the day war came

the day war came 
i folded 
into a million pieces

as 
europe
took up arms 
to defend her homeland

becoming the sorrow 
found in every note 
in a playlist 
awaiting the apocalypse 

the day war came 
i folded 
into a million pieces
more

becoming the rage 
found in every immigrant 
whose motherland was once

invaded
 raped
 and pillaged 

by foreign policy 

in places where
mud is fertile 
enough to fetishize
the glow of dark skin 

dancing at the threshold
of orientalism 
and military occupation 

western imperialism 
rearing its 
ugly head 

now tell stories 
littered with double standards
in the grips of lessons 

familiar 
to the psyches 
of my 
people

notice the silence 
between sentences
and in long gazes

it’s full of answers,
hear the breaking of clouds 
before the thunder 
claps 

notice the pretense 
in words
hoodwinked,
something hopeful 
or patriotic

certain struggles 
are worthy of fanfare 
and heroism

these are the hands 
that carry 
a new world order 
into clear skies 

the same hands
that lift ashes into mouths 
used to being fed
lies and conspiracies 

i was 7 when 
9/11
happened 

growing up,
words like terrorist 
and uncivilized 

sprang across screens
in every home
as america waged 
her holy wars  

on foreign lands
and peoples 
felt deserving of death
and destruction

while the earth slept,
we traveled 

traversing makeshift borders:
into damascus 
beirut 
and 
the west bank  

over the entrails of
kabul 

transgressing boundaries:
into the belly of 
baghdad

once
the cradle of 
the world’s civilization 

call us what we carry 
inheriting the war 
and traumas 

that crossed a bridge 
as it trembled 
and drowned us at sea

holding skeletons
and secrets
i would never say
but would rather sing 

refugees 
gaze at the ocean
in search of home

eat salt
learning to breathe
in luminous waters 

be warned 
the ticket to safety 
will be your proximity to whiteness 

the tabloids say
this tidal wave of migrants
is different,
this time 

they are clean,
prosperous,
educated,
middle-class folk 

don’t worry
they are not from 
the middle east

not black or brown 
dirty or violent 
and certainly not,
disposable 

they will not steal your jobs
or raid your homes 
they are
just. like. us. 

freedom,
now
looks like 

strapping a bomb
to your chest
and declaring your kinsman:

a
  brave
hero 

he died for 
his country 

martyrdom 
looks different depending on 
where you come from 

what you look like
and 
who you worship 

today,
allies of the world 
welcome boycott
divestment
and sanctions 

against the sworn enemy
sending their troops
and missiles 
and well wishes

but none for saigon 
cape town 
or the ira  

the day war came 
pleas of scorched suns
summoned omens 
of sacred covenants 

rupturing treaties 
and two-state solutions 
wondering,

whatever happened 
to the dead and 
their portraits?

one of these days 
when lilacs bloom 
between cracks of doorways 
and regimes 

i will unlock the cage
for all to witness 
soothe wings that take off 
into radioactive turmoil 

bones will crow
but at least,
what you have heard 
is true 

we are coming 
to take back what is 
rightfully ours

and we’ll rise in the sky 
together
free,
at last. 

lh
mar 2022 

confessions of a bipolar mind

i swallowed a lighthouse,
once 

decorated my body 
with glitter and ink 
to signal out 
my reflection 

let out
a shriek 
into the chasm 
of spells and rituals 

when i spoke 
gold fell from my lips

offered a prayer 
to the tide,
moon rising 
wings of fire 

banishing the shadows
from the dark recesses of 
this room 

find me 
somewhere between 
the paradox 
and the lie 

when you read my poetry
know that you are
stepping into a mind
that steps outside of me 

how do i explain 
the mystery
of a bipolar mind 

to a kingdom 
that doesn’t understand 
that not all poems
rhyme 

this is not
a love story
i would leave me
if i could 

dancing on the edge
of a cliff

20 milligrams 
disintegrate between
my fingers
every night

i learned
when smoke rises
it burns 

like a sage’s 
sage 

medicated 
on a high odyssey 
to sanity 

i am the healed
not the sick 

a little unhinged
but here. 

