Her Name is Fatena Al Ghorra; A Homage


It all began from that morning in breakfast room that was a ‘common room’ for writers during my stay at the Iowa House Hotel. I stayed there for about three months as a fellow of the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa. Every year, the International Writing Program hosts almost thirty-four writers from all around the world. Last year it hosted more than forty writers because the program completed its 50th year and was celebrating its long-term association with writers. I was privileged enough to be a part of the 50th anniversary of IWP and hence rewarded by meeting and sharing words with more than forty-three writers.

Coming back to the breakfast room. This was the first morning of my stay in Iowa. After trying to make a room for myself in an alien land I looked around and spotted two women sitting in a not-so-cornered table. I anticipated them to be the fellow participants. I was right. It was her sitting with the Egyptian physician-cum-writer Ghada Al-Absy. They invited me over to join them for the breakfast-discussion which became our morning ritual for those three months. After brief introductory session, we started talking about the literature from Arabic and South-Asian world. This was the first day and I felt a strong bond with her when we started talking about Mahmoud Darwesh and ended our conversation on Forough Farrokkhzad. I felt an urge to hear about her life. So, one night in the first week I asked her out for a walk. It was almost dark and I had a strange feeling that she would refuse. The reason for that feeling could be my experience in Pakistan. In Pakistan it was usually a forbidden thing for women to go out once it was dark. But, to my amazement, she agreed. Hence, we were out exploring Iowa-streets on our own without any guidance, talking fearlessly, laughing and sharing bittersweet phases of our lives with each other. That was the night I discovered that she was the second name of resistance. She had been fighting in her own capacity with the Israel’s occupation of her homeland; Palestine but not through poetry.

Fatena Al Ghorra, born as a Palestinian refugee, participated in the International Writing Program as a Belgian writer. This sentence should be reflective enough to indicate the complexity she has lived through. She lived in Gaza, Palestine, for the major portion of her life and migrated to Egypt, France and finally to Belgium nine years ago when it became almost impossible for her to survive through the politics and the patriarchal setup of the land. In 2016, she was given the status of a Belgian national and hence was sent to the IWP’17 as a Belgian writer of Arab diaspora. Al Ghorra has worked with Aljazeera as a journalist for many years and now she runs her own poetry salon in Belgium. As a close friend and fellow participant, it was quite an experience to witness her fight the idea of identity and the idea of home. In her readings, interviews and panel discussion she would always begin by recalling her affiliation with Palestine but then she would also mention Belgium, at times wilfully and at times half-heartedly. In a panel discussion, titled as “Is my home in my memories, or in my reality?”, which she shared with the writers from Basque, Germany, Kazakhstan and New Zealand, she said “I feel at home even while staying in Belgium when someone speaks to me in Arabic.” Another interesting thing for myself, being a conscious English-speaking-Pakistani, was her pride in her self-taught, grammatically incorrect English. Readers might feel this was something negative but no, it was inspirational. She bluntly owned the fragmented English expression and she would proudly announce that: “I taught myself this English. I did not went to big universities like you.”

One thing which remains an enigma till today is her idea of not utilizing politics or any issue related to Gaza or Palestine in her poetry. I spoke with her in detail about it and she ended the conversation by saying: “I need to do poetry. I need to celebrate beauty and love. Politicians will do their job.” Her poetry celebrates love, life, womanhood and femininity. I was lucky enough to record three of her poems for my YouTube channel. Her work has been translated in more than ten languages. The work celebrates fierce human-energy and womanhood. Her recent poetry collection titled as Orgasm is selectively translated by Ms. Claire Jacobson in English. The work which indicates intense feminine sensibility is created by a woman whose name is Fatena Al Ghorra.

