The Peregrine Muse

Poetry of Laala Kashef Alghata

Staccato Poet

She writes poems and calls herself a poet.

Yes, she knows that by doing so she's

indebted to the world; no writer should

call themselves such before another does.
But, like a staccato, poet poet, is in her head,
makes her fall asleep with the hint

of a smile, and she thinks she deserves
to have her lips curve upwards every now
and then, for the tears that seep past

her eyes almost blind her. She says,
"I am a poet," when she faces the world,
forgets that she no longer writes poems.

My Soul is a Hidden Orchestra

        (title quoted from Fernando Pessoa)

If it were possible, I'd want to be the entire
trumpet section, play my way
into your heart (and take a piece
as a keepsake), dabble in your mind,
see how it is you write so beautifully
despite the monotony of modern life.

If my soul were an orchestra,
I'd want you to take over
as conductor, and as you preform
every part of me would sing,
and my pen would dance without me.

Be in Love

I feel as though the whole world
should be in love, constantly.
We should all be falling in and out
of love, breaking people's hearts
and waiting for someone else
to heal ours. One love is a gorgeous thing,
but if you can't find the one
then collect them all: slivers
of hearts or snippets of veins
and catch their blood in a vial.

I want to scream, wake up world!
Let's fall in love! and walk through
the streets holding hands
with strangers and smiling at
that man walking around
with a piece of cardboard saying
'free hugs' and spreading joy
like butter.

And yet, I've only ever been in love
once. Who knows if he was worth it
then or worth it now,
but he's the past.

Take my hand and kiss
my fingertips and I will
kiss your eyelids.

But if I fall out of love today,
I will leave come tomorrow.

A Poet's Search for Her Soul

Your lips are powder blue
on my soul. I try to brush away
the kisses but they are plunged
into my heart like Excalibur.

My tongue is heavy with diamond
words, sparkling and hard to buy.
If only you knew how to sand
the edges down, maybe then
you'd understand the true meaning
of what I say.

I let you poke your fingers in
between my heart and my lungs,
squeezing all the way. It is this way
I fell in and out of love
and lost my breath when I saw you.

And all the while I'm wondering
where exactly it is the soul resides
and how many times we have to fall
in love to find it.

I Want to Feel Van Gogh's Night

Like swirls wrapped tightly around me
and how comfort can be blue,
and black spikes are not always evil,
I want to kiss the night.

Like his strokes, so crude
and the city, so quiet,
I want to merge
crude and noisy.

The stars, so yellow,
each its own sun
and how his night is light,
but the people sleep.

I want to feel Van Gogh's night,
I want to sleep bathed in light.


the great advantage to being alive

(instead of undying) is not so much

that mind no more can disprove than prove

what heart may feel and soul may touch

-- the great (my darling) happens to be

that love are in we, that love are in we

.e.e. cummings

We are not undead, we are alive
like the wind, like the sky,
we are not the shriveled grey
of beanstalks as they inch
towards death, we are fire.

Our skin is softer than petals
no matter how harsh it feels,
it is thin and durable, easily
sliced, but think –

I am alive. I am not undead.

The great advantage to being alive
is feeling alive, and the happiness
that comes with. Like melted
chocolate licking your mouth,
like warm blankets and a book.

And Cummings got it right, the great
advantage to not being undead, is that
love can we, love can we.

City of Limbo

This city is a blur of smoke and peeling billboard ads, of people meeting, greeting, being, leaving—all in one night. This is a town of sometime hellos, forever goodbyes, and perhaps a few hours of freedom in between. We walk alone, stepping on burning cigarettes, fumes swirling to form silky curves in the air, walking to our destination because we're all damned anyway. We turn our heads away from fake smiles and cheap kisses, defeated handshakes and heartless hugs.

(Welcome to Limbo. We're all dead in this city.)

The sidewalks should be framed and mounted as the greatest works of action art, expressionism and graffiti meeting in swirls. The place is rough and unrefined, sand sprinkled in your hair from the crumbling walls, fingers bleeding from careless cuts.

(The city is made of texture and blood. Come visit sometime.)

The sky here is grey mixed with green; we've forgotten what blue looks like. Clouds meet and kiss in mid-air, forming forgotten images of aeroplanes and automobiles. We left technology behind years ago; that's no longer part of our world. We move slowly and carefully, with hot cocoa blistering our lips to beautiful shades of maroon. Our nails are short and filled with crust; we are a part of the earth and the earth a part of us.

(Our city smells of copper and lies.)