lh 
feb 2022

alchemy’s secret

time is a mother 
running 
northbound 

where the arctic circle 
is the gateway 
to midnight suns
and twilight winters

alchemy’s secret 
whispers
horoscopes
into 
existence 

through 
jittering teeth
and cold airs 

saturated breaths
nestle
evergreen pine
branches

unraveling 
the golden years
of universal cures
and prolonged life

if you ever leave 
and feel alone 
because you did 

catch up with 
the sunrise 
and push me out 
to sea

do not
disappear 
into the abyss 
of your wild youth 

music from before
the storm 
will echo
to you

the true 
meaning 
of life 

what is art 
if not spiritual 

dumped 
into the landfill
of our celestial 
limitations 

encounters at the end 
of the earth
will remind you
that 

loneliness is time spent
with the 
world 
too

so go on and run free
escape in gentle wonder
go in grace 
and don’t look back 

let go 
there is more
ahead of you 


promise. 

lh
jan 2022

an open letter

to all the men i’ve ever 
loved 
or have yet to love

when the earth’s spring 
reminds you
to be soft
again

listen,

your body is not 
a casket 
for pain 
to be buried in.

lh
nov 2021

his anger

his anger 
reflects
all the times 

he wanted to
weep 

but
couldn’t 

heaving enough
hot air
to beat himself
into oblivion 

he carries it 
close
like a companion 
of the hard seasons

that rages
on 

until his fists
pound all
the walls
and broken mirrors, 
he owns

and 
her pupils
soften into streams 

her face
now,
a ghost town 

mapped and abandoned
along her
cheek bones 

calling a wolf
a wolf
is not enough 

to stop 
this house 
from burning down 

it’s already 
engulfed in the debris
of his destruction 

and 
boyhood 
wounds 

nothing hurts 
here 
anymore 

at least,
in darkness 
we can pretend 

do not go
gentle into the 
nights 

when she is angry 
at the sun
for not setting 
to extinguish 
the fury of her days 

and writes poems 
that make grown men 
cry.

lh
nov 2021

the magic of a winter’s afternoon

second thoughts 
on a winter
afternoon 

come to meet you
through every window
in search of the least abandoned 
constellation 

like purple clouds 
on the horizon 

pounding 
at tempered glass
begging to know
asking, 

what do you want 
to be 
when you grow up?

when we sleep, 
where do we 
go?

should you die tomorrow, 
what will you 
miss 
the most?

and i answer, 

when i grow up,
i want to be 
a list 
of endless possibilities 

when we sleep,
do not disturb
maybe we will wake up 
singing 

if i should die tomorrow,
i will miss 
the particular and ordinary

and before the songs
of night 
come to visit

the purple haze
disappearing 
behind the frames 
of darkness 

second thoughts
of a winter’s afternoon 
remind me
that 

even here,
the magic of this life
shimmers 

with lustful wonder
curious 
and
penetrating 

the magic within
you
shimmers sometimes,
too. 

lh
nov 2021

the child within

you’ve been here before 
the child within
never forget

the child within
always
remembers

hurt was here
long before we were
to collect the names
of every stranger

whose ever taken our
kindness for
weakness

will you come and play with me?
ride the waves
until they settle my little beating
quivering
bones of milk and honey

be gentle,
my heart still hides wounds
that never bleed

time doesn’t heal all
but it gives us comfort
to think it does
don’t we?

why else would we
praise the rain
when it pours

somersaulting
in puddles that carry waters made of tears

hoping that tomorrow
will carry the weight
of an encyclopedia of a broken heart

relieve the burden of its
weight
volumes upon volumes
onto solid ground

lay flowers on sidewalks
that bear witness to
the pain

shed skins
tossed into the wind
with spirits
and ghosts of our recent past

memories
that testisfy
to the joy

of night skies
and shooting starts
that steal kisses at midnight

and the love

love
wading in typhoons
of butterflies and roses

you’ve been here before
the child within
never forgets

the child within
always
remembers

to heal,
you will cry
a lot

until neptune
washes away your sorrows
in holy waters

that baptize
the blood curdling screams
in the abyss
of apollo’s fire

you will laugh
until you have crow’s feet
for eyes

and the song of achilles
drum up
battles
yet
unsung

love was here
long before we were
to look into the eyes
of every loved one

whose ever held our
hand
leading us back to
ourselves

coming home
to oneself
is like finally having
the homecoming
you were never allowed to have

now,
you stand at the intersect
of what was
and
what could have been

and you realize that
sometimes,
you will break

but oh,
you will mend
the hearts touched by
crimson kings
and demons

because you are here
you have arrived
slinging arrows and bolts
from the thrones of queens

remember,
you are here
the child within
never forgets

the child within in
will thank you

the child within
always
remembers

they
always
do

they. always. remember.

