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My body behind the Egyptian flag in my grandma’s home, Cairo, 2011. (Credit: Farah Khalaf)

Where I come from, I’m the devil’s incarnation

The fallen woman

Lilith.

You see, there’s always a dichotomy at play:

The sinner, not the saint.

The whore and the prostitute.

I am the one without a hymen

The one mothers spend lifetimes

protecting their daughters from becoming.

Even by cutting off their clitoris

By subjecting them to a lifetime of neurosis

And depriving them of sexual pleasure

Of their natural ‘birth-right’.

Their birth was a catastrophe

For they lacked a cock

Dangling between fleshy thighs

I am the adulterous. The mistress.

The one who says fucking and not making love.

The one who is unabashed.

“Have you no shame?” they ask in disgust and disbelief

“No.” I say in front of my people.

Those who condemned me

To a lifelong of oppression

And if they could, they would stone me

Scornful laughter and feet stomping

on the jagged streets of Cairo.

“What a whore… She deserves even more.

We pray to Allah that she rots in hell”

The noises pierce through my damaged body

My cracked bones and open skull

My protruding eye

Bloody lips.

I broke out of society’s contours.

Dictating, policing, destroying, desiring and fearing my body.

Am I a fallen woman because I experienced my sexuality?

Or is it because I dared derive pleasure from it?

Perhaps because they couldn’t detect a trace of shame.

Of regret. Of loss.

They believe a woman gives herself up during sex.

For me, it’s a process of mutual transaction: I give and take pleasure.

Never saw it as a form of sacrifice.

Never sensed a lack upon fucking.

And never did I ‘value’ myself less, because a membrane is gone.

I have inked my body and ripped through many skin tissues.

No one seemed to mind when the scars were red and visible on my arms.

The only wound they saw in me was me: The opening between my thighs.

My vagina. I was my vagina and they saw me as colonized by a foreign invasion that they needed to revolt against.

I am the enemy now.

I am a dangerous force to my home.

I’m calling for sexual-liberation and empowerment. But both the women and men fear me.

Or despise me.

I have been condemned to death by stoning.

Come and enjoy the spectacle tomorrow in the main square.

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مالكش تلمسني حتى لو شلحت trans. You don’t get to touch me even if I stripped (Credit: Ganzeer, b. 1982. Urgent Visions, Brooklyn)

Tattoos are forbidden by their god

Their god who is them

Your body will not enter heaven

The body cannot be a canvas

Skin cannot be art

It has to carry its wounds

Visible, scarred, shamed

Violated with no chance

Of empowerment

The bodies are a cradle of shame

The inherent female guilt

Your yellow dress

Your thigh flower tattoo

Hiding a past of unwanted fingers

Nails. Gnawing at your insides

No, also at your exposed skin

The unexposed too

You are shame… they say

Your tattoos and dress are not art

You are guilty of art, of beauty,

Of being born

You.

A woman.

An object of sin

A site for battlefield

Condemned to a lifetime with your oppressor

Who is your oppressor?

Welcome to the rest of your life.

Too bleak?

Maybe you found your voice

Which unlike Ariel, you never gave for a man

You were robbed of it by centuries of silence

By your ancestor’s rape

Your grandma’s pain

Your mother’s tears

Complicity.

She is you. They are all you.

You are her. You are all of them.

Revolt. Speak up. Don’t smile

A Pharaoh is only one because of you

A woman.

Rise. Rage. Rebel

Against a world that feasts upon your body

And condemns it shameful.

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A Kurdish YPJ fighter with smoke behind her rising from an ISIS held area near the town of Al Hol, Hasakah. (Photo credit: Delil Souleiman)

Make way for the young!

I’d hate to be the one to break it to you

(or no, not really, I don’t care),

but you’re dying soon.

Stop being so selfish, will you?

Are 70 years of living, dominion and destroying not enough?

Make some space

or at least allow us to claim some.

Lift the censorship off our voice, our ideas, our creativity and our eroticism.

Don’t persecute our idealism and turn it into radicalism or cynicism.

Ideas cannot be sent into exile like oppressed bodies

they only get spatially and temporally displaced.

You’re only hindering the inevitable.

The youth will wake up from this death-like sleep

and they will rise,

their voices will be heard and their ideas will materialize,

doing away with your old convictions, structures and oppressive systems.

They say cats are liquid, they fit wherever they sit.

We weren’t liquid.

We weren’t that malleable,

but did we have a choice other than to change our body’s materiality

or disappear into the lurking shadows of a dusty apartment in Tahrir square?

