Two Poems by Marwa Helal

You Got the Keys Keys Keys
An Ode to DJ Khaled

you so naiive,
you sophisticated

you so spiritual
told larry king you pray 10 times a day, MORE THAN
10x a day
you pray in your head
all the time
now all the muslim boys
have a new line to impress the unkels with

must be why
you so fire
even water tried to claim you
remember when you got lost on a jetski in the dark?
that shit got what
like a billion some hits

snapchat should be payin you
instagram should be payin you
so you can put that money in a savings account
buy your mama a house
buy your whole family houses

you a hero
ridin in on a lion
watering your garden
talkin to flowers

we make memes of you:

like, when they want to ban palestinians
but then they would have to recognize palestine

i quote you in classrooms:
congratulations, you played yourself
and when the kids laugh
i tell them
you a genius / i appreciate you

you loyal
you on one
and anotha one

we the best

because of you i know i can put the hinges on the hands too

your voice smooth like olive oil from the holy land
beautiful, long lashed dark eyed heavy browed with
a beard made of our ancestors dreams
youre a version of the man i was raised to want
but could never stand to be with

still, i appreciate you
for what you undo

the bricks in amsterdam know your beats
heard you bumpin with drake in paris streets
weezy and you ridin through downtown cairo smog
and your outro fade like london fog

you so international
the kids in tel aviv throw back mai tais to “no new friends”
and nearby the palestinians dabke until they forget
they are palestinian
or rather, until they forget they are

yours is the rhythm they rebuild to
what do you say,
we give them all the keys?
major keys

back to their rightful homes.

)[[:”.’.,:]]( Remixed

after Philip Metres after abu ghraib arias and set to the disintegrating instrumental ballet of Kanye West’s “Runaway”

some / some
where / where
on the other
side of these

words are heart chambers where they are gasping clenching clutching for air just air as we stare all we do is stare and stars stare back with eyes inverted as nout exits day exits night exits day have you seen ancient temples where confusion transforms into clarity black sights doubts knowing feeling drawing shapes from punctuated forgetting diffusion is a healing through the slippery osmosis count sheets of music on music of music and wash their atomic,,
weight / weight
wait / wait,
i remember,,

the pythagorean theorem is good for shortcuts so find the next mark a reminder of how intelligent we are so intelligent it is frightening us not knowing how we know what we know that we know what theyre thinking and it paranoias us as verb is reaction on their faces these familiar faces in the punctuation of all things left unsaid there are bodies punctuated souls in the punctuation tell me what is seeing without light country without military without america a guantánamo building a new relationship with cuba to the tune of gil scott-heron rapping about a new route to china what is vitality if a life is forced between brackets an ending of lyric so quote your ability to forget and contract a concentration connecting you thought id say camp to remind you of our humanity so put a halo on because we are holograms the holograrabs of abu ghrairabs at this point you should be concentrating like juice in a box and grab a colon while youre at it a colon a colon separates thought there is always separation c r e a t i n g distance in d i s t a n c e there is leaving and in leaving there is seeing reflecting the function of punctuation connecting and separating indicating the signs youve been looking for in what has not yet been written so save it while you listen to the ones who need saving do you hear them they are a symphony arriving and you are singing in this chorus of complicit a choir not of church nor of ameen in collective prayer not of scratchy microphones at dawn or of the silence before we break fast it is their chorus when i can see music in a constellation and your name is an aria so please join in this recitative and dont let go


These poems originally appeared in The Lifted Brow #39. Get your copy here.

Marwa Helal is the author of I AM MADE TO LEAVE I AM MADE TO RETURN (ND/SA, 2017) and Invasive species (Nightboat Books, 2019).