lh
nov 2021

gaslight

this one’s for all the times
i’ve ever been told
it was never personal
they’re just like that

that it was all in my head
a vivid imagination
against my own better
judgement

that i’m just too sensitive
or overthinking it
i’m sure they didn’t mean
what they said

the good news
is that these flash burns
on my skin
from your gaslight
are starting to heal

but it’s still happening
and no
it’s not all in my head
and yes, it is personal

some call it islamophobia
others call it hatred
or bigotry

but i don’t care
what you call it

because
for me
it’s

1.

staring down
the barrel of a makeshift gun
made of trigger fingers
from a passing vehicle

a violent gesture
with a cautionary tale
that says
i’d rather have you dead
than to see you alive

2.

it’s the pickup truck
barrelling down the road
towards us

as we scurry across
barely making it to safety
his middle finger waving
warning

3.

it’s creeping shadows
that follow
our every footstep
during our evening stroll

harassing stalker
greets us
with bible thumping
verbal venom

4.

it’s taking one glance
at me
and assuming that my name
won’t fit the contours of your mouth

this shade too dark
this clothing too veiled
this face too foreign

my presence too much
for you
to comprehend

how this muslim body
could be volunteering
her time
at this soup kitchen

and still i disintegrate
crumbling into a hollow shell
before those very words

5.

it’s the vandalized brick walls
of family businesses
and defaced exteriors
of our masjids

an act to intimidate
to strike terror in hearts
that beat on

an ugly reminder that
we do not
belong here

6.

it’s—
ma’am,
you’ve been “randomly” selected
for a secondary screening
follow me

and i follow

7.

it’s quebec city
and christchurch
and chapel hill

it’s deah
yusor
and razan

it’s 6 dead
it’s 51 dead
it’s 3 generations
dead

i remember exactly where i was
that one fateful night
ran downstairs in a panic

saw my brothers
my father
my uncles
on the evening news

and touched their faces
to make sure
they were still here

8.

it’s
opportunist politicians
offering their thoughts
and prayers

when all i see
are crocodile tears
and class a theatrics

the irony is not
lost on me
they are part of the
problem too

yet they won’t even
leave us in peace
to grieve our dead

9.

it’s
what’s the word for
not feeling safe in your own home?

it’s
i found the word
but what difference does it make?

10.

it’s
i’ve lost count at this point
but honestly,
i was never really good with numbers
anyway.

lh
june 2021

streets & sidewalks

memorial honouring the killing of the afzaal family at the crime scene in london, ontario (photography by ian willms)

i’ve walked these streets
a million times before
these sidewalks 
house cracks so deep

they break the backs of mothers
who worry about their sons
every time they exit the front door

send them off
into battlefields
drafted for a war
they did not ask for 

little boys with beautiful brown skin
blossom into men 
with beards 
labelled terrorist 

i’ve walked these streets
with my mother in arm
a million times before 

her crown 
call it her hijab 
adorns the profile of her face
bold and dazzling as she

these sidewalks 
house cracks so deep

i step over them 
to show her that we too deserve 
to land on solid ground 

grew accustomed to 
the disregard 
for the way you 
take up space

and memorized 
glares and scowls 
like the back of my hand 
from menacing eyes 

that take aim 
darting pellets
like target practice 

i walk these streets 
now 
and my body seizes up 
with every passing vehicle 

i walk these streets
now
and wonder about the 9 year old child
orphaned into nightmare

i walk these streets 
now 
and wonder about
how that could have been me

wonder about 
how that could have easily
been us

these sidewalks 
house cracks so deep
they do not falter

inside these four walls 
where grief has made a home 
i am reminded that our faith

too

does not falter
unapologetic 
and resolute as we are 

i will continue to walk these streets
a million more times 
until these sidewalks 
graciously absorb my every step

i will continue to walk these streets 
with arms spread wide 
and take up the space 
i’ve always deserved 

i will continue to walk these streets
undeterred 
until these sidewalks 

house dandelions that bloom 
from between 
cracks 

flowers 
bright and yellow
flowers 

they greet me 
with signs of the seasons

rumor 
change is not only coming 
it’s already on its way. 

for fayez afzaal 

lh
june 2021

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. 

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