People visit the "Valley of Peace" cemetery during Eid al-Fitr as they mark the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, in Najaf, Iraq. Image Credit: Reuters

Dubai: As someone with a mixed race Iraqi/Irish heritage, I wanted to write something that would express the pain and damage of war and being far away from one’s homeland.

I wanted to convey the return home, which so many wish to make, but which can never be realised because it is no longer the place they left. It has been ravaged by time and war, and the familiar faces and places are reduced to ruins in the dusty landscape. This poem expresses the longing for times past and people lost.

My aim was to communicate a sense of inner turmoil, a tenderness and a rage towards a once-familiar place, which is the same and yet utterly different. That which was loved has now so changed and decayed that it inevitably evokes a feeling of frustration and deep disappointment. It feels as though the memories that have formed a part of your identity have betrayed you, and you are left with a feeling of displacement and alienation.

I am aware of the inadequacy of language to convey these feelings, yet words are all we have to express them.


To Return

I am coloured by people,

The faces I have sketched with my thumbs,

And the violence of the salt sweat

Which bubbles in your pores

And tramples posters,

As loud as circus clowns

Which can coax the earwax from your skull.

A return which cannot begin,

It beckons.

The shrieks of gulls

Caress the cobble stones and

Ring against the gateways.

A sentence is left unsaid like

Leaves suspended in uncertain wind.

Taste it.

These are my stars,

The spite which dries bitter

And curdles on the tongue,

The lines, the letters

Which bloody the metered day.

Time is measured in fingertips

And quietly,


I resent you.

On milky dawns

And sharp elbows

I have become you and now

I’ll find your moss scaled labyrinth

And follow you down.

On bleached bones

And upturned pavestones

Words are pale,

But language screams.