by Farah Bassyouni



I was almost called after the squelches of my brother’s heart being stepped on, mixing 
molokhia and koshary to anger my grandmother at the dinner table just suit me better

Sickness dips me into the peripheral sea surface, after cutting mangoes in the kitchen I watch out 
for my mother’s carefully allocated locations of warmth, hoping to scrape the dirt off my lungs 

The first time i heard the word ‘sharmoota’ was the day right before I played Rizzo in my fifth grade production of Grease
After no one but her showed up, I learned to cocoon into my bedsheet’s stitching and wait 

                              You can still hear El Mesaharaty yell before the sun rises, there’s watermelon and
                            cheese Waiting for me, I stopped eating with them the second time i heard the word

I wonder if Felukah knew I’d ask the birds in Cairo, and close my heart when they didn't answer
How do you fall back in love with the parasitized sidewalks of your country? 

I think I lost my mother tongue when I was fourteen, and I became the oppressor And
the place where the buildings didn't dare to touch the Nile no longer fascinated me 

I still felt it with red-stained summer naps and the occasional stretching of skin in Ghazalah At
exactly 6:15pm, you can catch the fish bowl of saltwater exhaling, promising silence and lore
Enter the freezing hip dips and the crisp folding of his jeans, calling me habebty Don't lose your
sunlight in the arms of a lover, lose your balance instead, I didn't know back then 

I ask about hands going where they’re supposed to, and hid my ‘love is love’ poster from my

But now im too preoccupied with droplets of sex falling in the shower drain 

The sun picked me up after-school, said we gotta get mcdonalds before going to Maadi 
She has no allocation of warmth, and she makes banana coconut look both ways 

We all knew Mahmoud stole the mangoes from our garden, but couldn't they just let him? 
My mother’s disservice to every service we’ve ever had, and they call us farafeer 

I can't remember where I lost myself within Midaq Alley

And where Naguib Mahfouz’s words exchanged with my skin cells 

I knew I had to leave to love, the story of childhood within Persepolis’ arms 
Will I still carry the weight of quiet blood within my untouched hijab? 

I walked through Muizz one last time, hoping the oud player would still be here flirting 
Maybe he’d changed corners, I can't remember over the taste of shawarma and enamor 

I learned to love that banana coconut sunscreen, and never said no to Gandofli on the beach 
I stretched my eyes across engulfing hands, just like I learned from The Zahir 

After all, I ended up being called after the ironic revival of joy

Doomed to dance the cynical line of engagements and weddings and pleasure’s broken heart —-- 

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