Ignore the alleyways and the glittering needles; what you don't see does not exist. We carry our pills in our pocket, pills of different colours popped like sweets. We're dependent on this; we live in this grime because we're made of it. Don't try and scrub anything away; we like our smiles upside down and the bags won't disappear from underneath our eyes. Take in our throbbing veins and understand.

(This city exists inside each of us.)

We're all a little psychotic.

Texts of Emotion and Unique Fingerprints

My senses are embedded deep within my mind's monastery
with monks scribbling in focus to copy texts of my emotions
to record feelings and lies into my subconscious and desert
me in my reality, to make me able to wake from dreams
of all-consuming darkness, of my heart disappearing
and dissolving with acid to corrode life, those that I hold precious
unavailable, miles in between some of us and lies between
the others, such tight knots that life knits in the canvas
of our skin, irreplaceable prints of significance making
everyone unique unto themselves, a fingerprint to the world,
but an identity to me.

The Nature of Signs

We look for signs in the creases
of a lily's skirt, or the feeling
of fingers pressed into our arms.

We hunt for life in the dirt and grime,
go so far as to pick up a knife
and shave the stems of plants,
water them thoroughly when we see
green flecked between the brown.

We look for signs, but signs sometimes
come to us, in a friend's kiss
or warm embrace, or underneath the sheets
at night when we realise: we are alive.

Words we want stay on the tip
of our tongues and yet our lips
overflow with currents we don't want
exposed. With our fingers bare
and our hearts open, we wait.

Draw, Speak and Describe Love

If asked to draw love
I would start at the basics.
A red crayon and a big,
full heart.

If asked to speak love
I would sing like Simon & Garfunkel
let their words pour out
of my mouth like gossamer
or silk.

If asked to describe love
I would say it's something
between a kaleidoscope
and a yo yo. Disappearing
before we can catch
a glimpse, but leaving
such brilliant patterns
that we forget to mind
its absence.

His Watchmen Never Fell Asleep

Too many love-coated words
too much sugarless hurt
too much of him on my page.

            I no longer want to be his Persephone,

            and was never his Juliet.

The tips of my fingers are still singed
from all the times I'd reached out
begging to be let in, begging
for him to realise I was worthy
of his love, I wanted to be his Beatrice.

            Love is two, but can be one;

            love is a tug of war.

My hands were stiff with trying

to pull him back towards me,

not skid away, my knuckles bled.

            I wished for love,

            I wanted sunset kisses.

I believed, he deceived.

We danced intricately

with each other, hands

and bodies always apart,

kept thick air between us,

eliminating no man's land

wouldn't kill the distance.

            There'll be a boy I'd give

            my heart to, a boy
            I'd do everything for.

But not to him, for I've wasted
too many words trying to
whisper lullabies into his heart

            But he kept it closed, guarded;

            and those watchmen

            never fell asleep.

The Departed

There's a bed that is cool.
The windows are open
and the spring air
lounges about lazily.
There has been tragedy here.

The sheets are folded back,
waiting. Waiting for
something inevitable.
It would take time,
it's been forty days
and it has yet to happen.

There's a bed that is lonely,
its long-time occupant
departed. I wonder if
his ghost smiles into the quiet
of the empty room.
The air shivers, and settles.

There's a bed, a room,
in a house full of life.
The bed was weighed down
with death, the room with a soul.

My Heart Complains

My heart is heavy but empty. I'm tired
of lugging it around, of leaving it hanging
like a pendulum with the string tied
somewhere near my throat.

My lips are parched, they're looking for
reasons to smile, and I have none to give.
My heart is heavy with the burden
of remembering, of holding loved ones safe
in some ancient chamber.

I fell in love once. My heart took it
well, but I soon vanquished him out
of its depths. He remained dear,
though, and I kept contact.

Now that boy is back, and my heavy heart
doesn't want any part in this. It knows
this won't end well; it beats hard and fast.
My heart is tired of failed love, doesn't want
anyone to come back inside.

I want to see my old love now,
see his smile and wait as
despite his chronic handsomeness,
the sparks fade into dying embers.

My weary heart beats fast and slow,
sighing with every breath I take.
It warns me it will not put up
with any mess. It had its age of clutter,
it says, and it likes things sterile and clear.

Past the Heavens

We hang stars outside our bedroom
windows, watch them in the dark
and wonder how to reach them.
We wait until that sensible, kind-
hearted person points out
that we were the ones who hung
them up there to dry (and with
them drying, evapourate our dreams).

We throw stars out like dice
and wait to see our fate,
forgetting (always forgetting)
that we were the ones
who rolled the dice.

We look to the stars
and past the heavens.

The Book of Life

            "to find people who are but a series of

             parentheses in the book of life"

             ~ Fernando Pessoa

Like every struggling poet,
I watch my words form and wonder
if they will ever blossom
inside someone else's heart.

