my world as it was, is no more
it has wedged itself inside a suitcase
as the world outside declares its sympathy,
a mere fallacy,
the connivance of history and treachery
agents of injustice
conspiring to smother me with
the plastic bags my stuff is in,
the new rulers efforts to resolve the situation
as strong as the cardboard box holding
my children’s schoolbooks
their words as gentle as the thorns
on the roads I’m forced to walk,
as soft as the nails our clothes hang on
the language of officials
as beguiling as the smell of leather
on a hot summer day,
as soothing as salt on our wounds;
their gestures as entertaining
as watching drones
destroy your home


Old familiar faces
of people I used to know
-scarred by war and cruelty-
pass by my memory,
I call their names
yearning for an embrace;
they will not look at me
but turn their heads away.


Half a life and twice as much pain
a tale of sorrows
a coil of memories
twisted, left to rot
-to hang me
in a dark night of despair
a lonely road to perdition
led down this path of madness
lay me down to sleep
in the wilds of the deep blue
sky or sea
it matters not to me
let me sink slowly
into death’s open arms
it desires me, you do not
or let the wind
carry me to rest among the clouds
shape my coffin out of the softness
tell the world I am gone forever
grieve if you like
it makes no difference to me

Abi (my father)

Abi, I miss you
where have you gone?
You sit in the chair near me
but it’s not you
an old man with white hair
and frail bones has taken your place
he tries to speak to me –
his lips quiver, he mumbles
his hands sit quietly by his side
when yours would have been
dancing in the air
moving to the music of your words


to find a friendly pulse
within the world’s chaotic heart
a beat that echoes
my own throes
a gentle touch on a wrist
like a cool misty morning in the Libyan summer

to sink into a warm embrace
within the arms of mankind
on a bed of purple lavender
a pool of empathy
washing over me
like an ocean of solace to a sorrow laden heart

to hear words of peace murmured
by a dying fighter’s lips
amid the battle cries of war
a zephyr of forgiveness
resuscitating hope
like a rush of oxygen to a drowning brain

Till we meet again

Farewell my beloved home,
someday I will return
abode of my happiness – my dignity
solace of my white-haired years
sanctuary of my weary body
will my hand ever turn the key in your door again?
Will my bare feet walk in your fields
sinking into the cool soil once more?
Shall I find the carob tree standing strong
in defiance of the wild winds?
The roses I nurtured against the odds,
the jasmine fluttering in the breeze,
will they be there to welcome me?
the hoopoe at my window- will it remember me?
“I miss you! I miss you,” I cry
The knowing , the belonging
the beauty of the morning lights
the azure of the early nights
I am bereaved, I have lost my home
Uprooted and exiled,
how long must I wander?
How far must I roam?

Spare me

Don’t look at me like that
the pity in your eyes is telling
a fountain of emotional welling
save your brimming tears
for someone else
another person-another place
a different time-another space
glances, steel tipped lances
felling my dignity, spearing my defenses
drops of molten lava
petrifying my calm oasis
leave us alone
don’t intrude on our zone
in our misery /bravery
your zone, the zone of insanity
and prevailing inhumanity
a lexicon of abuse and hatred
pours insults on my head
invades my hearing
besieges my thought
a litany, a heavy ballad
recounting battles fought
thousands of years ago
a sad cacophony of cheers and jeers
as the victor is hailed, the loser derailed
the victor crowned
his name enshrined
carved in marble
etched, burnished
the loser left behind
hemmed in with barbed wire
needles drawing blood
gashing wounds flailed
choked by heating rage
vanquished to an empty page
with no title – no text
no description, no definition
shrunken to a fable
a folktale, a bedtime story
‘once upon a time we had a home’
reality mixed with fiction
a dose of poison inhaled
with every breath taken
from every breath exhaled
in a media production inspired
by a transgressor’s institution
a fellowship of political prostitution
that of ‘war the only option’
the enemy my brothers embraced
reduced my existence
to one word:


Our ship has entered stormy waters
the currents are extreme
the deep dark blue is waiting
to swallow ship and men alike
the sailors are divided
the captain is gone
the winds are tearing us apart
from the South they seek to melt
the hardened hearts, the hatred felt
from the North and the East
they whirl us into a dervish dance
we twist and twirl, spinning
reaching out
palm to palm, a sign of peace
a Western wind, icy cold
blows in between our Libyan hands.
For us no landing on warm sands-
no road to safety, no map to home

My eye, do not weep

My eye, do not weep for those who are dead;
weep for those sleeping on prison beds.

Lonely, yearning for family and friends,
cruelty, torture – their final ends.

Their freedom depending on political bends,
approving, censuring – changing trends.

Their sacrifice and courage to history lends,
rebels? dissidents? – as the trial pends.

When freed, if freed, no kindness mends
the pain, the fear – the message it sends:

Be silent, be mute, about all that tends
to freedom. Or terror your family rends.

(Previously published in the Tripoli Post in 2007)

The first two lines of this poem are from a Libyan folk song. In Libyan poetry tradition (that goes back centuries), a poet would challenge other poets by composing a poem then daring them to ‘build’ upon the first stanza. Of course, that’s done in the Libyan dialect, but I thought I’d try it in English.
This is dedicated to all those Libyans who resist and fight injustice, whose weapons are their words and their pens. For every Libyan past and present.

The new Libyan

a new Libyan is born today
Allahu Akbar, hip hip hurray
the new ruler arrives make way
clean the streets, hang the banners
freedom is yours
to mindlessly celebrate

wash the blood, wipe the tears
smile, put away your fears
salute, fire bullets in the air
weep with joy – or despair
teach the world how to liberate
by seeking vengeance –
by spewing hate