IN WHICH I PREFER TO BLAST FRANK WHILE THE DOOR IS CLOSED
Every time my father opens a door
I cringe, even when he’s on the way
out. He swings it violently,
announcing yet another war
he can’t win. These walls shake and
shiver. My house has always been
a museum of rage. There, the black mark
in my brother’s room, from where Mama threw
the شبشب or there, the sad face I sharpied
on the balloon Omar popped, still gazing
back at me from the ceiling of my bedroom. Or here,
this bed. It is morning and I hear my father shuffle
around the living room, so I raise the volume
on Ivy. My phone warns me: Your ears are important.
I remind my phone
that I hear just fine:
Omar turning over in his sleep,
Mama dropping cutlery in the sink,
my father slamming a door,
again. My house has always been
a museum of rage. I can pick any corner
to prove it. Sometimes I want my father
to go away, and sometimes I want to cry
over a memory I never want to have. I could hate you
now, but I’d rather never. So, I raise
the volume, drown out the rest
of the house.
IN WHICH I PAUSE FRANK, BUT STILL DO NOT SPEAK TO MY FATHER
my father makes
his way into
and I don’t rise
to meet him.
I sit in my warm spot
on the couch, watching
him, stumbling with
his few words,
trying to find a way
to walk, without walking
all over us. Mama stays
silent, but smiling.
Sometimes, I wish I could have
that demeanor, but I know
too well what it costs.
She speaks the price
all too well,
and I am
I don't like to fight 'til I'm fighting.
Mama says I was born silent, barely crying.
That must mean the rage only came later,
I think first in preschool. For some reason,
I was angrier in Arabic than English, but
that doesn’t matter much now. In this house,
we speak in silent rage, language so loud,
High blood pressure
runs on both sides,
and that is a technical
way of saying
that we were born
with this vocabulary:
My father never raised his, and I suppose
I am grateful for that. Sometimes
we joke about that time when I was eight
and found Gedo’s handgun
in Teita’s old room. I remember Mama asking me
why I had hid it, and I had no answer.
to keep it
INTERROGATING HOW WE FORGET OUR FATHER(S)
(TO THE TUNE OF FORREST GUMP)
that broad shouldered men,
with pursed smiles, love
the look of our bodies
in the night.
I don’t care for uniforms.
What is another man
on another chair?
Give me my couch and I will be
grateful. Give me a suit and I will laugh
the summer away. I never needed a tight
pair of pants to tell me how to stand. Give me
my couch and I will sit down.
My back is breaking.
I’ve been playing
more violent videogames
around my father. I don’t know
if that’s because I’m bored, or
if it has something to do with the air
around him, how it leaves skid marks
in my nostrils, ash
on my tongue. I don’t think
about it too much and keep
playing. Later, I will take
a smoke break, bite my lips.
They burn from the cigarettes.
what we cannot give. New Cairo
is in love with its fences. Soon,
there won’t be much desert
to repair. There won’t be much
of a Nile for you to swim
But you keep
we forget the pages
we ripped out. And I’m tired
of smoking. Give me a new lung
and I will sigh softer
INTERROGATION OF MALE TEARS
(TO THE TUNE OF BAD RELIGION)
I’ve heard this stifled song before:
my father whimpering
in the living room,
while I hide behind the couch.
In a cab racing from Maadi to Rehab,
Misho cries for the first time
I can remember,
and the sight stops me,
like the climax of a movie
I’ve been waiting to see,
but could never name.
I only heard the story,
of how Omar wept over the phone
to Mama, while driving
on some Boston highway,
but I can imagine how
it sounded like screeching
to her. I hear how sweet
the static was
when the connection cut off.
I can never make [men] love me.
So I want Noah’s flood
out of these eyes. I want to trust
God and not climb a mountain
for refuge. I want to see the man
in me drown, screaming
as the water silences the last
of his pride. I want to sail away
on an arc far from this body. I want it
to wash away, up on a quiet bank down
the Nile, somewhere where it can’t
take up too much space, where no one
will cry for it,
not even me.
Hazem Fahmy is a poet and critic from Cairo. He is currently pursuing a degree in Humanities and Film Studies from Wesleyan University. His poetry has appeared, or is forthcoming in Apogee, HEArt, Mizna, and The Offing. His performances have been featured on Button Poetry and Write About Now. His debut chapbook, Red//Jild//Prayer, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press this Fall. In his spare time, Hazem writes about the Middle East and tries to come up with creative ways to mock Classicism. He makes videos occasionally.