Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Been feeling this Tagore song

Tonight in this stormy darkness you would come to me O my Soul Mate O my Dear Friend Tonight under this tearful, gloomy sky I can't close my eyes I look at the door yet again that I left ajar for you O my Soul Mate O my Dear Friend I can't see anything in the dark I wonder if you are coming I wonder if you are coming through the banks of the river I wonder if you are coming through the dense forest I quiver thinking that you cross this immense darkness just for me O my Soul Mate O my Dear Friend. Rabindranath Tagore See the video of Rezwana Choudhury Bonna singing this beautiful song in Bengali.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

15 feet

It was more than the crust
the heel of the loaf
when you cut the round of the acequia away
spilled harvests of leave and husks
an ancient shale from a river of prayers
on that afternoon sliding towards winter
the wind rattled tails of elms like angry snakes
no children danced basketball steps down the dirt path from school
and the ditchrider didn't curve around the old cottonwood
stop rubber to turn iron and hook debris circling culverts
like salmon waiting at the dam.

Did you look beyond the tsunami of metal
the growl of gears
that drowned the bells of Holy Family Church
see the Comanches ghost dancing with San Ysidro
through the dust devils and hiss of ripples?

Your block wall holds the squared bank
from the bay of tumbleweeds
fluttering like old, loose headstones on empty lots
another mirage turned Aral
some dreams were sewn with a thinner thread

if you'd asked
the elders might have told you
blue lifelines mapped in their parchment of palms
carved across a silver-framed gaze
if you'd held them they might have told you
that one storm could swallow a shore
two hundred years carried in your tide.

Yasmeen Najmi

acequia is Spanish for an irrigation canal, derived from the Arabic as saquiyya.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Glass Tiles

You spilled in a shimmering wave of turquoise
lapping at sandbar boots
over a couch
a different shade of river

spoke in nested tones
of a mouth incubating eggs and seeds
feathered me with the incremental kindness
of a second encounter
a centripetal calm
that bound your limbs to torso
against other forces

I felt your windshield
against the rain of conversation
calibrated my frequency and cadence
to your single pane
you asked which skin products
kept me so young
and my mind wandered
to the mosaic of jars and bottles
tiling my bathroom counter
that only faded the darker pigments

I asked if your family's from Albuquerque
pretty sure of the answer
but needed to hear the names and stories
flow from the arroyos of your tongue
push my palo seco deeper into the flan of river’s edge
to root again

I understood when you excused yourself
a few poems in
rose and dissolved in Guadalupe rainbow apparition
your colors danced like church windows in ceremony
and the sun’s parting glance
the glass garden of my sink

the next morning
I slid your book from the shelf
poured your words into my china
and swallowed the night.

Yasmeen Najmi

Slow Dance

"There ain't nothin' hotter than jazz dancing around the old farm table with Clint."

My mom after watching The Bridges of Madison County.

Meet me on a bridge between now
and water’s edge
I want to orbit you with a look
that spins and burns the needle
into the grooves of old wood
the brands of past lovers
dance me 1/2 of a 4/4
scratch the record and move your long hand back
so my purple can settle in your valleys
the sun skins the river as it falls
my fingers carve lines in your neck
for you to read before the razor fades them
into the sobriety of mirrors
and black coffee

meet me on that bridge
because a bridge is a dance
notes are climbing twilight’s blushing ridge
so extend your gravity through the clouds
and solar storms that ring our eyes
past the gold bands holding the collision of moons
our vows are Saturn heavy
but your arms are Pluto's wings

be my Superman
fly these equatorial curves in reverse
repatriate this crime of time
just keep spinning
do not pass the bar
do not pass closing
or the last call
of the ship before it flattens into darkness
where I will stand at the shore
and breathe.

Yasmeen Najmi

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Before the Storm

Before the storm
was the neatness of Spring
the Crabapple tree
young again
starred in its one useful role
and marked the yard's center point
the bluegrass a razor cut jade
hemmed and tucked into concrete cuffs
swingset counted a Haydn waltz

We were born to the prairie and knew
when sirens sliced the yeastless air
the drilled bare feet procession
toward the screen door
corralled by thunder that snapped the cerulean sky
like one of our parent's electric arguments
eruptions that made us skip a few steps down
to the sanctuary of ground

The weatherman blinked back
his arrowed arms like a weathervane
spun into confusion
vortices circled like distant hawks
Somewhere out in East Jesus, Mom chuckled
somewhere outside our metropolis of 130,000
somewhere in the safety of the unknown

In those times we held fast to normal
Dad chased a hairy brown coconut
across the floor with a hammer
Mom with a basket of laundry to fold
as our world unfolded
Perry Como instructed us to find refuge

