for the kids i keep seeing in my dreams

in a splash of gold knowing and a wave of love at the sound of a voice, it began to come to me. not the meaning of it or what the “it” was. is. no, the why. the chronic baby dreams and the babyless dreams still pregnant with the absence of babies. the one where one fell out of me and wouldn’t cry, just stared at me. a silent bell jar with an eyeball suspended in the center, waiting. and even more still, when i dreamt of my pious uncle hunched over carving smoke from cedar, designing an alter to mar charbel. the morning after that dream i woke up to my aunt telling my mother over coffee that yes, he was. and so it was. and so he did. and so now i visit these statues in their small courtyard around the corner from my grandmother’s house. my headaches began as the nightly rains began and that’s when my visits began, too. in another poem i said “I’d never offer my eyes to god” as a reference to qadisa rafqa who asked jesus to blind her because she loved him that much. coincidentally (or not) my vision has gotten worse but my Seeing has sharpened. i worry that too much attention to the metaphysical means i will be called away from the physical. as it is, i light candles and my mother asks me who are you talking to? i say no one. i say myself. i say please chill out. but at night i am conversed to, then with, then i am a child again: mar charbel taking me by the hand, handing me an ice cream cone. we are in an ancestral village i’ve never seen before but i have felt it before– often as i wake and walk toward a horizon thin-lipped with secrets it’s too soon for me to know. mar charbel says to me it’s not here anymore, but all of this was supposed to be yours. the golden tint is something abrahamic but also, a possible symptom of orientalizing my own experiences? does the Knowing show us what’s true by showing us the objective landscape? or does it work with limited resources: the lexicon and visuals we have been fed? i’m starting to visualize what it means to break “generational curses” and maybe it means overcoming the haunting in your bones by properly hydrating so you can properly unfuck the hegemonic database to make it your own. like george does. like noor does. like marwa does. like nader does. like hazem does. like zaina does. my peers. my cousins. my siblings across time. i went from “you” when talking about the hard work to “i” and “mine” when talking about the heart work. but it’s all connected. it begins here. in my center. the heart is an eye opening, each beat: a blink. i see you blink i see you blink i love you blink what’s that blink over there blink wake up blink blink    blink and when my eye closes for the last time, i’ll dream you. the sidewalk will flip upside down, my new right-side up. i’ll still be walking with you, as my ancestors walk with me. one set of footprints, not two, but i promise i’ll be there. the warmth of the dirt is scientific and matter of fact, but i’ll be piggybacking on to that meaning the way dreams piggyback the daylight’s logic. the way the word “meaning” itself belongs to both objectivity and subjectivity. to paper and to birds. to a formula and to a poem. how a formula is a poem and vice versa. the hand holding the pen is warm with blood, which is necessary and true but also: a nexus, and trust. but we’re not there yet. i’m not dead yet, and i don’t want to be. i’m getting to it, give me a second. i think i meant to tell you what i know now. about the phantom babies and archival. the generational curses and how we break them. we do so by breaking time and making futures out of broken things. not just what imperialism has broken, but what we ourselves have broken in the new curses we are writing for the descendants waiting on the wings, having second thoughts about giving up their wings for us. the most evil eye is my own looking at myself in the mirror, doing nothing with what i am given. leaving a mess behind. i need to end somewhere softer–a new condition i’ve assigned myself. no more dead ends and hard edges, trapdoors opening into smoke and mirrors which open into festering nothings, blood stoppered by the autoimmune, my skin always taking the wheel unsure where to go so it erupts and i spin out. no, no. not that. not the tinted unlit unmarked cop car either: pulling up behind me as i prayed in the small courtyard, mar charbel’s arms outstretched to the rumbling sky above us. not the flash of the siren lights suddenly making the night into a knife i met with the hilt of my spine. no. there, the beating. the blinking. the eye turned away from the mirror and into the armor of the republic. here, now, future tense; the timeline is as linear as a trail of smoke curling in on itself. light is as warm from a candle as it is from a spit. i love you. i love you. i will fight me so i can fight for you. Inshallah, but also, I will it too. Take my hand while it’s still warm. All of this is yours.

Jess Rizkallah

Jess Rizkallah is a Lebanese-American writer and illustrator. Her full-length collection THE MAGIC MY BODY BECOMES was a finalist for The Believer Poetry Award and won the 2017 Etel Adnan Poetry Prize as awarded by the Radius of Arab-American Writers and University of Arkansas Press. Find her at