This City

This city’s beautiful
Decrepit — nascent
Hazily bright

This city’s angry
Resistant — resilient

This city’s mad
Possessive — detached
In your mind,
Dreamily light
On your shoulders,
Sitting heavy

This city is heavy
Victorious — defeated
Bustlingly unproductive
Provocative — demure

This city’s a ghost rebirthing
The lively dead
Hopeful — depressed
Boiling over the edge

This city pushes away
Tugs back the heart
Tearing us
Crashing us together
Come closer

This city’s calling


Walking wounded

We don’t scare easy
We scar deeply
Walking wounded
But strident
Headfirst against your wind,
Haven’t run out of steam
Just bidding for the cause
Watering the grassroots 
That you left to die, 
We paint fallen faces on flags
Raise them high
They fly free
Hover above your conscience,
We walk their path
Remember their end
So you can never forget 
We’re watching,
Run us over with false patriotism
We’ll drown you in a sea of chants
There’s more of us than there is of you,
Kill at will
Dormant cells dreaming
Roused desperate, determined
Ready to pounce,
Carrying sadness in our hearts
Bullets on our sleeves
Whispers of our ghosts haunt you
Our heroes 
Born shackled, killed free,
I hope you find it hard to breathe
We celebrate their eternity
To die for an immortal right
While you will only live to flee

A moment

In moments of delirium, we find ourselves
Stunned, immersed in emotion
What comes next?
What just passed?
A moment frozen in internal solitude
On the outside, broken composure
Cracking at the seams
Try to breathe
Frayed and rapid
Exhales recoil from uncertainty
Still, it takes its hold
You’re too easy to grasp
And you try to breathe,
Chasing oxygen
Familiar memories
The dejavuness of it
But then it was easy
Certain, content
Your face, a touch
Hands laced
Spiraling unraveled
Where are you going?
When you land
Tell me where the bottom is
And if there’s air

If only, you

If only you were patient

If only you knew how long
It would take
To make that change

If only…
You were different
Not so indifferent
Cared more
Less careless

Criticize, minimize
Cut down to size
Build obstacles in your mind

Stale thoughts
Tired tries

Walking tall, broken inside
Swaying to both sides

Flowing on hours
Seconds, passing time
Missing past times

If only
You can turn over
A new leaf lies near

If only
You could grasp it

But you only
Let it glide by

Pondering its beauty
Amused at its closeness

Not knowing
Who it was meant for


If only you knew

*Amira Salah-Ahmed

Justice delayed, justice denied

Justice delayed
Justice denied
Justice waiting on the sidelines
Waiting to be called on to the field
And play a part in liberty

Justice is not blind
It sees who’s been wronged
It knows who committed the crime

It’s you who ties the blindfold
You who puts justice on hold
Cannot reconcile the past with tomorrow
You choose not to see

But justice, it is clear
Burdened by your complicity
Its shrewd vision sharply skewed

And if we know justice
Can we not bring it to the fore?
Must we wait for it to be served?

Served by you it comes in drivels
Hardly enough to quench the thirst for truth
Drips of water for hungry souls
Instead of a flood to feed the bereaved

In your grip, justice is shackled
Chained to convenient lies
Hidden behind a veil of caged animals and murderers
Aging dictators and their loyal traitors

A smokescreen of comfort for the masses
While martyr’s mothers burn in restless nights
Not knowing which to fight – grief or negligence

Oh Lady Justice
Elusive, demure
Will not make the first move
Will not make it easy on you
Despite polite platitudes
And grandiose overtures

It sits, silently screaming
Watching you miss the point
Over and over and over

Till you’re through bearing brutality
Afraid to speak
Numb to the voices of the weak

Justice – just is waiting
For you to want it enough
For passion to move you, to move

For anger to boil over the brim
Spill lava-like and melt your hardened conscience
To rouse you conscious
Keep you awake at night

Like the memory of a lost love
Close, but never near enough
Always out of grasp
Like the happiness of innocence
Gone brittle with time

Justice enjoys the chase
The thrill of the race for integrity
Once in your clutches like concrete
It crumbles to pieces
Slithers away to an urgent destination

Puts you on her road again
An eternal search
With no rescue in sight

No matter how right your case may be
Another injustice sits around the corner
Waiting for its soldiers
Cuz this world
Just is never
Just enough

*Amira Salah-Ahmed

Mind mines

A reinvention of words
A revelation of things
You never knew before
Rumblings inside your head

Careful as you tread
Uneven mental landscapes
Laced with mines
Buried in the past

Resurrected images rise
When least expected
Startling quiet corners
Havens creeping with shadows

Buried years ago
Not enough dust here
To keep them down
Seeping like smoke

Masked memories
Parading as dreams
Lurking inside your eyes
The future is there

*Amira Salah-Ahmed

I am human, too

(On the occasion of International Women’s Day, I’m sharing a poem I wrote in August 2011 about the chronic sexual harassment Egyptian women have faced for years)

I see you every day
Walking down the street
I’d rather smile at you and say hello
But you inspire instant mistrust

I avert my eyes
Look everywhere but straight at you
It’s a weakness I confess

I’d rather walk with my head held high
Instead of looking at the pavement
It’s become so familiar

I cower to your looming threat
Yes, I am a coward at times
Though I’m known to be brave otherwise
One of the many things you steal

It’s funny that you don’t remember me

I am the mother that gave you birth
Sister of the same blood
Daughter of your father, too

The life line of creation
I am affection and passion
Patience and humility
Strength and resilience

A shoulder to lean on
A pat on the back
I am the sun that shines on you
I carry the future in my womb

I nurture the present
Keep the past in check
For all is I deserve respect

And if nothing else, I am human, too
Don’t you remember me?

I see despise in your eyes
Leering, jeering lustful glares

Even if my arms are bare
Or covered from head to toe
Walking tall and clicking my heals
Or shuffling along in slippered feet

I am here
I am present
I exist

Though your gropes kill little parts of me
I can die a little each day
But I’m back tomorrow on these same streets
Ready to fight, again

I exist
I am present
I am here
Where I’ve always been

Don’t you remember me?

Where is the precious stone?
Where do you draw the line?
You were the brother I looked to in years gone by

Why have I run so far from where you stand?
Catch up, evolve

Time is moving
I grow stronger, louder and more powerful
And you?
Your weakness rings through every taunt

And now I’ve found my voice
No, I will not keep it down
Listen to my mighty ruckus
Suffer the consequences of your advances

Stare at me, I will stare you down
With my beautifully lined eyes
And my glossy lips?
They can spew profanities, too

I’ll scream at you
Until your remember me

*Amira Salah-Ahmed