This is what you’ll tell me the first time we meet.
December 12, 2023
I won’t make metaphors out of fish. If I have to die, I choose the ocean. If I have to live, I choose you. You: Everyone I’ve ever mourned. I believe less & less of sunlight these days. I won’t die alone. To awaken crying is to awaken displaced. Ghost of your joy in the bathtub. A face in the mirror. Your nephew’s painting in the foyer. My mother cried in bedrooms growing up. I would study her for hours. In a study, researchers learned patients who cried less are likely to have dismissive attachment styles. Today, every bedroom in the house is mine. I stopped crying at age 12. I am angry at the color yellow. Trauma and all eight of its tentacles make a mangle of my skin. I can’t find my home. As a child, I hated being the youngest. I hated being looked at by those I loved. In dreams, I spoke a language no one understood. Research suggests loneliness increases cardiovascular disease. When my cousin died, she died alone. Heart failure makes the body go boom. When the world collapsed around Darwish, he wrote of coffee and sex. When you held my body close to yours, I thought of clementines, sweet citrus, all the world’s lemons we’d temper with honey. The world’s loneliest whale sings the loudest song. This is what you’ll tell me the first time we meet. And I’ll think about the ocean. And I’ll think about you. I never learned how to swim. I’ve been drowning my whole life. Studies suggest drowning lasts 1-3 minutes. I’ll never stop grieving. Scientists are still searching for the 52-hertz whale. But I swear he’s here. In my bedroom. And I can hear him. And he’s telling me I can stop.
This poem appeared in We Call to the Eye & the Night: Love Poems by Writers of Arab Heritage, edited by Hala Alyan and Zeina Hashem Beck and published by Persea Books.