Don't let the stars get in your eyes
don't let the moon break your heart
don't linger too long in the light of the moon
too many moons could change your mind

Warnings wrapped in a polka
garnished with a post-war victory smile
that made us believe
the roof would always hold

But the time sequestered
and the temporary no-fly zone
over blankets on the basement floor
didn't save us from the storm

Yasmeen Najmi

The Tipping Point

I am only half of you
half of your subcontinent skin
my autumn-stained hair
half your ink and girth

My stories are served to me
on small plates
my stories are only half of yours

The low hum of your words
lifts and tilts in quiet waves
through the savanna of your chest
the steeped air swoons cardamom
and I am running with you
in mud washed streets
your grandmother's fried puri crunches
then fills the mouth in oily plumes
the way my grandmother's surely must have tasted

My stories are the Other castes
that wait outside the temple
shout devotion at stone to be embraced by echo
in the flickering tango of shadows
we enter
fold our bodies and breath into maternal contours
shell cracked to source
rifts in ancient masonry
cull the heat of severance

Fingers of moon slip between
window bars
the arcs of twisted limbs
I imagine that your stories are mine

Yasmeen Najmi

Friday, February 25, 2011


You're the temple of our Aztlan
a longitudinal misfit
like the estranged, and sometimes strange
who orbit your shadow
I lose alignment in your symmetry
in the black lace of a woman
who too survived 1000 molten deaths
your snow streaked hair visible to those
with you in the early light
do they know that underneath your seasons
the fires that cast you as Juliet's breast
still burn at puberty's rim
pushing orchids and trumpet flowers
through the ash of your lovers
gathering loamy clouds to listen
to the new stories simmering in your skin
our dark goddess
standing square in a strange brew
black brush on mosque skies
steady against the frenzy of lights
Pedernal, they are kinder
to your red and yellow-haired sisters
but you and I know the truth
whichever temple they built to mask
their devotion.

Yasmeen Najmi

Cerro or Mt. Pedernal is located near Abiquiu, New Mexico

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Gulf Ghazal

One evening I was listening to the public radio recordings of a Louisiana native and naturalist who mentioned the concept of a "thin place," which he defined as a physical place on the landscape where the veil between this world and next is thin - a place you understand intuitively. I so liked the concept/words that I wrote a poem around it. May we all find a thin place(s) in this world.

On dry stripes between the feral bayous and rivers, they came to build, grow in thin places. Life delivered in ritual tides, geologic gifts that oozed between plank floor toes, thin places.

The ashy, skirted frames of bald cypress and tupelo gum slumped like old women, dripped in antebellum lace of moss that filled dikes of sunlight, closed the thin places.

A fiery sun thundered to sky, eclipsed dark, earth's blood crept to shore staining, straining shells, wings, the sickled marsh grass - settled in all those thin places.

Thinking it was night again, eels left their watery nests among the breathing roots that held the world together, darting, twisting in the flow through thin places.

Fisherman, the anointed soldiers of Goddess Yemanja, pried the paralyzed from gluey graves, wound new levees like chastity belts around shores, dark clouds and truth spun below thin places.

Old Joe at Boutte's Bayou smiled, "Sorry, all I can fix you now is a beef po'boy sandwich. Cleanin' the oil is like gettin' gum off yo shoe," he cackled, missing teeth showed roux thin places.

His mouth slowly waned, eyes fixed in a distant, smoky glaze, he said "Yasmeen, the people in Lafitte or Theriot or anywhere round here, in these prowling bayous we know our thin places."

Yasmeen Najmi

Published in Fixed and Free Anthology of New Mexico Poets, 2012. All rights reserved (Yemanja is a mother goddess in the Yoruban tradition. She represents water - mud, swamps and ocean).

Lost in Translation

Power lies in determined translation
of the tangled synapses
of costumed memories
filed as "unknown:"
emergent headstones.

Stationed in the headlight,
the whistle warns approach
is the engine love or fear?
Dopplered heartbeats deafen
the answer
we load thoughts into chambers
tongue quivers like a teapot door
hinting the sonic landscape
and, in a moment,
the mind's valve flies open to sing
exposing, bathing us in the white
rays of a smile
opening pores to light
or, in storm cold shot
slams shut
blood dives to reef
fear is the fighting fish
that picks the bones,
refracting love
pigmenting rage
power not exercised
love not exiled
by the bullet or fist
only a word.

Yasmeen Najmi

Friday, January 7, 2011

Foreigner in Exile (Ghazal)

We live to drink our patria's wine, all those sired in exile,
Chicken Tikka Masala and English ghazals we claim in the style of exile.

