All posts tagged: Poetry Feature

Poems from the Arabian Gulf: Natasha Burge, Danabelle Gutierrez, and Hera Naguib

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

Poems from the Arabian Gulf: Natasha Burge, Danabelle Gutierrez, and Hera Naguib

Translation: Hong Kong Poet Chung Kwok-keung


Translated from the Chinese by MAY HUANG 黃鴻霙

Poems appear in both Chinese and English.


Translator’s Note

Cha chaan tengs, local diners that serve comfort food all day, are a cornerstone of Hong Kong culture. At a cha chaan teng, you can order beef satay noodles for breakfast, a cup of milk tea stronger than any Starbucks coffee, lo mai gai (glutinous rice and chicken wrapped in a lotus leaf), and more. To many Hongkongers, cha chaan tengs evoke a sense of familiarity and nostalgia. Indeed, it was precisely these feelings that drew me, a Hongkonger living in America, to translate Chung Kwok-keung’s remarkable poems.

Chung wrote “The Cha Chaan Teng on Fortune Street” in 1996 about a Cha Chaan Teng he visited in Sham Shui Po while running an errand. He no longer remembers what the errand was for, he writes in a blog post, but “words have helped [him] remember concrete details of that cha chaan teng.” At the same time, he also wonders whether there is something about a place that is lost forever once it no longer exists, no matter what we write down. As evocative as the details in this poem are, from the “soft clink” of utensils to the “grease-soaked hair” of a waiter, the poem ends on a note of uncertainty, unsure of whether words can safeguard memory. 

Translation: Hong Kong Poet Chung Kwok-keung

April 2021 Poetry Feature

National Poetry Month 2021: New poems by our contributors MAKALANI BANDELE, FELICITY SHEEHY, GEORGE RAWLINS, and VERNITA HALL.


Table of Contents

makalani bandele | “unit_33,
                                 a higher-level unit now”

Felicity Sheehy | “Stations”

George Rawlins | “To Be Human”

                            | “Epistle to the Hangman’s Mistress”

Vernita Hall | “Chauvet Cave: Divination”


April 2021 Poetry Feature

March 2021 Poetry Feature: Sylvie Durbec

Poem by SYLVIE DURBEC, translated from the French by DENIS HIRSON

Sylvie Durbec was born in Marseille and lives in Provence, near Avignon. She writes texts in both prose and poetry, as well as painting and making collages. The many books she has published over the past twenty years include the prose-poetry memoire Marseille : éclats et quartiers (Marseille, fragments and quarters) which won the prestigious Jean Follain prize; Prendre place (Taking  place) concerning the internment camp at Douadic in France and Soutine, a prose-poem about the painter, published in The Common. This year she has published 50 carrés du jour (50 squares of the day) and Ça qui me poursuit (That which pursues me).

Denis Hirson grew up in South Africa and has lived in France since 1975. He has published nine books, several concerning the memory of South Africa under apartheid. The latest, both published in 2017, are Footnotes for the Panther, ten conversations with William Kentridge, and Ma langue au chat, in French, concerning the torture and delight of speaking and writing in that language.


Table of Contents 

  • The Ignorance of Beasts 



The Ignorance of Beasts

I still don’t know how to type a tilde on a computer keyboard

when writing the name of a Spanish or Portuguese writer I love.


Nor do I know what poetry is. 


March 2021 Poetry Feature: Sylvie Durbec

January 2021 Poetry Feature: Bruce Bond

Happy New Year! We begin 2021 by welcoming BRUCE BOND back to The Common.

Bruce Bond is the author of twenty-seven books, including, most recently, Black Anthem, Gold Bee, Sacrum, Blackout Starlight: New and Selected Poems 1997–2015, Rise and Fall of the Lesser Sun Gods, Frankenstein’s Children, Dear Reader, Plurality and the Poetics of Self, Words Written Against the Walls of the City, and The Calling.

Table of Contents

  • Patmos III
  • Patmos V
January 2021 Poetry Feature: Bruce Bond

December 2020 Poetry Feature: Denise Duhamel and Jeffrey Harrison



This month we welcome back longtime contributors Denise Duhamel and Jeffrey Harrison to our pages.


Table of Contents:

            Denise Duhamel
                        – 2020
                        – American Sestina, 2019

            Jeffrey Harrison
                        – The Mount

December 2020 Poetry Feature: Denise Duhamel and Jeffrey Harrison

October 2020 Poetry Feature: JinJin Xu

Poems by JINJIN XU

Image by Xu YuanYan

Image by Xu YuanYan

Table of Contents

  • Mo Gao Grottoes, 1994
  • HongKong, 2019
  • Shanghai, 2005
  •, 2019
  •  [                        ], 2018
  • Shanghai, [          ]
  •  [                   ], [          ]

October 2020 Poetry Feature: JinJin Xu

August 2020 Poetry Feature #2: Philip Nikolayev translates Alexander Pushkin

Two poems by Alexander Pushkin, translated from the Russian by Philip Nikolayev

Table of Contents:

  • Night
  • The Burned Letter

Philip Nikolayev is editor of Fulcrum. His poetry collections include Monkey Time (Verse / Wave Books) and Dusk Raga (Salt).

Alexander Pushkin (1799-83) is widely regarded as the greatest Russian poet and the founder of modern Russian literature. 


It’s for you that my soft and affectionate voice
Disturbs at this late hour a silent night’s repose.
Where by my bed a melancholy candle glows,
My verse rushes along, burbles and overflows
In brooks of love, filled with you, and at last I see
Your eyes, out of the dark shining, smiling at me,
And finally my ear makes out the cherished words:
My gentle, tender friend… I love you… I am yours!

August 2020 Poetry Feature #2: Philip Nikolayev translates Alexander Pushkin