This poem of mine was nominated as “best of the net poems” 2018:
I recently experimented with a release of a small prose-poetry book. It doesn’t really have a genre and I was approached by a local publisher (they only publish Arabic books), so I was hesitant and didn’t think the book would receive any attention. Forget the Words is not as close to my heart as On Love and Loss which is still selling rather well on Amazon.
But this is not the point of this post. The book managed to reach a few people’s hearts, on a very intimate level. Firstly, my mother read and understood it, and she was able to see that the book was fragmented because I believe in fragments and inconsistencies. My mother is not one to enjoy English books, which reminds me of Amy Tan’s “Mother Tongue” – in which she asserts that as long as her mother could enjoy her work, then this means she can reach a wider audience.
I received feedback from people I hadn’t met, sending me messages, emails, letting me know that the book spoke to them, that they were able to connect. Some were previous students of mine, others were new, and then there were those who had simply heard of the book by word of mouth. I am overwhelmed with the amount of citations on Twitter and Instagram! I type in #forget_the_words and random pictures come up with quotes from my book! It is, needless to say, an exhilarating feeling.
When I wrote the book, I was simply angry with words, with life, and I hurled the book at the world. I didn’t care for its success. I haven’t even shared it with all of my colleagues, it is not academic, not scholarly, not what I would term creative fiction. One colleague though, and a beautiful friend of mine, Janet, took the time to read it and reflect upon it. I think that’s what really got me- she actually did reflect on it. She didn’t read the book because I wanted her to read it (at least that’s not what it felt like) and she was able to make the links, the connections. She told me that the words took her to another place, that she was immersed within the dialogue and the symbolism, the metaphors I used. And that’s precisely it, I just hadn’t realized it. Janet helped me put it into words, and I’ll just borrow her analysis here: I wanted those who read it to feel as though the dialogue wasn’t mine, that the Sun and the Moon represented much more, and that human connection and depth is all we could ever live for. I seek depth everywhere. I seek depth in conversations, in friendships and relationships. Like Anais Nin once wrote: “I must be a mermaid, I have no fears of depths and a great fear of shallow living.”
So the book has given me a chance to connect with people on a deeper level. I am grateful to whatever entity is in charge, the Universe, the publisher who took a risk publishing in English rather than Arabic, my friends who read the book, readers who I never met, and those who took the time to think about the words, when I so blatantly asked them to ‘forget the words.’
My first poetry collection is now available on Amazon. Here is the link: http://www.amazon.com/Love-Loss-Shahd-Alshammari/dp/1631358901/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1433966269&sr=8-1&keywords=on+love+and+loss+shahd
I expect that copies will soon be available in Kuwait. I don’t claim to be a poet, or a writer. This is merely an experiment, as all things in life are. Trial and error. Let’s see how it goes!
I have been bleeding words for the past few months. And now, all I am left with is a few letters from an alphabet I can barely recognize. You’ve robbed me of my love for words. I hate that we shared our passion for literature, for poetry, and for stories. You’ve crafted one hell of a story for us. A beautiful one, no doubt. But you see, I understood you. And I still understand you. I knew the ending of this story. Foreshadowing exists for a reason- after all, I can’t be a literature major for nothing. I absolutely knew you would be the one to leave.
And now you’ve left, and I am left with memories that might as well be a figment of my imagination. I called after you madly. And every night onwards, 2 a.m. haunted me. I’ve begun to despise the number. The clock mocks me, it repeats the same pattern every night, and it is always the same result. You, over there, and me, over here. Neither one of us reaching out. It takes two to tango, but really, only one of us to destroy the other. What you don’t understand yet, is that you have destroyed the part of you that was aching to be birthed, to be born –that part I had held in my hands, waiting patiently for it to come through. I waited for you to come through. Boy, I waited. For someone who has never waited, for someone who takes life two steps at a time, I put every ounce and every definition of the word ‘patience’ into the promise of you. It was merely a promise. Built on words, again. Built on a vision in the near, and the far, future. And I held on, because you promised me, so confidently, that you wouldn’t leave. But that’s only one version of the truth. I held on because I know you need me. You’re not telling the whole truth when you say you’re confused. You can’t be that confused. You’ve unconfused yourself the second you said ‘Yes’ to me.
What’s left now is just fear. What kills me, what really kills me, is that now we’ll never know, just how brave you really are. And I believed in you more than I wanted to believe, and I was prepared to have my heart broken – but I was not prepared for this trauma. I was not prepared to believe that I really had no reason, whatsoever, to believe in you.
There must be a reason for my masochism, because each and every one of them left me broken, shattered into pieces that I could hardly recognize as parts of me.
Adamantly, I denied my failures, labeling them all as ‘Experimental Errors’ and
dragged my heart behind me as I trudged along the same path, over and over again.
But maybe you should know that when I first heard your name, I doubted both your existence and my sanity.
Being obsessed with ‘truths’ and ‘proofs’ I asked you to simply Speak to me.
I wanted to spill your voice into my coffee and onto my white shirt (ever so plain) every day, every morning.
This made sense to a cynic like me
and I subscribed wholeheartedly to a handful of ifs and thens :
If I could taste you, then I could savor every stage up until that nanosecond, where I can’t separate your bitter-sweetness from my tongue’s numbness
if I could hold you, then I could plunge deep into the holiness of your majestic kingdom (the one you so admirably protect)
if I met you, then I could forgive the Universe’s way of teasing me, taunting me with figments and fragments of you.
And when I do taste you, I fear that I will leave your veins dried out as I drink from those holy waters (because I am selfish, you see, and I must resurrect the fire that used to be me)
and when I do hold you, I fear for your fragile bones in my savage hands, as I possibly fracture them once or twice to fit across our new-found land (yes, our)
and when I do meet you, I fear for your lifelong incarceration in my chambers.
But really, mostly – I fear fearing you, and my complete and utter paralysis in your presence.
There’s only one way to reach you
I attach syllables and letters,
Yet I stutter through my words
I tell you that I am articulate on paper
You ask me if people like that still exist,
In a time of sexual inflation,
When the spoken word beats the written word,
When sex forgets about foreplay,
When kisses become an inconvenience –
Yes, I still blush when you speak to me
I am flustered and dry-mouthed. I desperately need my ink.
I compose long messages and carefully penned paragraphs
I ask you a million and one Questions.
And I use that same ink to record your answers.
I keep a journal, so that I may carry you around in it, the folded pages embrace all you’ve told me, and the blank ones anticipate all you’ve yet to tell.
You’re wary, and afraid.
And I know we’ve both read more than we should, because there is such a thing as too ideal, as too delved in the world of words.
We lose track of the realm of possibility, of today.
So I pencil in our meeting date.
I wait to painstakingly inscribe my notes on your lips, on your hands, leave you stained with my ink.
And everyone knows how maddening it is to remove ink stains.
But I suspect you’ll want to keep me.
You burn me at night, and in the morning, you tend to me, reminding me that I’d rather be a burn victim than nothing at all.
My poem ‘Desire’ in The Barefoot Review, Winter 2012
My poems ‘Rebirth’ and ‘Envy’