The ink of the story still bleeds past the partition of the page,
The lines tightly drawn, my union thwarted by a father’s files of exile.

But who to blame? The terrorist or the Government Babu? Their cloth and shackles same. The smoke led to my door, and Churchill’s men recline in exile.

My passport was once the global key, our righteous moral badge,
The eagle plucked, its talons clipped, it soared high in exile.

The birth cord's been unraveled, why must they burn the map and ship?
This daughter's hopeful welcome, without a smile they did exile.

Yasmeen, why weep for a place not home, to you as yet unknown?
Go and flash your dollars in a stranger place, from yourself again find exile.

Yasmeen Najmi

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Flamenco of Seasons

In Spring, love bursts in noisy bulerias,
a pale, downy blur that ripens to a bare skin,
petal lip alegria,
oh fermented eyes of the sugar drunk harvest
the adagio of a hammock
under swaying fruit
but true love resides in winter's silencio,
when we must lean in, whisper
and be still to hear the heart's yearnings,
glimpse the veins of hope that stream beneath
the glazed layers of seasons.

Yasmeen Najmi

Monday, November 15, 2010


Where should I put my love?
Cast to November’s gray brick
the city sways
thick with the lowered shoulders of old lovers
going to work or for a pack of cigarettes
assembly lines of cold metal pulsing life
in streets that can't carry another.

Where should I put my love?
The sky saturated with the cumulus of tears
and particulates of dissolved promises;
armies of last words spiral
in exile with yellow leaves.

Where should I put my love?
The Rio too shallow now to carry it
far enough from you
and the ocean’s meniscus pounds at the gates
a mesh of plastic indifference
floats limp near the surface.

Where should I put the love
that colored your eyes
and painted my skin the shimmer of ripples
crashed through reefs of ribs and teeth
to that tidal space between our breath
resting sated, in all the soft, dark corners
of a home foreclosed.

Where should I put this love?
I am full from you and the undigested lingers
it is too big for me to swallow
too big for me to hold.

Yasmeen Najmi

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A love poem to the not in love (Part 4)

We will be lovers at the end of the world

where the sky burns orange with the diurnal remains

of unharnessed hopes the ocean cools into embers of reflections

slowly extinguished by night into dreams

and lucent clouds scattered to the four directions

to seed them.

Yasmeen Najmi

Copyright 2010 Yasmeen Najmi

A love poem to the not in love (Part 3)

Would you harvest me from the remnants of storms

unmasked in the soft cotton of your shirt,

admire me as rare, blue sea glass

in early, eastern rays

your fingers curved around blunted edge

kiss me as if I might break if you did

or didn't

would you give up your act to be in this story -

the one that we divine

in spite of this,

would you tell me something to make me stay?

Yasmeen Najmi

Copyright 2010 Yasmeen Najmi

A love poem to the not in love (Part 2)

You wrapped me in the fast moving clouds

of a desert storm

a rapturous gloom that fell with aspen randomness

across postured granite

lingered in the cracks and contours

of familiar wounds

you’ve learned to dance

like all water does around its suitors,

with the promises of fingertips

and our tangled, damp bed of roots

and scattered leaves

I climbed and climbed and settled

into the coldest, thickest part of you.

Yasmeen Najmi

copyright 2010 Yasmeen Najmi

A love poem to the not in love (Part 1)

Tongues grasp at hidden galaxies

in wordless portals

the Dopplered frequencies of thoughts

before dim vagrancy

the collision of dark matter

and a few faded, blinking stars.

Yasmeen Najmi

copyright 2010 Yasmeen Najmi

In the Time of Yellow Flowers

(In loving memory of Dr. Cliff Crawford 1932-2010)

In the time of yellow flowers
you led the earth
into its fruit-drunk slumber
took it with you
as brown swallowed green.
And every bosque bird
knows your name from the bladed edge,
grey ghosts of cottonwoods
and opaque recesses

They know you
in the beaver's concaved trunks
and adobe hives
flushed from red fields
of Johnson grass and willows
tall as teenagers
thick with summer,
in the Round Dance
of lemon butterflies and alfalfa
the bittersweet tobacco of decay
unearthed in the last irrigations
in the tenor of water pushing through
the acequia crossing
and the quiet soprano of ripples
ironed into mirrors
of gold and blue
in the river's new gifts unwrapped
in the final sighs of the Sangres
love’s deep ecology rattles and hums
from lonely elms along farm roads
and the Rio at dusk
where we walk asking,
and what of us now
of all of this?