One of her poems titled as “Orgasm” is here for readers’ delight;



Translated by Claire Jacobson


When Death comes for me

I want to prepare for him like a lover for her beloved

Light the house with candles

Down the curtains between the peering eyes and me

Wash my body gently,


Sweeten it with perfume

Rub it with oil, lightly, subtly

Slip on a nightgown of black lace

And kindle the background music

Anticipating the kiss of life


Like a whore I will readies for him

lighting her apartment in red

Rubs her body with oil

Erasing the memory of men who haven’t been back

Scenting it with a blend of cheap perfumes

Waiting in the doorway

With all her skills and experiences

For the moment he enters

To unzip his trousers and start her work


I will receive Death as should a wife

cleans the house Friday night of the children’s mess

Then takes a shower

Dabs some kohl and pink lipstick

Wears comfortable pajamas

And lies down in the middle of the bed

Readied to do her duty


I will receive Death fully as should a nun

With incense filling the air

The floating scent of calm

That leaves no room for anything else

I will stretch out/ on the altar

Obedient and powerless

And allow delight to drug my limbs with unrelenting slowness

Poised, with no trace of doubt

I will lie down like I never have for a man

Give him what he deserves


As a mistress readies for her lover

Waits at the window for his knock

While she chills the wine

prepares the cigarettes and the music

The favorite songs and video clips

That it will make them laugh

until their eyes fill with tears

The light-footed dance      to the beat of delight

Then the fingers start the work,

 slowly,  slowly



Summer is on the brink of another blue transformation. The hair on the head fall as autumn trees lose their crimson leaves, with regret and pain. The real wonder is, if trees have memory, do they forget about their lost parts which they may have provided with all their saps and energies to nurture. Well, who knows! They may cry in the disquiet of dark nights and hence deceive scientists with what they understand and explain as the production of carbon dioxide. Who knows!

Anyway, I am losing my mind along with the hair. You must pardon my digressions and senseless deviations. I am in the middle of couple of experiments about life and existence but I must confess that it is too early to talk about it. Do you remember the young Laila you loved and you used to sip her poise with your eyes for hours? You might have forgotten but I still remember her… the shattered glimpses of her poise. Unrefined, raw and boldly crude in every act. I still fancy about the days when we used to sip water like an ethereal drink from each other’s lips. As if that was the only thing we were created for. I still can shut my eyes and touch your face with the fingers of my blurred imagination. Your honeyed, Champagne coloured eyes, long Turkish nose, upper lip covered with thick moustache which hiddes two white pearls in it, and the lower lip made of delicate floral folds. I still can touch your face with the cold fingers of my imagination. There are moments when it hazes away. When I try to sleep during the day, despite all my imaginative effort, I can’t see you with my eyes shut. Frustrated of this repetitive exercise I believe you are a companion of nights but I also know in the folds of my heart that it’s not true. We spent our lives in bright sunny days more than we could spend our nights together. I memorized your features, your perfect body with all its curves, curves of a sea wave, during the afternoons of pure pleasure. How could I believe in such a thought now that you are there only to lull my thoughts during nights and comfort me towards sleep? How could I reduce you to a mere thought now, after those many years? May be it is my imagination that is a perfect companion of my lonely nights. May be it is the insanity I have internalized in an endeavour to escape the undesired light around me. May be I desire only darkness around me, around us. An eternal darkness with long limbs and pale eyes that can burn down the dead desire of companionship in my thirsty brain.

Bari Ammi…

Darkness was so intense that night. It is same tonight in a different setting. Exactly after two years. Pretty much on the edge of falling night, I am counting moments. I was hurt then on the inaccuracy of my assumptions, I am hurt today on my optimism. You would never be able to know but I had counted every single second of that night. I was sure that I would see you in the morning with your color and tasteless breakfast, using your hands intelligently, giving instructions either to Ammi or to someone else. I could never take the responsibility to feed you. The thought that you had to rely on someone else for your food was too real for me to accept. You know me, I was a perennial illusionist, a coward. I was sure I would see you breathing and smiling, that was why I returned back home that night but, I swear, I had not slept for a moment. The fear stayed there laughing at my restless state. It mocked me for every single cigarette I had burnt. It ridiculed me for my unexpected tears.  The morning was not far away. Morning! It knew how to fulfill expectations of others and it did. How cruel…

