Hazem Fahmy

the word

In the beginning there was the word
                    and it spat on me,
called my hair ineffable,
                    the brown of my eyes a wasteland

to limp through. I held the word
                    in my palms,
felt it coolly ooze out
                    and drop on my bare toes.

It wiggled its way around the floor,
                    the ceramic now slathered
in civilization.

                    The word insults me,
breaks into my chest, picks its yellow
                    teeth with my ribs.
The word offers me wine while I’m fasting.

                    Sometimes I laugh
so hard I feel the bones the word took
                    from my chest. I still
call the hollow holy: an empty mosque
                    at fajr.

The word asks to join me in prayer.
                    I bring it
buckets of water. The word cleans
                    up proper, only
to dry itself with a mus’haf.

                    I opened my mouth only
to find that my throat, too,
                    was stolen.




A film reel is precious and flammable.
                    If not preserved well, the nitrate will erupt
in flames and the ashes of a story will fall
                    before you. The Library of Congress estimates:
over 3500 films have been lost.
                    I think of lost films as I run my hands
over my scars – wonder who will look
                    for this body when it’s gone.


When I see people on the silver screen who look like me and not want to blow shit up,
it’s exhilarating. But perhaps this was my own fault. Perhaps I was watching the wrong
movies. Let Hollywood have its hurrah. Leave me with Chahine and Khan. Watch us
raise a glass of poison for every whitewashed brown role.


Cigarettes look more interesting
                    in old movies. They bulge with more life
than death, as if cancer wasn’t so serious
                    back then. Actors in black and white films smoked
to make the lighting look prettier. There is something cinematic
                    about killing yourself slowly. The first thing I did
after getting out of the hospital was buy a pack
                    of Marlboro Reds.


The Prisoner of Azkaban introduced me as a child to the bogart. I watched with glistening
eyes as Harry Potter looked fear in the face. Here, fear is a funny sounding creature
trapped in a closet. It dies at our laughter. Comedy is my link between self-defense and
self-harm. They are both screams of a child crying inside me. I once tried to kick him out
with a broom, but he broke the rod in two, and cut my arms up just to prove he could.

I wonder where he learned such violence. I wonder if this hate was passed down by my
father. I wonder if me thinking that has anything to do with all the smiles I’ve seen of
white heroes liberating brown bodies.


A film does not cease to exist
                    when the crowd goes home. So too
will this body last. It does not exist
                    to be a performance. I am still alive
when I go back home. I am still alive
                    when I burn my lungs and think
about not being alive.


When I was in the hospital I wrote a list of reasons to get out. Over half of them were
movies. This was the same year American Sniper came out.

And there I go blaming myself again. Silly brown boy, what business do you have
waiting for anything but death from America? Of all the cameras in the world why
choose this to worship? No wonder this body is static: why are you so loud?


I am a bogart. I am fear
in a closet. I am afraid of the closet. I die                    
at the cold hands of laughter. I am here
for your amusement. I am not                    

When feeling alive is the heaviest burden
I can breathe in, I tell myself     
there is no bad cinematography
in the real world. Only bad editing.     
Like stitching two images
with no rhythm. Like a call to prayer     
and an explosion.


Hazem Fahmy is a poet and critic from Cairo. He is an Honors graduate of Wesleyan University’s College of Letters where he studied literature, philosophy, history and film. His debut chapbook, Red//Jild//Prayer won the 2017 Diode Editions Contest and is forthcoming in 2018. His poetry has appeared, or is forthcoming in Apogee, HEArt, Mizna, and The Offing. His performances have been featured on Button Poetry and Write About Now. He is a reader for the Shade Journal, a poetry editor for Voicemail Poems, and a contributing writer to Film Inquiry. In his spare time, Hazem writes about the Middle East and tries to come up with creative ways to mock Classicism. He makes videos occasionally.

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