Ode to Essos

Hazem Fahmy

Arya asks what's eastof Westeros, and I think of blown out candles,wax-caked calloused hands, a historyat the bottom of the river, neither buriednor capable of drifting away. A temple burning,and so what? There are no gods here,anyway. Only flies on ashen cheeks.Only bloodshot eyes watching mothersand motherlands being ravaged, fathers making homesof dirt and absence.Daenerys asks why these peoplecan't just give up slavery, and I say:it's because they were waitingfor it to come out of your sweetcivilized mouths. What elsecould convince a savage?It is said that a thousand white knightsis all it takes to make a ghost out of a peoplemodeled after mine. How they trampleover the barren landscape, those barbarians,feeding on themselves, loving nothingthat can't be raped.What an epic feeling it isto be unmade by a white man,and his deceitful pen; how he drawsa chord with it to whip our narrativesproper, prop, background, ambiance, sunnycanvas for foreigners and liberators, backyardfor the rest of the story to grow, empty spacefor white feminism to march on over,call home, call jobwell done.Daenerys so wokeshe has a black best friend-sidekick, sacheting behind her.Daenerys so wokeshe has as many White tearsas Western fire. Makes you wonderwhat's worse, to burn in one or drownin the other.I'm tired of my body being a subplot.I'm tired of seeing white people paradingmy skin on their screens.Give me a fortune and I will flood Hollywoodwith an Arabic tidal wave. I'll buyevery Alexa camera there is, at least onefor every brown child in this country.I'll tell them to open upa lens and go wild. Desert sandstormor Mediterranean wrath. Behold a screenof undoing, every pixel a radical actof color, watch each one dance for usand no one else.I want a biopic of Omar Sharif,as post-colonial Arab prince, starringKhaled Abul Naga. I want Rami Malekreciting Rumi in close-up, a crisp contrastto everything that's been said of our tongues.I want my name said right, for once.The next time I see a terroristin a movie, I'm filing a lawsuit. The next timethey film a brown mother singing of nothingbut death, l'II cram Fairuz and Om Kalthoumdown their throats. The next time a white man wearsmy skin, I'll cut it off, drain the blood, and drape it overthe first shivering brown child I come across.I will hand them a camera,tell them to shoot the stars —watch for their reflection.

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Hazem Fahmy is a Pushcart-nominated poet and critic from Cairo. He is currently pursuing his MA in Middle Eastern Studies and Film Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. His debut chapbook, Red//Jild//Prayer won the 2017 Diode Editions Contest. A Kundiman and Watering Hole Fellow, his poetry has appeared, or is forthcoming in ApogeeAAWWMizna, and The Offing. His performances have been featured on Button Poetry and Write About Now. He is a reader for the Shade Journal, and a contributing writer to Film Inquiry.


Richmond, Virginia

“Hazem Fahmy’s Red // Jild // Prayer is the type of book that builds a world for the reader to step into. Everything has a life: the streets, the waters, the bodies of people looking for survival. Peep the care taken with images, the ability to craft complicated declarations of faith. ‘I suppose no matter how much we don’t believe in God / we still know how to pray.’ This book is a long, slow, glorious prayer. Fahmy is a confident emerging voice, with thrilling potential.” 
—Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib
author of The Crown Ain’t Worth Much

“Hazem Fahmy presents us here with a collection that is simultaneously profoundly intimate and sharply political, marked by desire and its implications and shaped by questions of postcolonialism, faith, and language. These poems deftly defamiliarize ‘a very old world,’ to use the poet’s words, and make it strange and so exciting. How thrilling it is to be a reader, an Arab, and a child of the Nile, in this moment—to have Hazem’s work to reach for.”
—Safia Elhillo
author of The January Children

“As Hazem Fahmy weaves their trajectory as a person and artist living in an unsteady world between homeland and diaspora, their writing operates similarly between formal and cultural influences that press upon their craft at all sides. But Fahmy sharpens their tongue against each incisor. Here we have histories, traumas, and bodies that refuse to be swallowed. Instead, they form a new tongue that speaks to us of skin, of burning, of an ancestral language living inside both. This collection is one of urgency. It is pointing to all of the windows containing us inside of tired conversation, then one by one, shattering each window down to sand. Then comes the love letter to sand, to body, to sun, to film, until softness becomes of this voice, part of a larger diaspora that is not often allowed multitudes under the thumb of empire. What a gift of a collection.”
—Jess Rizkallah
author of the magic my body becomes

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