You’re a teacher tying knots on a sailboat,
reluctant to let go
and I mistake the fisherman’s uniform.
I’m not here for the belly dancers,
I’m here for another funeral,
to see kites wading in the clouds,
children pulling at the sky to come closer,
I need a sock, thread, and one balloon
because my uncle told me about this one trick.
Borders are not like fences, they keep people in,
you taught me to flash my passport
like I belong everywhere, to be restless,
I don’t think land meant to hurt its people,
all you did was grow tall buildings and
place glass windows in every classroom.
From where we stood,
the women sang beautifully in unison to the duffs
the stars showed themselves after the wedding concluded
where men held my hands,
praised the groom and my tongue,
and asked me to come from behind the camera.
Someone told me you mean something in Arabic,
tell me, if cliffs could stop the waves from crashing,
would you ask them to?
Your Guadua looks like Qasib grew to adulthood,
thick, sweet, grounded. The trees need more than sun
and water, and the three men you let me photograph,
one looked Arab, the other African, and the third
could have been me. I spoke gringo,
they spoke the language of the colonizers
and the translator understood
it takes more than beauty to stay anchored.
The citadels, cathedrals, mosques,
you look older than film, but not antiquity.
Everyone talks about you, even the enemy,
a silhouette of satellites occupy the rooftops
near stiffened flags above dazzling asphalt,
you remind me of someone, maps are not printed memories
the cab driver keeps asking me for directions,
and I keep pointing towards a home that isn’t in sight.
With a dated voice he asked
Are you Ikhwani or Salafi?
He continued his tea,
You know what we need?
America to drop one bomb on all of us.
I smiled awkwardly, looked at his wife then him.
He placed his cup in the tray
rested into his chair.
His wife turned towards me
Would you like more sweets?
The General told me to guard the armory and handed me a broomstick
so what if I told you this before مافيش حاجة اسمة allowance
here, take four quarters buy a two liter on your way home
يابني did I tell you about the neighbor’s dog on the roof
it barked as if it hated me and every time it barked it came closer
to the ledge and one day listen, so what hear it again
when your grandfather spoke I kept my mouth shut.
Belal Mobarak was born in Alexandria, Egypt. Raised in Queens. He is a poet, artist, and the son of a great storyteller. Writing is how he learned to finish his stories and poetry is how he learned to tell them with the least amount of words possible. Belal recently traveled across the United States sharing his stories for The Moth Mainstage. A finalist in Brutal Nation’s 2017 Competition for Writers of Color. You can find his work published in Columbia Poetry Review, Newtown Literary, Blueshift Journal, Flock, Apogee, HEart, and others. He currently works for Higher Education in New York City. You may find more of his work at Belalmobarak.com/poetry.