And we remember to stop
and listen
as the cool river bottom air
climbs out of bed
wakes the salt grass
follows old channels slowly
behind us, as you did
the warm pockets
rest gently on our shoulders
rustle a lullaby,
it is your song we now sing
to our own creations
And in this time of yellow flowers,
we will again look up and greet
the first staccato of cranes.

Yasmeen Najmi

copyright 2010 Yasmeen Najmi

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Map of the Heart

If you want me
you can find me in
the painted canyons carved
by hollow whispers.

When you travel the verdant faults
tuck your secrets
in the cracks draining ojos,
bury them in muddy depositions
unearthed in the baptism
of Spring and love.

You will find little cover here
from the burning light that
opened my pores
to your fertile waters,
but winter came early
froze what was left
into wider crevasses

to see




Time built these labyrinths
around me.
There are no trail signs
or rock cairns to mark the way,
the easy degrades faster
than I can recover.

I am deep rock
for those who seek
the dripping spring,
the hidden garden
of my Babylon.
Seek to walk the path for me,
with me.

No, it won't be easy
to find me now,
after awhile these canyons
look the same -
shades of pink
of love worn.

Yasmeen Najmi

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Wayfinder (for Melanesian Navigator Mau Piailug)

The Wayfinder fixes the horizon
peels the layers of celestial orange
from top to bottom
notes the iridescent clouds
that hint lagoons
and unwrap storms
a white helix of shorebirds
with flapping silver beaks
on long journeys to short mouths
he traces the midnight of ocean rivers

Conducts the concerto of stars
with a cranial compass
points a 20 foot baton at Polaris
swaying arms and sails

På mai, på mai ka makani nui o Hilo
Blow, blow, great wind of Hilo
Bring the big wind gourd

listens for the humpback's French horn
the cymbal hiss of water
lapping hulls of the Hokule'a.

Always aim for the archipelago
never an island
in community you will find your way.

Blindfolded by the blackest nights
he was never alone
or lonely
reached down to the infrared
of volcanos breathing
the bullet movements of tangs
believed and loved what he couldn't see.
When your guiding star is shrouded
and all you have is your dream -
the island in your mind's eye,
the Wayfinder said
"Keep that image in your mind
if you lose it, you're going to be lost."

Lost as their centuries at sea
and each tide called more
of the old ones to the reef
returned waves of questions
of who would lead their people
from the next great flood
that tugged relentlessly.

Ho’i i ke kai
Wa’a Høküle'a
Eø, é ka wa'a

Return to the sea
the canoe Høküle'a.
Canoe, answer to this call.

Streaming orchids and harmonies
he sailed with the next generation
from Hawa'ii to Tahiti
Survival is more
than voyaging
or protecting our shores
but knowing when
to leave our island
and seek the archipelago.

Yasmeen Najmi

© 2010 Yasmeen Najmi

Friday, July 30, 2010


Time roams
that tidal space
of give and take
deposits pearls
and other invitations
scours fractured stucco
from foundations
unravels the kilim's
heavy, woven history
beneath bared feet
the spent hourglass
sand's end
bats white lashes
tugs our child's name
we laugh and plunge
dolphins in the infinite blue.

Yasmeen Najmi

© 2010 Yasmeen Najmi

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Food Bank

He strides with Wall Street
sniper confident
across to the brokers
at the corner
barreling toward
I brake
and wonder why
they never look.

Yasmeen Najmi

© 2010 Yasmeen Najmi

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


For my grandfathers and all fathers. I love you!

Above the salt marshes
hinted among beech and pine
are geysers: springs of rocks
dig into the soil anywhere
and they pop up to greet you
like geologic gophers
some say the Romans
emerged from stones
and intuitively understood
the obstinance
that teaches patience to their host.

Men like my great-grandfather
Giorgio Calvi, a stonemason
who knew the value
of strength and beauty
a good foundation
metamorphic midwives
stretched short, hairy appendages
into the wombs of quarries
and earth
each newborn
proclaimed a chip off the old block
cradled by all the paisanos
that birthed and built a nation
the New York City subway
the Erie Canal
the Library of Congress
First National Bank, Las Vegas, NM.
the Fitchburg, KY. iron furnace
to supply the railroad
the Rockville railroad bridge, Marysville, PA.
and the railroad depot in Santa Rosa, CA
the Community Building in Douglass, KS.
the reservoir in Pelham, MA.
the Opera House in Cimarron, NM.
and cowboy cabins in Winnemucca, NV.
everything needed for a good life
stitched into Precambrian quilts
of coastal fog
lashed with sun's rays
and micaceous ripples
artfully layered and pressed
like a model's eyeshadow
each column and color
supporting the next
together they are powerful
foundations of our dreams
dreams that calloused and choked,
sometimes crushed
but always convinced.

