i hear them calling


memorial at the vancouver art gallery honouring the 215 indigneous children whose remains were discovered at the kamloops indian residential school in bc (photography by ben nelms, courtesy of cbc)

this soil is drenched in blood
that runs across highways of tears 
and scorched pavements 

beneath the trenches of this land 
hear the whimpers of an ailing mother earth

her children
their bodies discovered 
by dragging knuckles 
across unmarked mass graves 

dousing gasoline on flames and traumas 
that devour smoke
and entire nations 
like a furnace 

piercing shrieks 
rumble partition walls 
thundering,
between shriving pews

that hold pages of gospel
pressed between the blood-stained hands 
of priests
and rosary beads 

bear witness to the bones
and scattered ashes
the silence 

there’s nothing your half-mast symbolisms will do
to reconcile the wreckage 
you’ve unleashed on young spirits

i hear them calling 
hushed whispers
asking to come home 

if the root of oppression is the loss of memory
then is remembrance the threshold to justice?

an open door
towards a mosaic of truths 
a balm for healing

a tender loving softness
against these hardened plastered walls
built on genocide and theft 

oh, little ones
you deserve more than
empty apologies 
and hollow promises 

you deserve more than 
candlelit vigils and teddy bears

you deserve to be seen
to have your names and stories released
from these secret shrines

to finally put to rest everything that has ever hurt you 
you deserve justice 
we will keep fighting 
for you.

dedicated to residential school survivors and their families

lh
june 2021

nakba ’73

palestinian refugee, “‘baq’a camp in jordan, 1967 (photography by munir nasr, courtesy of unrwa).

today is not a poem 
woke up feeling guilty for resting my head on the pillow
as gaza laid her children to rest 

i remember their faces 
their names scattered in a sea of stars and survivors
they came to me in my sleep last night 

pleading: 
we are hurting 
we are afraid
we are tired 

today is not a holiday
donned my mother’s taub and keffiyeh on my shoulders
as haifa and ‘akkā wrapped white linen 
around the limbs of lynched bodies 

to contain what’s left in the lasting rupture
between flesh and blood,
still warm 

between occupied and occupier 
between past and present 
or rather, 
between what was and what has become 

today is not a celebration
spoke with my uncle
prayed for his safety before wishing him eid mubarak

told me that death came knocking 
but fled as soon as it arrived 

he reminded me of memories we once shared
as if nostalgia can somehow erase the goodbyes in his voice

i wanted to say i love you
but couldn’t find the words
instead, i said:

i miss you amu
please take care amu
we will be reunited again someday inshallah  
amu 

what’s the equivalent translation of love 
for a people that have a long-lasting affair
with poets and hopeless romantics
anyway?

i read somewhere once 
that when a body carries a trauma
not yet metabolized 
it learns that to love bares an attachment
not ready for loss 

catches on the tongue
slicing it in half 
twisted,
i’m sorry for not being better when i had the chance 

today is not a feast 
ate kahk that tasted bitter
as our fingertips
curious and penetrating,
scrolled through our news feeds

sprinkled powdered sugar
until it resembled the tops of snow-capped mountains 
purged guilt and bile and confessions of an exiled mind

digesting the pleasure of sweetness
is a privilege my body cannot seem to bear 

today is not a ceasefire 
it is a liberation movement, uninterrupted 
sheikh jarrah was once every city’s worst nightmare

resistance is greater than this iron fist 
it also looks like jerusalem 
she was dancing colours and patterns 
children twirling in laughter and joyful bliss
all around her

a defiant hum 
something like a hopeful melody 
sung
from the tops of the minaret speakers
of al aqsa:

we are an uprising, 
multiplied 

we are an exodus, 
returning 

we are an ode to the people, 
singular and united

we will never leave
we are here to stay
we are here
we are
we. are. 

lh 
may 2021

last words of the unarmed

ghosts from the recent past’ exhibition at the irish museum of modern art in dublin, 2018.

on most nights
if you listen close enough
you can hear the echoes of the last words of the unarmed
whose names reverberate the chants of movements
that mattered long before they were cool

i stand on the shoulders of giants and freedom fighters
from bds to black lives matter
born of legacies before my time:
civil rights, decolonization and anti-imperialist struggle

are the reasons we kneel
we bow
prostrating
before god

we the people
from ferguson to gaza
south africa to kashmir

take up our grief in the streets 
light the establishment on fire with our fury
shout prayers into the night skies
wage a holy war against a system that claims to serve and protect 

the
people 
over profits
has always been profits 
over people

you say they’re just a few bad apples
but how could that be 
when one is known to spoil the bunch
and the rotten fruit kills 

don’t be deceived 
you see
george zimmerman, darren wilson, and amy cooper
were deliberately placed there

like a perfect game of chess
strategic and intricate in design 
to keep the emmett tills and trayvon martins of this world in their place

i can’t breathe
birthed a national slogan 
in legacy and death

say his name
no justice, no peace 
#ericgarner 

left for dead on the scorching pavement in july 
fo(u)r hours 
hands up, don’t shoot

say his name
no justice, no peace
#mikebrown 

failing to signal
is not a death sentence 
but apparently sleeping in your home is

say her name 
no justice, no peace
#sandrabland 
#breonnataylor

mental illness is not a crime 
and a child’s imagination 
wielding nothing but creative playtime energy 
is not a threat 

say his name 
no justice, no peace
#abdirahmanabdi 
#tamirrice 

if taking a knee
makes you a patriot
then what does it make you when you kneel for…

8 minutes and 47 seconds
on our necks?

