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Illustration by Eman Wasef for Muftah

In memory of Mahasin Agha

“It isn’t GRIEF.”

came out too loudly

made a few of them uncomfortable

crossing arms and feet under chairs.

How do I tell them

that so many words in their language

rattle like cages without birds.

That ‘understanding’ for you is a perception,

and for us it springs from ‘knowledge’.


Do I tell them about Mahasin?

Who rushed to witness my birth

in a sparkling green tobe

that drew too much attention at the airport.

That she was scolded for it

on the way to the hospital

by my uncle, the baby brother she raised,

who when she died

only sent money for arrangements.


Do I tell them how memories come

in purple, red, green and gold.

The colors she wore when she lit

incense and laughter throughout the house

and danced when men were not around.


Do I confess we failed at consoling mother

who gave away nail polish after the funeral,

cut the long thick hair she used to sit on

that never grew back.


Do you call it grief

when the nest you fall from

disappears into the sky

and your lungs collapse with the sillage of a memory

that will never be done?

that isn’t grief for us,

we call that hüzün.

*Hüzün is a melancholy resulting from inadequacy or failure and weighing so heavily that it becomes communal ,resigned, and even curiously poetic.