I remember my grandfathers
and all immigrants
who want only the opportunity
to carve a new life
or to simply live
and accomplish this
by building the foundations
of ours.

Yasmeen Najmi

© 2010 Yasmeen Najmi

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Black Girl (for Comrade Maase)

She brushes red mine dust
from sandals worn smooth
leaving veins in cracked heels
"everything here is red," she smiles
folds her fatigues
into neat samosas
with quick, slender motions
red, the color of death
ripped earth and wombs
shallow the Indravati
red, the color of endurance
a headdress of bricks
a helix of buntings
tonight she will carry
the weight of her world
two husbands
her mother's prayers
Niyamgiri's stony breasts
with an AK on her back
a flash of black eyes and steel
as she rises to dance
she shatters the Tendu leaf ceiling
offering light to stars
to the world unknown.

Yasmeen Najmi

© 2010 Yasmeen Najmi (inspired by "Walking with the Comrades" by Arundhati Roy)

Sunday, June 6, 2010


This year, it’s taken awhile
to believe
wary eyes cocked
to oscillating skies
uneasy, but secretly harboring
the truth all Albuquerque folk know
about frost dates and April,
we toe tested in the shallow end
summer came like a pool bully
pushed us from behind
into the 150 proof,
gold tooth-blinding breath
of a Costco parking lot
but somehow…it doesn’t feel like summer.

Was almost convinced by
the cheat grass hiss
the coronation of mulberry-bruised lips
the Rio bumped and strained,
crept beneath to witness
the restless wicks
of velocity and tailpipes
raging Second Street
but, it still doesn't feel like summer.

Summer is a storm of branches
cracking skies
sidewalk tsunamis and stick nest hair
the vato whistles of fireflies
from raspberry thickets
and paint-weary porches
the sweaty milk of corn shucked
and grass cut.

Summers archived
with the humidity of youth
so I need a vernal story
to talk me through equatorial lines
a plow to break sutured concrete
and the false skin of old sand
resurface the fertile profiles
of solstice dreams.

Yasmeen Najmi

© 2010 Yasmeen Najmi

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


Blackbird singing in the dead of night
take these broken wings and learn to fly

I felt the terror in your eyes
when you emerged paralyzed

Blackbird dipped in oily stream
frozen feathers
plucked and gleaned
down that you just can't make clean

Blackbird fly away with me
cause we don't have much time
swirling skies are coming
and we can't hold the line

Blackbird fly away with me
to the water that don't shine
Thunder Bayou's burning
and I no longer drive.

Yasmeen Najmi

(first two lines from song "Blackbird" by the Beatles)
© 2010 Yasmeen Najmi

What We Remember

What we remember

"We the people of the United States of America
establish justice, insure domestic tranquility
promote the general welfare
and secure the Blessings of Liberty
One nation under God
with liberty and justice for all
and all men are created equal
No State shall make or enforce any law
abridging the privileges or immunities
of citizens
whenever any government
becomes destructive of these ends
it is the right of the people
to alter or abolish it
innocent until proven guilty."

We remember our warriors
tagged and numberless
colors of Desert Storm fatigues
camouflage of spilled blood and youth
truths not self-evident
out of scope's range.

The American Dream

We remember
not to forget.

Yasmeen Najmi

© 2010 Yasmeen Najmi

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Wilderness of Hope

Wilderness without trees
secrets and dreams
roam Guadalupe's caverns
with bones of birds and men
where conversations obey prevailing winds
brittle words and looks tumble in warning
down Main Street legends
the Chamber of Commerce’s Last Stand
against those who surrendered
to dust and empty shells,
barren reefs lining shores of highways.

Pecos, Texas: Gateway to Nada
A café's tribute of patriotism
almost hides the wood paneled walls
and you realize that West Texas
has always been a police state
Pecos Bill and his rifle-bearing posse
a collage of modern soldiers
their uniforms are banderas
the confession of the sin
of being Mexican
to painted Jesus at his Last Supper
the only one they can really count on
when the chips are down
jobs are few
they don’t replace the bullet-ridden windows
The Law never changed
only the outlaws
no white textbook deities
their stories were abducted
driven into searing light
bleached, bloodlet
unstrung corridos
salvaged by vultures and javelinas
at campfires of the disappeared.

