is pictured here with a student at Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Doha, Qatar where she serves as assistant professor of English.
She is the author of Elegy & Coll
apse (Finishing Line Press, 2005) and has had poems published in The Atlanta Review
, The Journal
, The Southern Poetry Review
, The Ledge
, and many other journals.
She is also the editor of diode,
an online poetry journal.
—Back to Milestones Contents—
*”Do you speak?” in Arabic
Deft as surgeons, fish cleaners slice
head to vent, viscera is plucked & tossed
to gulls perched on dhows
bobbing in the Gulf. Sinhala, Gurkhali,
Tagalog, so many tongues merge
with the muezzin’s call to prayer cresting
from minarets all over Doha. I’m privy
to none of this, possessing my only tongue.
I asked for an essay about loss
and Manar Ahmad Al-Muftah recalled
her childhood when she learned the curving body
of Kha’a, its dots were sparkling earrings on
an elegant lady. The character for Raa’ was a girls’ braid, and
Laam her father’s fishing hook.
As Arabic grows scarce, Nuun, once
a bag of flour with a hand above is
now a bowl of sadness
with a tear hanging over.
She fears her language is in danger
of extinction like Aaqool, the camel thorn, that grows
in salt and waste, and whose solitary
bloom attracts grazing camels
and people who believe it cures
everything. Here at the water’s edge
Sinhala, Gurkhali, Tagalog and Arabic washes
over me, I hear only music
dazzling as fish shimmer in the sun.
Titkallam marks both a personal, and geographic transition. I wrote this poem shortly after arriving to teach at Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Doha, Qatar. When oil and gas was discovered in Qatar in the 1940’s it propelled this small country away from a past of pearl diving, to a present of massive construction and development. In the interest of using this newfound wealth to invest in the future, and under the auspices of His Highness Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, and Her Highness Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al-Missned, a great adventure in education was untaken. Top programs from all over the United States have been brought into Qatar to create what is known as Education City, a sprawling twenty-five hundred acre campus on the outskirts of Doha. VCUQ was the first school to arrive in 1997, but it has since been joined by Georgetown, Texas A&M, Carnegie Mellon and the Weill Cornell Medical College.
Most of the poems I wrote before coming here were mined from my past, the stories I lug around with me, and I think, can be written anywhere. This poem, however, could only have been written here; in Doha, Qatar. This is the first poem I wrote after embarking on an adventure that has immersed me in another culture. It marks a journey, where everyday I am learning to celebrate commonalities, and understand and respect differences.