We eat your words

POETRY SPOTLIGHT: Hanna Abi Akl

Who are you?
Lebanese-English writer. Poet. Novelist. Looking to stay drunk on words.

Where can we read more from you?
hannaabiakl.wordpress.com

Outcast

Always on the receiving end
Of brutal beat downs
And scathing attacks
Handed down to me
I carry myself
And walk around
With bloody palms
A cut lip
And a swollen face.

Among hundreds of thousands
Standing in line
You can always tell the difference
Between me
And the next one.

Those who are unique
Or special
Are always alone
A voice repeated in my head

Only I didn’t know
Who that voice belonged to
Or how it learned that sentence
It kept repeating to me.

In any outing I looked at the other men
Flirting with the pretty ladies
And seducing them with the worn-out
Cheap lines
And false promises
Their manly macho and bravado
And I was jealous of them
For not being able to behave like them
Because something urged me not to
And convinced me I was worth a little more
Than that.

Then I’d look at the women
All those faces lighting up in the darkness
Those cherry lips and brilliant faces
And I was jealous of them too
Just because I knew
Each one of them
Already belonged to someone else;
Another
Who wasn’t me.

And fitting in
And trying to act like them
To reach the same ends
Was like trying to fit
A square piece
In a circular hole
It was never going to work
And I was never going to match
Any of the things they did
Or grew up doing
Since I was set along
Another path
To begin with.

Well
There’s always that one thing
They say I’m good at;
This time
It’s another voice
That pops up occasionally
And urges me
To write about things
About things like this
And other things
Sometimes simpler things
Sometimes more complicated things
But at the end of the day I come through
And find a way
To get it down.

And I still wonder
If what I’m trading
Everything for
Is worth it
After all
If all those sleepless nights
Lying awake in bed thinking about the girls
I’ve never had a chance with
Except on paper
Are worth it
Just to bear the name
Of a word smith

These sacrifices
And restrictions
Are chopping me to pieces
And preventing me from living
As a whole individual

When I’ll finally get these pieces
Back together
I may never know.

Sylvia

Sometimes you watch the sun rising
And you know it’s going to rise again
And sometimes you see the stars shining
And ask yourself whether they’ll shine again

There is beauty in not knowing
And it’s a beautiful form of torture
When they dismissed the notion that broken hearts are fatal
They were wrong about one thing –
They make excellent scars
To write about

And I’ve gathered a lot
Of writing material from them
Much more than I need
Much more than my hand can possibly write

But sometimes there’s also beauty in the brief instants
Things that are captivating and leave us out of breath
But are ephemeral and temporary
Like shooting stars
Or a rare and wild creature that appears in front of us
For the first time

And you were that rare star
You were the exceptional comet
You were that rare creature
That appeared in front of me
For instants
Brief little moments
That I counted
As the dripping drops stuck at the bottom of my finished beer
Were leaking against the border of my table

Your curly messy hair
Black, dark, black
As the night
And your brown eyes
Were everything

And it won’t be long
Before other men
Start noticing these small things about you
Like the sweetness in your voice
Or the ease with which you laugh
Things I’ve already noticed and know

And they’ll soon be competing for your heart
And I am not a man of competition
I am not a fan of facing off against others
I prefer to collect my things
And return to my quiet corner

So they’ll be going after you
They’ll be chasing every curl in your hair
Trying to hold on to it
To see whoever outlasts the others
And I will have renounced my feelings
I will have taken them
And placed them in my small carton
And shipped them away
Before even telling you
Something sweet like a compliment
Or that little sentence about your hair

But these things need preparation
The good things always do
And I would have to practice them overnight
While other men prepare themselves for war
And invasion
For your heart and soul

So it’s bad for me
To step over the shoes
And efforts
Of other men
Who are probably braver than me
Funnier than me
And wittier than me

It’s bad for me to be competing with them
In the same barn
Over the most beautiful thing
To walk right in front of us
And engage with us in polite conversation
While we sort out our child play

Maybe some women eagerly anticipate
Or wait for that
To pick out a winner
From the bunch

Well honey
Tonight
I go to bed
Knowing that I am already
A loser
From all of this
A fool who refuses still
To learn from the teachings
Of his predecessors
And his bag of experience
About the recklessness
And disappointment
And bleakness
Of love
And infatuation

I go to bed tonight
Knowing the sun will rise again tomorrow
Knowing the stars will shine again for another night
And knowing
I will undoubtedly dream about the girl
With black, dark, black curly hair
Brown eyes
A tender smile
And she will never
Be mine.

Coping with perfection

She was perfect
She was perfect
Beyond any possible
Measure
Or means of expression

She was perfect
That the mere sight of her
Walking in a room
Was an insult
To any man
Alive

She was perfect
That anything one could say to her
Would’ve been considered insulting

She was perfect
That no man
Of any nationality –
Lebanese, French, American
Or any other –
No man of any race
Or color or religion
Was considered good enough
To hang with her

She was perfect
That if the gods up above
Were really observant and just
They’d destroy everything left on this planet
Send us all packing to hell
And leave
Only
Her.

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