Oil wells peck like desert gulls
to hot, slow rhythms
yo-yo in and out of creosote fields
dark men spray chemicals without masks
in screaming winds
their sky-stung, naked hands rake leaves
from Lady Bird's primary colors
bonnet blues, a ranchera to stay warm
but above the rust ghosts of petrol
frozen in mid-sentence
up on the chalky, pine-freckled mesa
the shifting winds silently turn
the giant white fans of hope.

Yasmeen Najmi

© 2010 Yasmeen Najmi

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Birthed by Xylem

Isn't it good to be born, yaar
in this time of transpiration?
flying to the sun
Surya's golden arms
stretch cold womb
a radiant midwife
untangling green veins
from brown
with placental permission
each sigh dilates
maternal portals
coaxing seedlings
to the leaf pile
beneath the nest.

Yasmeen Najmi

(yaar = friend, Surya = Sun Deity)

© 2010 Yasmeen Najmi

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Kutch Rain

Rain has come to Kutch
you set fire to grasses
in preparation
burning core
melts laterally
travel through
my shattered landscape
bound centrifugally
by your gaze.

etched, carved
arms frame
blurring edge
rebuild me with cool adobe
blocks of silty skin
cut from salt flats
of our shore.

Lips gather
pick gently
at seared flesh
epicurean vulture
elegantly scouring
to nothing but
bulbul songs,
whispered mantras
of past lives
haunting Ghat currents
through canyons
of blushing ears.

Rain has come to Kutch
at night
I know surrender
I hold you in my step well
for future drought.

Yasmeen Najmi

© 2010 Yasmeen Najmi

The Elephant in the Room

The elephant in the room
is a ceremonious diva
she carries her weight confidently
like Queen Latifah
and she can get you with that Queen look
you know the one I'm talking about
sideways, eyes slit
burgundy lips
wrinkle a warning
and a "mmmhmmm"
vibrates from a place
deep beneath her blouse
you know you'll never see.

The elephant in the room
seeks low places
not for the company
she hides behind a burqa
of clay and cottonwood leaves
but uses her eyes as a weapon
sleeps on cool sandbars
tail thumping unconsciously
to bullfrog, deep pool bass
casting flies and other,
more savvy suitors
to the corners of her dreams.

The elephant in the room
has hips that can knock a man
off bar stools
and bus stops on Central
she sways her trunk
like a bossa nova
through the bosque
and down the ditch on Atrisco
sweeping for emotional land mines.

The elephant in the room
stands lonely in her exhibit
because branches and balls
can't bathe her
with mud and cool water
and she's forgotten
the ancient acoustics females use
to call a mate
or their herd
and doesn't know where to look.

The elephant in the room
is afraid of being alone
but elephants never forget
she wears the scrubbed coffee stains
of her shackles
and refuses to board the truck
to the next circus.

The elephant in the room
is so large that noone
can share her space
or get past the couch
placed near the front door
nothing grows in her shadow
not even tumbleweeds
the misanthropic nightshade
or love.

The elephant in the room
is every woman afraid
to be stuck with something
worse than celibacy
one less pillow or paycheck
to extract the fragments
from scar tissue sprayed over
3am grafitti on back doors
that read "too much"
or "not enough"
to those close enough
to decipher the swerving tire script.

Yasmeen Najmi

© 2010 Yasmeen Najmi

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A Wall in the Heart

A poem from Salah-al-Din (Saladin) to Simon Wiesenthal re: building the Simon Wiesenthal Center for Dignity and Tolerance on top of the Mamilla Cemetary – a 1000-year-old Moslem burial ground in Jerusalem.

They say in death
we are equal
but our dead cannot rest
peeled awake in layers to witness
the long-awaited arrival
of dignity and tolerance
the latest chapter in the Holy War
You said, Shimon,
that a People are not evil
only individuals
shifting sands
revoked sacred geography
for neglect of our brothers.

We are no strangers to death, Shimon
the red rivers of Jerusalem and Krakow
horses and boots slipped and snared
in kudzu of limbs
as they forded them
drunk with power
swords and bullets whirling round Vienna waltzes
and Crusade became crucifixion
Aliyah, apartheid
Charity, recruitment
for God’s armies
Jihad, a brutality waged on others
but to the internal struggle
we must return
salvation is not possession
but liberation.

We are not so different, Shimon
I remember the words
of my great father, Ayuub
to battle only when
all bridges are impassable
soldiers will sacrifice
for cause that transcends them
a whispered promise
in Mecca prostrations.
Are Jerusalem’s gates beyond repair?
Is it the fate of the place
that gave birth to our prophets
to wave the flag of intolerance,
flaunt scars and stripes and D9 damn the different
Did we not learn that suffering
is the enemy of nobility
power and devotion
the twins born of Myth
and every breath conceives a choice?
Salah-al-din’s army
recaptured Jerusalem
Abraham’s children returned
Muslim and Jew rejoiced
the victors rewrite history
but when we finally reach the promised land
we must ask, was our cause just?
Did we live by our books
or by eyeless faith and lust?

