The Common’s fall issue, out October 25, includes a portfolio of writing from the Arabian Gulf countries. The poets in this feature—NATASHA BURGE, DANABELLE GUTIERREZ, and HERA NAGUIB—all have poems in that portfolio.
Table of Contents
Hera Naguib | “The Sentence”
Danabelle Gutierrez | “Self-Portrait”
Natasha Burge | “Baqala”
By Hera Naguib
I brood over the sedated limbs of men
that twine like drenched wheatgrass
over the prison floor. Mostly innocent,
without trial for years, the whistleblower
on T.V. reveals. Behind him, prisoners
dangle from wilted ankles & shriek
like dragged hooks. His voice, incognito,
robotic, he explains: “in this country,
everyone fears imprisonment.”
Here, where I steam rice & almonds,
his caution—a dark wing that eyes me
—climbs corners, combs awake memory:
the fiction we, too, marauded for safety.
Accidental, we mumbled, my family
and I, of the mark on father’s forehead.
O curdle of shame. O hilt of anger:
what is the price of silence, this secret
I spurn across continents: the gun
harrowed to father’s head, the order to leave
that country, mum as a tool? Bound
away, I unwived entire snow plains
riding out of the Toronto airport;
each psychedelic truck that blared
past me on Lahore’s highway. I haven’t
witnessed the exact baton of exile,
though still, I spew revolt, like Loujain,
who hurls up and drives to the Saudi
border, her gaze steadied at the penumbral
freedom spread onto the night that canopies
over the lit causeway. I thought I would
disappear, she smiles sideways at the camera,
I was silent for so long. She peels
her brocade scarf, its swaying tip,
from the dissident wind. While the two
of us brace for what brims beyond
the last turnpike & those roadsides
always chokered in gold lights.
(In a constantly changing landscape)
By Danabelle Gutierrez
Pink bathing suit and barefoot, collects sigay,
shells, in Puerto Azul’s gunmetal sand. Collects
bottles nestled in the overgrown talahib in
the vacant lot, across. Green plaid skirt,
matching tie, white blouse, and pigtails,
Protestant girl in a Catholic school, signs the cross.
Sequined T-shirts and shorts, collects jasmine
flowers in the courtyard. Eats gambari sandwiches,
tahina, peeled pink shrimp enveloped in flatbread—
baladi, halved. Memorizes zayak, w ismak e, w e dah?
w doesn’t hesitate when asked fin el bayt? Where is home?
Has memorized sharaa miteen khamsa w siteen. Folds
paper airplanes, lets them fly from a balcony in Zamalek.
Babydoll dresses and army boots, collects Polaroids
developed in the pocket of a designer fur coat fished
out from the dumpster. The still unperfected Arabic
mouth, tastes Deutsch. Learns umlaut, learns Österreich,
ist ein Ausländer aus Philippinen, no papers, hides
under blonde hair, red hair, sagging jeans, learns singkil,
dances in the daylight at Stephansplatz, avoids getting caught
in the kawayan opening and closing to a beat, a rhythm.
Learns misdirection, says look, look at my golden fans, twirling.
Naked, standing in front of the air conditioner, collects
alienation. Hesitates when asked saan ka sa’tin?
Sa atin? Ours? Yours, surely. Mine, question mark.
Spends hours in the ocean, forgets the language
of the sea, the rate of exchange, rough sand on skin.
Soles, tar-stained in Qurum, learns Tagalog
in the Philippine School, Viennese accent chews,
tries to swallow Arabic, can’t digest it well enough.
Anything that won’t cling to sticky skin in the tropical heat,
collects bottles from the corner store, goes to the University
of Ginebra San Miguel, major in Bilog and Kwatro Kanto,
minor in Tanduay lapad rum. Speaks Tagalog, but doesn’t
fully understand. Speaks Filipino, but is misunderstood.
Collects hearts from long-night stands with curious curious boys.
Clothed in the love of the ex-boyfriend-current-
boyfriend-fiancé, collects letters, pictures, debt,
carries, miscarries, carries this loneliness of transience
like a knife, like a spoon, dull and will scrape the bottom
of an empty tub of ice cream, learns first loves can’t be
last loves, learns can’t marry your father, learns this is not
where I want to be, learns I am not who I want to be.
