Salt & Sea

Hands to face,
hold the boy,
lest he fall away,
like all my sons have,
they found their escape,
bedrooms to the outside –
the world kills all men,
the world destroys all things.

We dug up bones along the shore,
carrying them in buckets back home,
memories of the sea.
Built a treehouse in the sycamore,
four walls painted blue,
and in winter we stayed close for warmth.

Downstairs the world spins on,
the girls in their dresses,
and I will dance with them,
with a pocket full of the sea,
she whispers, “I will grow up to be an empire,
and I’ll let you conquer me . . . but only if you want to?”

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The Wake

When the trees shake,
like the fingers of a hand,
we’ll fall and roll,
into the muddy trenches.

We play warfare like experts;
one smothering the other,
one swallowing up another.

Pressing down, harder, faster,
drying out the heartbeat,
bringing down the leaves
and the dead branches.

They’ll sing eulogies at our wake,
and ask for Jesus to carry us back,
the rest they’ll bury,
using the trees as markers.

As children, they’ll be able to tell our graves apart,
but as adults, it’ll look just like any other forest;
great oaks fanning out,
great trees coming down.

The Black Flag

She conquers me with her legs,
we sink, under the waves of Agami.
I’ll drown now, under the black flags,
if it means I can watch her.

When we reach the bottom, we find old things,
memories,
a merry-go round,
its two horses rotting,
she wipes away a layer of barnacles,
the way she wipes away homesickness.

And it’s there that I find her,
riding, she’s leading or I’m following,
spinning in circles,
slapping the horses’ backsides – ‘faster and faster!’ –
into a steady blur.

My ‘Bosch Stiftung Film Prize Nominee Forum’ Experience

I just came back from Berlin where I attended a film forum organized by the Robert Bosch Foundation. Organized for nominated projects competing for their 2013 Arab-German co-production film grants. 

I first found out about the Bosch Foundation and their generous funding opportunities this past summer in Amman where I attended a short-film project market hosted by the Royal Film Commission of Jordan meant to help Arab writer/directors partner up with German producers. After some pitch training and meetings, I decided to join forces with an ambitious producer, Jessica Landt from Beleza Film, and apply to the co-production grant together with our short fiction project The Stork.

We were shortlisted and invited to the Nominee Forum with nine other teams, each working on either short fiction or documentary projects, also made up of Arab and German filmmakers. It was an intense few days of training rounded out with good food and conversations. I think we all left more prepared to officially pitch our projects in February to the jury during the 2013 Berlinale.

Since I found it so useful, I thought I’d summarize my highlights:

Pitch training with Cathy de Haan: I first met Cathy in the Amman project market, where she introduced us to the art of pitching, but here she had more time to expand on her advice. She reminded us of the essentials: to keep things clear, consistent and concise – reflected in everything from how we use our voices, our bodies and the design of our visual material. We’ve got to relax, to enjoy the process, because we’ll never have this opportunity again to speak to this particular audience about this specific film. We tend to get so wound up with our presentations and ourselves that we forget about our audience; who we’re actually pitching to and who has ultimate power. What do they know about the project already?, what do they want to hear and how/why will they be moved by your project? Even if they’re critical of the pitch in the end, we should be appreciative and answer their concerns seriously, as their questions and feedback is proof they actually took the time to hear our pitch.

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Basra

When we were children in disguise,
covering our faces with lion masks,
running through the fields,
separating the clouds with our toes,
mama calling us in at sunset
singing lullabies till sunrise –

Animals must dream this way
when they sleep next to each other,
one thought completing the other,
chasing after one another’s fears.

She said you can always be my monster,
lying in wait underneath my bed,
whispering threats in another language,
I would find you and tame you,
teach you about tea parties
and how to part my lips.

The Lion Tamer

Oh such speed,
when I shake the lion’s paw,
and pull him by the tail
across the room,
painting the walls calm again.

She whispers:
I found you at the bottom of the ocean;
a captain who sank with the ship,
a boy splashing in his bathtub

and she pushes me under again.

Uncle says:
Always keep your hand on the rudder
despite the slack in the sail,
wear the lionskin like a blanket
on days when the sun goes missing again
.

There’s a moment as you drown,
when you allow the salt in,
bleaching your mind clean,
except that one precious moment –
like lead shot in your pockets –
of breaking a girl to see if she’d kiss you again.

The Engine Driver

Like wrong animals,
that move half-step,
I tap-tapped against the earth,
tap-tapped against the girl.

When I kissed her and ran away,
her brother eventually caught up with me,
placed his gun on top of me,
and said, ‘say your pretty words again you pretty man’.

Afterwards, bearded men came and washed me,
wrapped me in their own bedsheets,
placed me in the back of a pickup truck,
drove down the narrow road between our fields.

Face up watching as the sun meets the trees,
I know this place,
I know this smell,
Alexandria! – where the sea meet earth,
I imagine her now next to me,
the tap-tap of her fingers against my chest
kissing my wounds despite the wounds I inflict.