Jeremiah foretold that the law
would not be inscribed in stone
but deep in our hearts
where this wall remains
and there are one way arteries to reason
not compassion
we can always find scripture
to justify reaction
but I pray we don’t forget
the good, the merciful
who live by their word
give us comfort and wisdom
with bread in darkness
when the Temple wall exhales
the western sky
returns wails of the dispossessed
their hungry, hollow eyes stretching barbed wire
of No Man’s land.

A lonely call to prayer
announces a new dawn
they say the Moors dwelt
in the drowning sun
washing flame and sin
from our Saharan star
placing it anew
each morning in the eastern sky
so nothing's irreversible, Shimon
we’ve proved
that the dead, like our humanity
can be forgotten
but so can our transgressions
and failures to love the stranger
and the vulnerable as our own
to see divinity in each of us
one thousand golden domes.

You fought for justice not vengeance
contemplated forgiveness
and envied dead Nazis
decorated with names and sunflowers
their brilliant, yellow optimism
made you forget for a moment
that God had abandoned you
at Mauthausen
silently praying
someone would care enough
to plant a sunflower for birds
to carry you pieces and seeds to Zion
so I ask you, Shimon,
who will plant sunflowers
on the tired, shattered graves of Mamilla
who will forgive you?

Yasmeen Najmi

© 2010 Yasmeen Najmi

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Distant Kingdom (Ghazal)

All, this is my first attempt at a ghazal. It follows a story my dad told me of when his family had to leave Nagpur and move to Hyderabad, India after the partition of India and Pakistan. Hyderabad was still under the rule of a Muslim prince, so they thought they would be safer there. Nevertheless, there was the threat of violence, so they had to leave quietly and travel at night.

We left at night, an industrial moon bathing the Distant Kingdom,
Revealed dim paths to men, leading us to the Distant Kingdom.

The moon unveiled furrowed brown faces, darting eyes and whispers,
To Allah’s weary, wide-eyed children, dreaming of a Distant Kingdom.

Small hands clutched saris, weaving in and out of brilliant folds,
Decolonized, weak smiles seeking refuge in the Distant Kingdom.

The bus traced scents of Mughal gardens, evening jasmine and gul,
Through long grass and listless rivers, searching for the Distant Kingdom.

Peacocks wailed the women’s songs of bride departure gloom,
Eight-hundred years of marriage breaking with a Distant Kingdom.

We woke to shouts and spinning wheels - a bus void of men,
Emancipated from its muddy prison singing odes to Distant Kingdom.

Oh Yasmeen, did you glimpse the light that danced on peaceful ripples?
The orange moon remained, blessing our journey to the Distant Kingdom.

Yasmeen Najmi

© 2010 Yasmeen Najmi

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Early Bird Special

The gym looks like the Senior Center
Sagging suits and shuffling sandals
sweating out winter
and other cranial centered maladies
And a younger dude, friendly in a way
That makes me sit near the sauna door
Tattoos and eyeliner ringed like a boxer
Fighting for both sides

I think it was a draw

The shades of gray hair
Define the range of pool side discourse
High volume and vapid
Sliding slowly along wet floors into drains
An older man tells us
He goes to the gym
to avoid his wife
And his car refuses
to make that right turn
home to Taylor Ranch
magically carrying him like
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
To the Santa Ana Casino
In the half hour I was there
He repeats this confession three times
As if he wants to tell enough of us
to make the Rosary
Anything to escape mind numbing
Lack of purpose wrought by retirement
The air drips resignation.

“I know what you mean, bro”
Said a man in the Jacuzzi
Still young enough to be seen with his wife
“I go with my lady to the seafood buffet
For nineteen dollars you get
all-you-can-eat crab legs
And they’re biiiig (his hands confirm the abundance)
It’s worth the money for that.”
And the older man admits that
he sometimes prefers a good hot dog to steak
And I watch clichés spiral in currents
Recirculating questions about why one would
quit a good postal service
or any job with benefits and pension
and whether they would go to Vegas.

The locker room women have bakery bodies
Breasts hang warm and unembarrassed
like stretched pizza dough
I survey my flushed figure in the mirror
breathe into saturated lungs
Relieved that most of my ribs are visible
Smile and realize
That, perhaps the trite conversations
really aren’t the problem
In our garage entrance-cul-de-sac culture
Hell, I’m just glad people talk.