The guilt passes through my bones like the cold wind of that November. I  think it wasn’t your death which made me the way I have become, it was my displacement which  affected me the most. You see, how selfish I am. Ultimately, it isn’t about your not being here. It is about my not feeling at home, wherever I go, whatever I do. I feel at the edge of that dark night. Falling down and down…

They stayed with you and prayed for you after you left. I stayed aloof and could never pray. I can’t forget the questions you asked. I can never ignore those inquiring eyes and the paralyzed tongue. Grief is a private matter, I have been told so many times that I feel the guilt when I recall those moments. One thing, I am sure about is your god is cruel and it certainly never loved you. You wasted your midnight, days and evenings worshiping an empty, sick and heartless fellow who didn’t even care to make your last breaths easy for you. The narcissist psychopath.

Two years have passed and I still am standing on the crossroads. I am not waiting for you. I never did. I am just angry with myself for that one night when I left you trusting that your god would play human. I shouldn’t have and I did. Your god will never play human and I will never be able to forgive myself.

Here we are! 

Here we are!

Nibbling on roses and hurting our throats with thorns, walking in narrow streets and breathing through suffocating spaces. After disposing all those little relics and after ‘whoring (with) our passions’ to the point of being non-existent.

Here we are!

Again, in each other’s arms. Avoiding, resisting and ultimately flowing out of each other’s bodies, licking the slide of saltish seconds slipping out of our hands, examining the transformations and eventually surrendering to what remains inevitable, the love.

Here we are!

In the moments where holding onto each other felt so difficult yet almost eternal. But, wait! This is what I feel and think. Maybe, you regret it. Maybe, you relish the sweetness of those moments too. I don’t know. I would never be able to know.  Time snatched my taste buds. Or maybe they are there, just that I have forgotten to taste. The taste of the past.

I am changed!

In a way that I have lost the touch with that peculiar vocabulary of love, sombreness and, maybe, submissiveness too.


I sit here!

Thousands of miles away from our home and think about us. It may not send shivers down your spine, it isn’t the touch. It may alarm you and make you feel the discomfort which you probably would dismiss after removing the grains of sand entrapped in your shoes.

Dead Cornea: Lifeless Pupil by Ramsha

In an utter desire to disappear from the fringe of my own sight, I write this to you…

I know I have not been a good child unlike your other children. Now, when I feel that I am left all alone by those who claimed to stay there, to provide me with their shoulders to put my head on, and now when there are only those left around who have never withhold themselves from adding onto the toxicity of this already lethal stigma which we call life, I only desire to be with you. The distance has always played a cruel actor in the drama of my life. It already has snatched many precious people away from me, and now it is forcing me to bear the similar kind of loneliness for the thoughts that connect your affection with my ragged being.

I confess, in the darkest of times, that I need another life of the kind to learn how would I breathe through this one. The life which is according to our world or, maybe the life, which is appropriate in the other world; the real world waiting for us out there.

It is so bitter that I have begun to ignore the darkness. The metaphor which has played the role of almost an eternity for my mortality. I cannot even see, rather sense, darkness anymore. It is just my breathing which has kept me bothering about gazillion useless yet valuable issues. I have shared this plenty of times before, not with you, not with anyone else but, with him that I don’t want to breathe anymore. And, I know somewhere in the brains of my heart that it will keep moving forward for it has a few more nightmares to offer during the dazzling daylight and a few more scars to proffer within an ugly facade of salvation.

Finding Nothing

It was unusual for us. Of us. Not to make others feel at home when catastrophes are devastating the world around. I came back home and the first thing, before falling on the bed, I did was to leave a message for you. A message which demanded affection and if not that then, maybe, sympathies. I received the answer that very moment. I fell asleep without holding any desire to type back, something that had never happened before. Neither emotional nor purely sentimental, but something that was not so typical of me.

