They say the Devil’s in the details,
but I think maybe salvation is too.
So I’ll sweat the small stuff until it flows out of my pores,
evaporating into the air you hardly think to breathe.
Just particulate matter,
but particulates matter sometimes.
Will you even notice
as it flows through you and into the heavens?

Tough Love

Tough love embraces with a forceful passion, sometimes squeezing a little too hard. But in its grasp, you feel that nothing could pry it away (and that maybe something has tried). 

Tough love means I think you’re worth fighting with, as much as you’re worth fighting for. Because I pick my battles carefully and you’ve made the cut.  

It means I insist that you cut the bullshit, because I know you’ve got gems hiding under it.  

It’s a type of love I crave as much as I give. I’m insulted by those who try to comfort me with pleasantries and sweet nothings, as if my laser focus couldn’t see through the fluff. 

It’s a type of love that grew to protect itself from threat, that learned not to air its soft gooey insides. A type of love that hopes it’s still recognizable under that hardened shell–it’s a smooth and beautiful shell, but it just might be one cut away from becoming a weapon.  

As a kid, whenever I would come home crying with scraped knees, my mom would yell at me. It didn’t help, but it was only because she hated to see me in pain. Neither the pavement nor gravity could receive her wrath for causing the injury, so I took it for them. 

So too when I see you in danger, I read your every flaw and misstep like it’s fresh clickbait. It’s not fair, but when the forces you’re up against seem too high and vast to hear me, where else do I turn my rage?   

Must concern always show itself as aggression? I just hope concern is still recognizable under its shells of aggression. 

I never meant to cause shell-shock. 

But I’m also learning to love myself with a certain toughness.

I never quite connected to messages of self-love and self-care that were only about glittering affirmations and bubble baths. Sure, I’ll take a few of those on occasion, but I’d hardly grant the title “love” or “care” to gestures too soft and empty to really feel.

So as I embrace myself, I adjust and readjust my grip between firmness and give. 

Right now, that involves shamelessly enjoying a good sulk on the couch sometimes, and also getting my ass off the couch and doing pushups and financial planning and starting tough phone calls and setting boundaries and finishing this essay and admitting when I’m wrong.

I just hope I’m not squeezing too hard.

You ask me to bring my whole self into the room

You ask me to bring my whole self into the room,
and I wonder if you know what you’re asking for. 

See, some parts of myself haven’t spoken to each other in years.
Some parts have yet to meet, and fear the day they will.

You hardly seem prepared for that kind of reunion.

Some parts only emerge from their shells to the call of their kind.
(They’re adapted to survive that way.)

To pry them open for your viewing would be death.

Some parts of me aren’t made for rooms like this.
They’d scratch up the floor with their jittering claws,
Dent the ceiling as they leap too high,
Fill the space with unruly screeches,
Until you’re sorry you invited them in.

And maybe my self isn’t a whole,
but merely a part–
a part of many
that is fully alive only when rooted into those circles and lineages

that have shaped and are shaped by it–
So no:
It can’t really live as an uprooted centerpiece at your table. 

You tell me to bring my whole self into the room,
and I wonder:

What do you think you’ve done for me
that I owe you such an impossible feat?

If my Arabic could talk back to me:

You have the audacity
to sigh and roll your eyes at me
when I seem a little distant
or take some time to come when you call for me?

After you hid me in your closet
refused to be heard with me in public;
After you left me
shunned and neglected me;
And after all those years
When you wouldn’t speak with me
even when I called

Now somehow,
you expect me to leap back wholeheartedly
the moment you want me to be your little side bitch?

Well forgive me
if I take some time to warm up to the idea
If I have some trepidations
about touching your lips again.

Because bitch, I am beautiful.
Do you know how many artists
have drawn testaments to my infinite curves?
How many poets have blown their minds 

just trying to channel the shades
of sonics and meaning
resonating from my every syllable?
And the bits of me that felt too rough for your mouth—
that’s the stuff that music is built upon.

You had your chance with me, but do you even know what you turned down?

Nadia, ya habibti
You say you miss me
And I want to believe you
We can talk, and see where this goes
But I have to take this slow.

For Words + Play

Said you’re all out of singles
I said try double-dipping
And you reached for a line
But hands were Freudian slipping

I tried playing it smart
But the dumbbells were wringing
With the wait of the time
Because my pendulum’s swinging

On your side for a second
In your way just to change it
Now I’m force to be reckoned
With a chemical agent

Sure you’ve seen and you’ve conquered
But now you’re dis-oriented
You hardly knew what was coming
But you softly relented

If we’re a joke where’s the punch
Line of kool-aide to inspire
These shits and gigs leave a byte
Like ha ha B B gun fire