#georgefloyd 
takes the world by storm
all smoke and mirrors, 
no fire this time

say his name
no justice, no peace 

more than 2000 still missing and murdered 
never forget
#tinafontaine was only fifteen 
verdict of yet another white, male assailant: not guilty 

say their names
no justice, no peace 
#nomorestolensisters

there is no just-is
when the ahed tamimis stand defiant 
against the unwelcomed presence of idf soldiers 
at the doorsteps of their homes 

brave and steadfast
feet planted, palms shaking 
they strike blows in the face of zionist invasion 
and resist the plunder of their birthright to exist 

i once heard that real justice is what love looks like in public 
it’s #rachelcorrie 
rising from the rubble in rafah

her memory bigger than 
a fleeting moment 
 of solidarity 

before the bulldozer that demolished homes
and dreams 
and the barrier between two worlds 

the privileged, the american 
and the underclass
the occupied 
the marginalized 

she knew this well 
before she died,
she wrote:

“i have a home.
i am allowed to go see the ocean”

spineless political class of the 1%
lie to us between their teeth
with clenched fists behind their backs

and media moguls spin a narrative 
where muslim is synonymous with terrorist
black with criminal
mexican with illegal 

our protesting becomes looting 
and they claim israeli airstrikes are in self defence 
against hamas rockets

we are the collateral damage
that no one cares to fit into sound bites 
memorializing through hashtags
will not bring them back 

whiteness reigns supreme
claims colour blindness as alibi 
while bombs rain down on baghdad 
and chokeholds tighten around the hearts of childless mothers everywhere 

on most nights 
when i shut my eyes tight
transported into the belly of the underworld

i imagine
an alternate universe 
where the echoes of the last words of the unarmed
reverberate a promise 

handwritten from the future 
sealed and signed 
by working class poets, artists, thinkers and healers

whisper,
we’ve already won.

lh
sept 2020 / feb 2021

daughters of palestine’s diaspora

baba standing in front of dome of the rock in jerusalem, circa 1985.

map my story on my back
orient the sails to the east
disembark halfway between the origin points of here and there
lest i drown in the void of never enough

we are the children born from olives trees
into exile
we swim to stay afloat
along streams and empires

daughters of palestine’s diaspora
combust to ignite the path of a road less travelled
leave a trail between checkpoints
dig graves with our searchign fingertips
only to find bodies colonized by broken promises

i repatch the earth with hopes and memories
of my ancestors
collect their bones and bury them
into the flaming soil of an undying legacy

my mother tongue
is my mother’s tongue
she is a song of stars
her name, lost in translation

to a language that doesn’t know how to pronounce her correctly
blunts the soft and sacred arabic spirit
into the straight edges of their pleases and thank you’s

to a language that
paints a mockery of accents and broken english
on a canvas absent of sorry’s

i spit tongues
foreign between lips
master lyrics in the vernacular
sing prophecies into dark grounds
that brew storms at the bottom of coffee cups

sometimes, the words stumble out of my mouth
like wilted flowers made of glass
jagged edges cut the insides of my cheeks
as we talk blood, fire, and men

my mother tongue
is my mother’s tongue
she is a song of stars
her humanity, lost in translation

to a nation that demands that her children at once confess their birthplace
“here” is not an answer they are willing to stomach
would rather dance this tired charade with you

beat the colour out of your melanin
interrogate the genesis of your god
than to accept

you

are a migratory bird who got lost along the way,
wounded
and can’t find its way back
but this nest is all you have

leaving the womb
i did not seize any land
but the inheritance of courage with trembling lips
the weapon of his smile
the elixir of her love

i wear it like a family heirloom
across my collarbone
i was a time between time,
birthed into the twilight

i learned that when a man cries
the shore meets the sand
with every tide
and the sea returns to me

the contours of my spine
are the tops of hills and valleys
they tell stories of sleepwalkers
who awaken from night terrors before dawn
to catch a glimpse of mountaintops

i visit all of the places my father’s dreams have been
sequels in transit
from generation to generation
across raging oceans

that weather questions that taunt and scratch and wither:
when do we get to shed our skins of second class?
look, we worked hard
drilled degrees and diplomas on our walls

have we done enough?
sacrificed enough?
assimilated enough?
are we enough? for you

i visit all of the places my father’s fears have been
in pent up masts and spars of fury
ashen stormed ruins of grief and sullen faces
occupy the insides of glass bottles

the day the ships came
his hands holding a map of ashes
set in motion
heartbeats of war drums and friday prayer sermons

compass needles morphed into swords
pointing me towards jerusalem
running,
i gave up searching for home

stuffed zaatar and almonds and sage into my front pockets
to not forget where i come from
and moved to the beat of my own drum

kept dancing until the air was drunk
with the sweet smells of rose water and saffron
and truth dribbled like honey
from the mouths of babes

fell out love with belonging
settled nowhere and for no one
detached my backbone
and tethered it to velvet wings

daughters of palestine’s diaspora
take flight amidst battle cries
forgotten by tomorrows,
survive in the telling of story
of warriors and intifada martyrs
protests and acts of political warfare

we are the children born from olive trees
into resistance
the pulses of our beating hearts, is too, a revolution.

lh
apr 2020

i am

i am the heat that emanates between the sheets of lovers
the cool touch of winter’s first breath
the burning passion of desire and heartache

i am one-part coffee – black, bitter, and smooth; 
two-parts cream and sugar
a heavenly blend of early mornings and quietude
a bottomless cup of profound conversation and connection

i embody the strength of steel
the beauty of imperfection
the brawn of a lioness
a heart of gold

i am broken in my wholeness
i am the third eye seeking 
i am the kindled spark of light in darkness
his love and mercy run through me

in the flesh
my flaws mirror my humanness
in love, boundaries are blurred
perhaps something caught between happiness and heartbreak

i am the change in seasons
the void of time and space
the here and the now

one of becoming
the voice of reason
moving from being to nothingness. 

Up ↑