Yasmeen Najmi

© 2010 Yasmeen Najmi

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


In winter salt grass
the tamarisk and willow
are again equal

A wall can't deny
smells and sounds of genocide
their screams roam at night

Flash of black white tail
lifting hopes to winter branch
was just a Robin

Lady Liberty
repatriating freedom
how long will we drift?

Comida pura
porque es necessito
a defenderla?

Rio tap water
has estrogen and prozac
life is looking up

White dog with dreadlocks
Barelas 4th Street struttin'
in a pink sweater

Yasmeen Najmi

© 2010 Yasmeen Najmi

Saturday, February 13, 2010


You returned in the Fall
of my 40th year
Armed with an early frost
And a box of 500-year-old plums
The forbidden fruits of our common ancestry
Blurred the boundaries of our worlds

If I fed you my jam with horno bread
Would you recognize the explosion of purple
cryogenically preserved in the layers
of a Buffalo winter?
The firm, green pucker of impending womanhood
Would it taste like me?

Tormented by your freeze-thaw
I broke the silence
I don’t remember your few, soft words that night
Only how they erupted in beautiful volcanic violence
Hurled fiberoptically through flaming canyons
Slamming into sandstone, stealing my breath
from the river where I hibernate beneath mud and snow
Frozen stalagmites dripping lethargically
into swirling debris

Your voice dove deep into my bed
Liberated geothermal streams
That nibbled the cold from below
Gently exposed fractals and fractures through icy lenses
Warm currents shaped my face
Brushed away leaves and lost years
Dendritic fingers carved cliffs and valleys

The genesis of Spring and tears form vegas
The thick grass of your chest
Birthing sparrows and love again
But your tongue could never speak of love
It just pushed it deep inside of me
A seed that suffocates in the darkness of womb
But never dies

I want you to reconstitute me
With caldera endurance and ancient fire
Lava burning rifts into thighs
Following the Silk Road to white sheets
And in our movement
Time leaves nothing but ash and Pele’s tears
And your eyes
The blue Spanish sky.

Yasmeen Najmi

© 2010 Yasmeen Najmi

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Back 40 and other Underground Tales

From 25,000 feet our country
looks like a desperate act of geometry
As if the Gods of Aztlan, in a last attempt at prophecy
threw thunderbolts
from the roof of the Sony Maquila
And collapsed the border wall
into a giant flat screen
So we could all look the same to them

The topography is killing us

Or perhaps it was aliens
playing laser games with landscape
In an intergalactic contest to see
how many bank-approved shapes
Could be jammed into an irregular continent

There are 40 squares in a section of land

Roads and natural features
Our children's response
to coloring inside the lines
A rebellion of vermacelli and fistfuls of sand
hurled across checkerboard yards
Our Euro-obsession with rectangularity
stamps remnant hills and forests
Random waves conclude with stoplight precision
But in the twilight of red farm dust and cricket nods
When noone can see them
The rows sigh and shake off the long, linear day
As dog’s ear casts a fly

Fingers of water appear
then disappear under boundary fences
forced underground in silent streams
You, water, giver of life and soil
You are not wanted here
You create and destroy
Like the lover
That submerges us, as we gasp for more
and other times
Pulses, embedding the echos of waves
Before evulsing to other valleys
We tried to redefine you
Paint you with familiar colors
Herd you into shimmering corrals
and brand you with sexy French names
And childhood memories of instant chocolate
Taking what we want and need
But never with enough distance
to avoid the collateral damage
So we erected levees, dams
diverted and shared you with others,
Flushed you with estro-prozac cocktails and filed for custody
To make you stay

You were always just passing through

We never learned from those
Whose lives we stole
their knowledge thrown into arroyos
with grizzle and bones after the feast
We never intended to reshape our existence
beyond the bought and paid
Knowing this
You went away sadly
Sinking into sands of doubt
Evaporating into desert skies.

Yasmeen Najmi

© 2010 Yasmeen Najmi

Monday, December 28, 2009

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Until last night

I used to complain
calling our separation unfair
I used to be in rage with
this unjust universe
but when I saw you
as only a part of me
with that vision I went
soundly to sleep.

Jalaloddin Rumi

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Sunday, December 13, 2009


I haven't lost hope
even if you've left me
or if you chose
someone else
I long for you
as long as I live
since there is lots of
hope in every despair.

(For Copenhagen)
To keep you ignorant of
how conscious the earth is
just like a rabbit
closed eyed yet awake
earth keeps foaming
like a pot
a thousand times
to hide its boiling core.