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in the hiding

my mother gives love / through the severity of / past and future tragedies

Editors’ Note: The following poem by ’mad is part of the notebook I Want Sky, collecting prose, poems, and hybrid work celebrating Egyptian activist Sarah Hegazy, and the lives of all LGBTQ+ Arabs and people of the SWANA region and its diaspora. Edited by Mariam Bazeed and published as a part of a partnership with Mizna, the notebook will also be available as a print issue this summer, including pieces exclusive to that format. Continue reading work published in this series here.


in the hiding

my mother gives love
through the severity of
              past and future tragedies

she tells me
the Lebanese expression
translates to english as,
“I love you
so much,
you’ll carry me 
to my grave.”

I’m too deep into 
the diaspora to check 
if that’s true, but
I’m Arab enough to know
not to question her.

she calls my haircut,
my clothes, my desire,
a “horror” she hopes
my future children
will inflict on me.

she compared
my transition
to the brutal loss
of her young mother.

she sees in my new chest
the pain she felt
the pain she feared
and worked so hard 
to hide me 
from.

I try to give my 
love in celebration,
“your art is beautiful”

in the things we share,
“sahtein”

the strengths I see,
the devotion that gave 
and sustained my life,
“thank you.” 

what do I say to,
“you’re disgusting.”
how do I hold,
“you make me sick.”

how do I explain
the tragedy was
in the hiding?

the love for myself
is shedding the things
I cannot carry
to my grave,

“I’m not,
I can’t,
 I won’t.”

the love for my mother
is carrying her
to the grave. 

the love we share
somehow cannot be 
buried.