clouds. i could feel his arms grow thin. 

"come back? but i never even left," he whispered.

the blue sky was dissipating into white as the mountains became rubble. everything around us was crashing into each other, but he kept humming. i cried and cried and cried, only to find myself in the back of a boat, cruising the river. i looked behind me to see him in the same spot, strumming his guitar, smile plastered. he waved goodbye as i called his name. he became smaller and smaller and smaller as i coasted to the edge of the cliff. 

i woke in my bed this morning. i hope to see him tonight.