Clothed, but naked, open, writes poetry, collects moments,
fridge magnets, keychains, designer bags, carries memories,
cradles transience like a child, chuckles at conversations,
overheard and understood. Has remembered the joy
of barefoot in Jumeirah abalone sand. Has learned to
say mashallah and puera usog in the same breath, to say
danke, shukran, salamat, thank you for this fragmented
existence. Knows not to hesitate when asked where are you
from? Has learned to say, Philippines, but—
By Natasha Burge
Vimto Vimto Fizzy Vimto Fizzy Remix Watermelon Chips Oman Beebee Battle chewing gum red tea cardamom apples covered in wax orca floatie giraffe floatie pony floatie Teletubby floatie jareesh sumac drumsticks cumin nonalcoholic beer mango chutney carrot chutney mango carrot hot chili achar chutney Eagle rulan cake Nestomalt high energy drink Thai Rose long grain rice Bahar Dettol purple pickled garlic Fair & Lovely soap Virginity Restore soap purple cauliflower local calling card international calling card Nido powdered milk 100 year old eggs red lentils yellow lentils rose halwa with pumpkin seeds and saffron jasmine perfume oud perfume Rani Float Haleem mix Anchor powdered milk Partner kitchen scissors Primo soap Omo detergent Lux abaya wash Rulo Nut biryani mix curry mix tamarind dab sauce Choki stick karak tea haleeb tea red tea shalky shalky dress miswaq stick cut and uncut India Kings Insignia Inspiro Intro Turkish labneh Saudi labneh Cypriot halloumi Indian ghee Maggi juicy chicken za’atar meat masala Madras curry National mutton biryani Eastern rasam powder bitter gourd sweetcorn chow chow koosa snake gourd ash gourd tender coconut longan fruit India chickoo lychee fruit packet with syrup sweet tamarind with sugar physalis kaka fruit Lulu Pinoy sugar palm fruit Datu Puti native vinegar Lady’s Choice sandwich spread Mother’s Best banana ketchup Jufran hot banana sauce Bagoong barrio fiesta shrimp paste Doux frozen chicken 7 Days swiss roll Dac disinfectant Persil abaya shampoo Panda earbuds Private Clip Night Private ultra miss teen Sunova hand soap Sadia chicken griller Rana tomato paste Noor sunflower oil Shams sunflower oil Sumdum mutton sambusa Anlene low fat cream powder Goody pineapple slices Garameesh rusk whole wheat Bugles corn snack Royal beef kebab Majdi laurel leaves Nahool mini raisin cake Al Safi long life milk Deemah maamoul tea biscuit Americana hamburger with Arabic spices Americana frozen vegetables mix Mars bar Chocola’s Telephone Sella Mazza rice Pringles Pot Crisps original Pringles Pot Crisps hot and spicy Baity milk powder Brossard brownie chocolat pépites Al Kabeer Arabic kofta Galaxy Jewels Hershey’s Syrup Victoria Garden hommos tahina Syrian eggplant Halwani Brothers halwa plain Marami potato chips Lamb Weston twister potatoes Baidar tomato ketchup Borgat jubnah crackers Al Shifa honey Al Joud macaroni Perfetto fischioni rigati Gandour yamama Loacker wafer quadratini Foster Clark’s baking powder Sunbulah kubee Coopoliva green pitted olives Freshly natural sliced mushroom Kiri al jarra Teashop Taib cracker Majdi cardamom finest Danette flan chocolat Pampers Active Baby large Nunu baby shampoo
Natasha Burge is a Pushcart Prize-nominated writer from the Arabian Gulf. Her work can be found, or is forthcoming, in The Smart Set, SOFTBLOW, Hobart, Syntax & Salt, and The Forge Literary Magazine, among others.
Danabelle Gutierrez is a writer, actress, and photographer. She is the author of poetry books I Long to Be the River and & Until the Dreams Come and chapbooks Eventually, The River Surrender, and Softer. Born in Las Piñas and raised in Cairo, Vienna, and Muscat, Danabelle is currently in Dubai, where she lives, loves, and writes.
Hera Naguib is a Pakistani writer who was raised in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and Toronto, Canada. She is a PhD candidate at Florida State University. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in the American Academy of Poets’ Poem-A-Day, The Cincinnati Review, Gulf Coast, and World Literature Today, among other publications. Her website is HeraNaguib.com.