Or am I just a person
easy to pass by on the street?
My smile is infectious
and my eyes bright,

but who stops to notice?
Life swallows us whole,
licks our fingers
and forces us to choose.

In the book of life
we all make an appearance;
will I be a parentheses
or a paragraph?

Beauty Evapourated

My heart is hidden,
forgotten in some corner
between the vines
that twist to suffocate me.

My soul is empty.
I wonder where the poetry
has gone. Where the words
and beauty have evapourated to.
I shuffle through
folders and books,
trying to find
(and bottle)

My eyes are dry.
Emotion has disappeared,
hand in hand with my muse.
I'm tempted to fish it
back, but don't know
where to start looking.

My lips are cracked.
My voice has long since
abandoned me, leaving
me alone in the fray.
I shake my head
at strangers.

I'm barely here,
just counting down
until that final punch
and I go down, defeated.

Fans of Dali

Dali doesn't need us. Doesn't need
our awe or our excitement at being
amongst his pieces in London or
St Petersburg. His clocks will melt
whether we watch the time or not,
his rose will hang in wonder
whether we press our breath
in the empty space between it
and the sand plains underneath.

Dali doesn't need us looking
into the shadows of his self-portrait
or testing the strength of the sticks
holding up his dream.

Dali knows that he doesn't need
us like we need him, and that
no matter what he does, his art
drips its way into our hearts
and like his clocks, melts and forms
around our thud. thud. thud.

The world has their clocks, and most
go on daylight savings, ever-changing.
We have our clocks. They're Dali,
and they're everlasting.

Dream On

The sky is made up
of children's imaginations,
which consist of clouds
and glitter. Heaven
is hidden somewhere
behind those clouds,
as children believe it
to be there. Angels sing
and we hear their voices
carrying with the wind,
rising in crescendo
with the rain, splattering
down, tinting the water
golden. There are
fantastic shapes and figures
in the sky; the stars
form erratic shapes.

All because
children picture it so.

The Twilight

What makes forever so special, when the papers have been served and the cards dealt? Your lips on my collarbone and your hand distracted (signing the dotted line). Where is tragedy, Hamlet or Paris? The lights are too bright and the lies too beautiful, so stop painting disaster onto my skin, stop colouring the river golden. This isn't your canvas and those are colours I did not choose. The curtains are velvet and cotton is draped around your waist. Kissing me goodbye and squeezing my hand, leaving behind that band you wore (to prove: I am taken, I am not free). Was our prison too cold for you, love, or was it the colour of the walls? I would've painted over them with blood and tears, or at least decorated them with smiles. This band on my finger is staying: I was taken, I am not free. The bell tolls and you think of me as you board a train into the twilight. That's all we ever were, twilight, something caught in between the pages of a modern calamity. Brush the dust away and follow the footnotes, put the past in context before you fade away. I won't close my eyes or disappear; the night won't show me images of you. You left this broken home and the broken vase on the floor; where are the flowers you bought me now? Gathering with the wind, throwing dust in lovers eyes. I wish I could reinstate the thorns. You brought me here and you're not taking me back, so I will bury myself in the blinding white of that bedroom on the river, I'll visit the vineyards for the view. Look here: the skin is still swollen, the flesh still pink. Don't paint disasters where there are none. Don't paint yourself into me.

Loneliness: A Mental Indisposition

Loneliness is not some chosen path
but an obsession maintained carefully,
analogous to mental disease,
the mental indisposition to let oneself
be loved or feel at ease. Loneliness
bites, it severs our sentiment
and leaves us with poetry in our veins.

Loneliness is not a shelter, it does
not give refuge from the storm.
It is bland, colourless and blind
until spliced open, when it chokes
on the metaphors bubbling underneath.

Ruby Youth

You walked around
with a lipstick stain
hovering near your lip,
just missing the curve
of your cheeks,
the dip in your lips.

You smoked
your last cigarette,
your eyes red,
your cheek tainted
with a lipstick mouth.

You shave, nicking
yourself in that gap between
the lips of that lipstick smile,
decaying, eroding your skin.

Wipe that lipstick off,
melt into the wave,
disappear and be found.


Bahraini poet and novelist (and student) Laala Kashef Alghata writes regularly for the Bahrain and Kuwait issues of Clientele, a lifestyle magazine and is the editor of the poetry journal, Write Me a Metaphor. Her most recent book, Behind the Mask: A Folded Heart (2006), a collection of poetry and prose, is available at and her work appears online in poetry journals such as All Things Girl, Argotist Online, and La Fenetre.