Epilogue: The Woman From the Poem

I wrote last month about the woman from the poem. This is where I ended off:

We reconnected recently. She explained. I apologized. And I told her about the poem. And when I found it here on my Medium, I sent it to her.

I’m back on that stage, with one person in the audience. She’s still reading my performance.

And I’m waiting for her to walk out silently or talk to me after the show.

… and this is what happened. She responded. She loved the poem. We bonded over words and IMs. We shared music. We had pillow-talk, where I imagined her voice reading out her messages first thing in the morning. It escalated. Then, it ended. Because of her partner. Like last time, she disappeared.

I cried and grieved for days. And then it was over. Behind me.

Sharing a Poem with the Person You Wrote It For

Credit: PhotoAtelier (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)

I wrote my poem Don’t Slay Me four years ago, in one sitting, with no editing or drafts.

Message me tonight
Tell me that you can’t do it
because I want to tell you
That there’s a riot going on in my heart

voices hoarse because of you
my heart sore because there’s no you
bringing peace to the disorder

I dream about moving hair away from your eyes
I want to look into them
and see where my place is in them

You told me to surrender
and I have
I have acquiesced to you, the impostor
You may come now into this old hardened castle
with rotten moats and dying doors

Don’t slay me unless you’re going to kiss me
Don’t end me unless you will fall into my arms to celebrate
Don’t smother me unless you will pour sex into my pores
Don’t bury me unless you carve your bed into my chest

I was in love with the woman for whom I wrote this poem, in a way that disarmed me and left me vulnerable, as if naked on stage and I had no plans to be on that stage.

There are a few strong strains of emotion in this poem that haven’t come up in my other work. The direct and open longing for someone, is not something I had expressed in a while. I thought that that type of quiet pleading was something I left behind with the adolescent poems from high school. But, this wasn’t adolescent. This was adult and this was direct, “don’t slay me/don’t end me/don’t bury me”.

Then, there is the direct mention of sex. I have a strained relationship with sex and sexuality. I talk about it in hushed tones and sing about it with bravado. That shows the tension, I suppose. But here, I say to her very openly, that sex is between us. Or, that’s what I want. Wanted. If anything, this poem is a step towards being sexual with someone else, to express a sexual desire.

Finally, there’s the call to action that perhaps is the product of the first two characteristics. Love me. Touch me. Be with me. Don’t slay me. Kiss me. Don’t kill me. That is intimacy and that is confidence, two things I haven’t allowed myself to have in relationships.

I met this woman, and our conversations developed into a thick cloud of desire and longing. We went on one date. And then it ended. She withdrew.

We reconnected recently. She explained. I apologized. And I told her about the poem. And when I found it here on my Medium, I sent it to her.

I’m back on that stage, with one person in the audience. She’s still reading my performance.

And I’m waiting for her to walk out silently or talk to me after the show.

Fret Not, My Heart

Thank you to all my readers who have been on here, while I have been inactive. It means a lot to me!

My heart is heavy with grief today. I revealed my feelings for a friend yesterday and she doesn’t feel the same way. I waited a long time – a year – to do this. Waiting didn’t make it easier, neither did revealing the feelings. There is some relief that it’s out in the open, but there is some gnawing sadness, holding onto its leg.

I’m glad I did this, that I conquered the fear and that I am honest with this friend.

But, my heart is heavy with grief. And it’s now going through all the memories and mind-pictures that it thought were signs of mutual attraction… and it’s realizing that they were just the signs of a strong, kind woman who is able to express her affection for a man.

Fret not, my heart. You will recover from this, stronger and healthier.

Fret not, my heart. I won’t be unfaithful to you and try to escape by rushing the process of grieving, or seeking another person to medicate the pain. We’ll get through this together as partners and we’ll be just fine.

This woman was different. I can tell by how much you’re hurting, my heart. But I can also tell how much you’ve grown in how you were yesterday. You stayed honest and present. You listened. You responded. You were honest. You are an honest heart now.

Fret not, my heart. This too shall pass.

Truly Beautiful Writing

Swedish author

I’m studying my sophmore year of high-school Swedish. My assignment due tomorrow is about Karin Boye‘s short story Min son blir inte snickare (“My son won’t become a carpenter”). These excerpts* are just truly beautiful: 

Samma stygn som en gång förr, bara mycket starkare och med en lite bitter giftverkan av hoppslöshet, gick genom hjärtat på honom.

The same suture from before, only sharper and dipped in a little poison of hopelessness, went through his heart.

Hans vaknande ungdom kom med ett nytt allvarsdigert medvetande om att det fanns något som hette framtid.

His burgeoning youth dawned on him with a new and overwhelming realization, that there was something called the future.

Han blev tung i bröstet av det där tjocka som kallas längtan.

His chest was filled with that smog called longing.

  • All translations my own.

Making Bella

taken 2005

I made a film yesterday and put it online. It’s called Bella, after my late maternal grandmother’s nickname.

Backstory

I have been sitting on this concept for the past ten years. I was denied a chance to say goodbye and see her before she slept in Christ. So, I have been wanting to make sense of all the memories, the final things left untold, and living life without her around.

Returning to Egypt to visit my family, has not been the same since she left. There’s this hole now in Cairo, shaped after her. I spent a few days there in 2012 in my grandparents’ apartment. It didn’t bring me closer to her, as I had imagined. I left feeling the loss more intensely. That’s grieving, I suppose.

The idea

A month ago, I stood out in my balcony here in Stockholm. I hadn’t really been out there since I moved in. And as the bustle from the road, the balcony, and the sky converged in a moment: I remembered Bella.

And then I wondered if I could make that film about her, but here in my balcony.