Now, when I am wide awake wide and trying to analyze what had happened during the day, I can feel the broken pieces floating within my fluid body justifying my belief in the illusion of the absence of any concrete existence. An incomplete amorphous existence which will never become a part of the complete, concrete, whole.

They say: ‘You’re trying to move on!’, but I know that I am just pretending to give moving on a try. In fact, I am going down and down in the deep abyss of darkness which definitely has no way back towards light, if there is, or was, any light available at all.  I try to pretend, but I find nothing.

When you hold me tonight,

Please, don’t close your eyes.

I have always cried

While writing about you

This time, as well,

The paper has embraced

Two tears & has hidden them


Where, even, I can’t find them

It won’t close its eyes

It won’t break its promise

Of not reveling the secrets,

It is not you.

(11:22 PM), 28th March 2016

A Letter From Forugh Farrokhzad To Her Father

Dearest Papa,

It has been a long time since I have written to you. That is, I have written but not sent them. At this moment, there are two envelopes on my desk on which I have written your address, but I have always thought that I should change my letters and that is why they are still on my desk. I don’t know what can I write to you. I am well. As always, the more ascetic [dervish] one becomes, the easier life is. Now I have accustomed myself not to expect too much of life. I always tell myself, the way it is, it’s good enough. There are many people who are not as fortunate as I am and in this way I do less thinking and more living. Amir is also well. We see each other a lot, and as always, our conversations are about Tehran, the kids, mother, and papa. And this is the only subject that we can talk about for countless days and never tire of it. When we are together, we realize how much we love maman and baba and these kids. How much we always want to have them in our lives and feel their love. I planned to return to Iran at the beginning of the summer, but Amir doesn’t agree and thinks I should stay here with him and return with him. I haven’t thought it out yet, I miss Kami. But on the other hand, I feel that I am not strong yet emotionally. I am not strong and normal yet. If I return there, that hellish life will being again and I am afraid I won’t be able to bear some of the things involved.

You had asked about my work and studies. You know what my goal is in life. It might be a little stupid, but it is only in this that I feel satisfaction and happiness. I want to be a great poet and I love poetry. I have never had any other purpose but this. That is, since I’ve known myself I’ve felt that I love poetry. Whatever I do, I do it to expand my intellectual horizons. I never study for getting a diploma or a degree, but rather, my intention is that by expanding the range of my knowledge, I can pursue what I love, which is writing poetry, and to succeed. In the seven months that I lived in Italy, I learned Italian well. I translated two books of poetry from Italian, and now, with Amir’s help, I am occupied with translating a book from German. I have also translated one and sent it to Tehran to be published, which, of course, will generate some income. In the last ten month living in Europe I have also written a book of poetry that I intend to publish. Poetry is my God. Meaning that I love poetry to this extent. My days and nights are spent in this thought that should write a new, a beautiful poem—not yet written by anyone. The day that I am alone and have not thought about poetry is considered among my wasted days. Perhaps outwardly poetry can not make me happy, but I have a different meaning for happiness. For me happiness is not good food, clothes or a good life. I am happy when my soul is content and poetry satisfies my soul, whereas if I have all these good things that people kill themselves for and am deprived of writing poetry, I will kill myself. You forget about me, let me be unlucky and always wandering in the eyes of others, but by God, and by the life of my child, I love you dearly. When I think about you, my eyes fill with tears. Sometimes I wonder why God has created me in this way and has put this devil of poetry inside me so that I cannot make you happy and content. But it is not my fault I cannot tolerate an ordinary life like those of millions of people. I don’t want to marry. I want to succeed in life and to be an outstanding woman in the society. I don’t think you disagree with this.

Write to me , because I love your letters. I want to buy and send something good for you, but I don’t know what you like? I have saved some money and want for the first time to buy a gift for my own daddy. But you have to tell me what you like.