Layla Mkhayber: Poetry Anthology

Layla Mkhayber


photo credit: Christopher Woe Photography

I write the world in angry metaphors
The words of the globe in rows,
I write the world in tired images,
Hand painted in poetry and prose
Darwish said, “I do not sleep to dream,
I sleep to forget you.”
I think he also would have said
That we do not just write for pleasure
We bleed these words to purge
To forget or remember
I will remember
Mama taught me to remember
Mama also said, “We do not have friends in this house.”
And it took me 15 years to know
That what she meant is “We will only ever have family”
Brothers in faith, sisters in calamity,
My slamily,
Baba showed me that yes water is thinner
But sometimes blood is too thick to swallow down
I always had water to keep me up just as I was bout to drown
My sister’s taught me that the fire within me was not anyone’s to ever put out
And Thugs do Get Lonely Too
But we will always be soldiers
My Tayta taught me to pity soldiers
She taught me what it meant to really be a soldier
My Jedo taught me sacrifice and war
I don’t know how he did it
But he gave me lessons on how to yield tenderness in rough hands
He also taught me that there is actually such thing as a good man
Men have taught me to feel disgusted at the thought of any woman ever loving herself
Men taught me insecurity
Insecurity fed me my first licks of anxiety a long time ago
When I didn’t know if what I was saying was ever right
It’s left a bad taste in my mouth
And made me the quietest loud person ever
I’ve never felt so sure like I have when writing in rows
When painting my world in poetry and prose
I do not just write for pleasure
I bleed these words to purge
I remember that Darwish also said
“And scream that you may know you’re still alive,
and that life on this earth is possible”
This is my screaming
I am still alive
I will remember I will survive



Layla as a support feature for the May 2017 session of Bankstown Poetry Slam. Photo credit: Christopher Woe Photography

…I was asked recently
If my fashion was old school inspired
I automatically became confused
Was it the colour of this hijab or the style of my shoes?
Becky with the good hair better back it up with an excuse
She said why do you wear that scarf around your neck
It’s sort of old fashioned
I didn’t know what she was talking about
But she looked scared of my reaction
Oh, you mean this? I asked
She didn’t stay for long, had to go to her next class
You see I brought this out because it does get cold sometimes
But how do I tell her that it’s been winter in Syria for a very long time
That there’s been frost for 69 years in the occupied lands of Palestine
That blood has stained the snow capped mountains of Lebanon since the dawn of my time
That you’ve tried to make our resistance beautiful
That you’ve tried to make our freedom beautiful
That this cold is never beautiful
Stop making our keffiyeh’s your version of beautiful
They are the stitches of our resistance against you
That they are the love that revolution can’t be spelled without
I was told recently that I have a flirtatious personality
The girl was trying to make conversation
I’m noticing a pattern here with women asking this shit
Smells like internalized misogyny
I didn’t know what to respond
And was sort of perplexed
Slightly vexed
Nothing really happened next
But just know how mad I get
I find myself in this never-ending cycle of I’m going to try something different, and then when I try something different, I get stuck in writers’ block.
And I think to myself, I wouldn’t constantly be writing about political stuff if I knew something else. My existence in this country is political, and that’s all I’ll ever know
I am political, and so are you
I am critical, and so I’m going back
Back to where I came from
Back to where we started
Back to my foundations
Back to revolution
Back to revolution
Ain’t no revolution,
Without woman!
Ain’t no revolution
In this Man’s Man’s Man’s World,
W o m a n.
The woe of men,
The burden of creation
We are
The givers of the next generation
We are
The queens of the nation,
I am no longer, assimilation,
I, am innovation
And ain’t no revolution without Woman!
The words are yelled out and graffitied on walls.
How can They not see,
That this world will not heal
Without us, all in all.
With a peace sign in one hand and a fist in the other
I shall end this plague, for in flesh we are brothers.
Don’t ever think of my melanin
As the tone for melancholy,
And don’t you dare think of my “womanhood”
I should never have to justify
What happens in the streets,
And don’t you ever tell me
That I don’t dress, for me.
And for God’s sake, as a Muslim woman I NEVER want pity,
I just want an apology.
For all that They’ve wronged me,
Because I,
Am power
And I,
Will bloom,
And I can birth a revolution in this very womb!
Television and film has taught my sisters and I,
That They don’t want us to know we exist,
For our misrepresentation
Is annihilation
And this very conversation,
Is a cry of desperation.
A demonstration of resistance,
On how a world,
Built on injustice
Is a world that is poor
So you better believe me when I say
That my very words are a revolution
In this ending-less war
For my mother’s veiled mind
Nurtured mine, before… they could.
A song- bird, never heard
Emerging from the burning brilliant ashes
In a plume of resilient, resonant red
Driving away dissenters who could not see
For I am she and she is me
So I,
A civilian
A martyr
I call again
For our revolution, our Intifada
I plead for you to read to respond
To sing along, a fight song so strong
For you to take a look
At this earth so sick and diseased
At the lives lost because others mislead.
We must
For our distorted bodies can only be healed with one solution
And it’s for e v e r y o n e to finally recognize
That ain’t no revolution without
THIS woman!



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