Concept

standing in the balcony, reminiscing over Bella and remembering her, me narrating, with some of my own scoring and using a part of this song by the Saudi Arabian artist Hussain al-Jasmy. This song is about loss and when I first heard it, it become forever married to the memory of my grandmother.

Production

I shot the footage this morning with my Canon EOS on a monopod. Autofocus, standard lens, that’s it. I didn’t want to be distracted by the technical execution. That will come later, I know.

It was an artistic challenge to see how I could both record enough shots so that it is enough for the narration and so that it’s not much of the same. I tried to use different angles, mimicked some panning, and played with shadows on the walls.

Initial Editing

I went through the footage and made clips. I threw down them quickly onto the sequence in Premiere Pro, as quickly as possible. Some thoughts and pictures came back to me from when I was shooting, so I followed their lead. I played through the rough cut a few times to see how it feels.

I brought up a text editor and started writing the narration as it played through the sequence. In a way, I approached this like a broadcast news story rather than a film – record first and then evince the story from the footage.

After I laid down the initial rough cut, I looked at the shots and see how they worked with the script. I tweaked the script in Evernote, as I decided on the final sequence of shots. To avoid too much time re-recording audio later, I remembered a trick that a friend taught me a long time ago: use text clips in your editing software to play with the rough cut and editing process. This really helped me think through the shots before I touched the mic.

Scoring and Narration

I recorded the audio with the M-Audio M-Track soundcard and SM-56 vocal microphone. Adobe Audition Pro CC is my choice for post-processing and production. I really developed my skills in sound editing after this project.

Final Editing

This was definitely the most involved editing project I’ve undertaken, in that I had 4 audio tracks and several video tracks. After laying down all the audio, I took out the placeholder text and tweaked the edit further.

I wanted to avoid tropes with the opening sequence, so I got the idea to break up the introductory song clip with a piece of narration. Thank you, shower! It worked.

Favorite Moments

  • The intro
  • The shot where the narration says, “When I was growing up…” It was just a simple way to portray growing up.
  • The photo I picked of Bella
  • The flashback audio impression of Bella’s voice. I did it in one take and it’s still haunting me.

Lessons Learned

  1. Storyboarding and planning. Using the placeholder texts in the sequence and going through multiple edits made the whole process straightforward and intuitive.
  2. Good audio makes a difference. I really see the value of good-quality, well-edited, solid audio. It increases the production value exponentially.
  3. Keep the shots simple and cheap. They tend to express what you really want to say, without getting lost in the execution.

What’s Next

I’m brainstorming and ruminating over a film about my late friend Nancy. Stay tuned.

 

Planted in Blue

Water filling my sight
Sitting planted in blue
of air and wet.

The water in my eyes
and the water in my being
and the water before me
finally embraced.

 

Wordless Intimacy

Credits: DodgertonSkilllhause

A couple sat in front of me on the underground today. They both took out their phones on settling in. He put his hand though on her thigh and it just stayed there.

Every now and then, they would come up for air from their phones, to leave little feather kisses on each other’s mouthes. It was truly beautiful and sublime to watch.

Every time they did it, it seemed like they would slow down as their lips touched. It wasn’t rushed, like kiss me so I can get back to Facebook, but rather I’ll meet you here in this moment.

Two people on their way to work, average-looking like I am, present and together, even as they’re doing different things, not having to talk or chit-chat to be together, their intimacy woven together with selfless physical contact and light kisses.

I really saw intimacy in action today.

Looking Back on the Doodle Challenge

30 days of real joy

This past Wednesday was my first submission for the 30-Day Doodle Challenge. I think I actually grew as a person during this challenge!

My fellow Kivran Danning asked me a month ago if I wanted to do the challenge with her. I had hangups about making art or drawing, but I went against them and just said yes. Just like with the Colories project, I’m moved by people’s reception of the posts, the amount of new people I’ve met on Instagram, and the amount of new artists I’ve discovered on the platform.

The Process

The goal was to doodle every day for a month. I started out by drawing on paper with pencil, but I felt frustrated by my lack of technique. I ended up just judging what I was doing.  So, I switched over to digital drawing and I felt liberated by the medium.

I really enjoyed making this series. Even when I couldn’t draw what I felt or saw in my mind’s eye, every piece felt like an achievement for me.

There was no prior deliberation or preparation for the style or themes. Apart from the 2 submissions that were pencil drawings, I used Adobe Illustrator Draw and Autodesk SketchBook.

First Post

Last Post

Favorite Pieces

A friend and former co-worker told me recently, “Don’t scrutinize what you do.” Really priceless advice.

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The brushes in Sketchbook are just spectacular. The final product really expressed how I was that day – serene and hopeful.

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This one felt like I doodled on a wall.

This one from day 12 speaks to me because of the thickness and density of the brush strokes.

I kept on thinking of pointillism, as I did this and other similar pieces. I liked the idea of the extreme control in producing dots or points.

Lessons Learned

  1. Pick and run with the simplest tool. I probably would have given up, had I continued with pencil drawings. There is value in just picking the simplest tool and making whatever you can with it.
  2. Artists are just people who make art. I never dared making art before because I thought I needed someone’s acknowledgement or a degree from an art school.
  3. Constraints deepen the process. Just dabbing at the screen was fun, but I learned more and produced more interesting ideas when I enforced some constraint on myself – working with complementary colors, only points, only lines, and so on. It spurred me to be both conscious of technique and push myself further.

What’s Next?

A friend told me that I should look into art school. I’m going to do that! Shout-out to her for the encouragement and vote of confidence.

I’m writing down words and ideas for a longer series about our inner emotional and thought lives.

Finally, I’m sketching or drawing every day on my tablet, without posting it online.