The youth’s hair is greying.

And, no, not just the trendy silver.

The faces are dry

and a wrinkle appears where the frown never ceases.

Many give up, even more burn out.

But some, some have this radical hope

that others call naïve.

And the pharaoh will succumb to the young.

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A mural painted by the artist eL Seed in a part of Cairo inhabited by garbage collectors (Manshiyat Naser) quotes a third-century Coptic bishop: “If one wants to see the light of the sun, he must wipe his eyes.” (Credit: David Degner for The New York Times)

You read the words of Mahmoud Darwish,

his nostalgia, revolution and melancholia swirl the desert dust over times and places

to reach your eye.

Yes, I swear. This is how the tear settled on my dry cheek.

And Nizar Qabbani whose eroticism, love and poetic (but also political) fight for social justice make you tingle and long for something.

You don’t know what it is you seek or long for

something that the poem will never make tangible.

You let the words and language sink in

You notice how smoothly your eyes glide across the Arabic calligraphy on the yellowed pages

How much easier internalizing their words and worlds is getting

You sense the physical and metaphysical barriers dissolving

Barriers of your many selves.

The displaced and the disowned,

or like Edward Said, those “out of place.”

The one that claims she’s home,

but will always have a soft spot for a man who speaks in her tongue.

Tongues intertwine as the barrier gradually shifts

What put it there? How and when did it come into being? Who let it? Who is to blame?

The blame game makes it easier.

You think, dream, make love and write in another’s tongue

Some would say a colonizer’s tongue.

Yours is shackled by a barbed wire,

the same one endlessly running through Palestine, Syria and Iraq.

Is it a barbed wire, or streaks of crimson blood interlaced with dirt left behind from the last missile?

Or perhaps it’s the red wine you spilt trying to reach for the glass

after a touching poem, or a great orgasm.

But you let it.

You were happy about it at some point of time. To be fluent in many other languages

as yours rots and decays like the slums and streets of Cairo.

Cairo.

A permanent layer of dust, grey ashen dust, seems to have settled on everything

from decayed buildings to jagged streets,

to a man’s once white galabeya,

and most probably to the Coptic woman’s black attire.

You just can’t see it, because black hides it all. Even her son’s blood.

You observe as your chauffeur drives you in the air-conditioned car.

You’re disgusted.

You’re disgusted not at the sudden hyper-awareness of your privilege, but at your privilege itself.

Your privilege and pacifism.

You go back to your book.

You’ll write about this, you think.

You should do something

…one day.

But will you?

You arrive at the pub downtown.

Your friends already ordered the red wine.

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► Monday: Fighting the Far-Right Surge – Women’s Rights Now!

Although far-right politicians persistently violate and attack women’s rights, a new wave of feminism that takes an intersectional approach is growing internationally. The fight has been undertaken against female rights violations and conflicts of all types – from autonomy to reproductive rights, the wage gap, freedom of movement, classism and racism. Join The Coalition’s panel talk as feminist activists from Ireland, Poland, Hungary and Germany discuss the struggles currently ongoing in their countries as well as the experience of women of colour in Europe.

  • When: 18:30 – 20:00
  • Where: Köpenicker Str. 30, 10179
  • Admission: free
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a womaN with a BouQuet of wild floweRs foR a head oN my left thiGh”. (Credit: Alona Cohen)

a womaN with a BouQuet of wild floweRs foR a head oN my left thiGh. (Credit: Alona Cohen)

I thiNk of love More than aNythiNg else.

My skin always Bruised very Easily

It is the oNly Physical RepReseNtatioN of How My MiNd experieNces life.

My soul TurNs Black aNd Blue as easily as My skin Does.

From the smallest Bumps, EvEn a Good thinG

If pRessed too lonG, too strongly.

The iNk emBedded iN my skin is the other side of life, the hiGh.

WheN I Got my last tattoo, a womaN with a BouQuet of wild floweRs foR a head oN my left thiGh, the skiN Bruised.

She was Blue, theN Yellow.

It took heR as lonG to Get heR coloR RiGht

As it does me to Get used to life EveRy time.      

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A poem in two parts.

Pt. I

I was born to this old and broken house

and now it sits, aflame,

and I weep.

we live in a mostly burning neighborhood;

we watch as we set our own fires;

we know we have been swimming in gasoline

since we moved in.

“why are you shocked?”

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The following poem is an extract from the chapbook
metaphors, metonymies, & anthropomorphisms. It is published here with the kind permission of the poet, second-year EPST student Alexandria Sisson, in celebration and anticipation of the season to come. 

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