Poetry | Three poems by Omar Sakr


after Nikki Giovanni

The strangers living in my house know death
has taken up residence under our doorstep.

They were anxious to keep this secret,
aware of how much I value my life &

how willing I am to kill to preserve it.
Death is small and unconcerned

with you, they said. Simply step
over him into life. Your day awaits. 

I can’t stop thinking about my mortal
enemy. How dare he live so close

and take comfort from my home,
what a villain. Every day now

I let the doorway hold me
and linger over the crack he slumbers in.

Death will only come out at night
they tell me, these concerned strangers,

he keeps to himself otherwise.
Such wondrous naiveté.

If left alone death will have children
and his children will be hungry.

Life demands it. Who could be
so generous as to deliver their body

into the mouth of the wolf? To say, let him
slaver on my skin. Don’t drive him away.

I am not a generous man. I will crush death
if I can. Sometimes I fear

I might be his child, true product
of his teaching. What if I look and see only myself?

Is that what the strangers saw when they spoke
quietly with death out on the moonlit stoop?

I envy those small moments when they give
themselves over to the dark, their soft laughs.

I want their goodness, I want
for this kindness to not be strange.

I tell all this to the moon who dies so often
and must know something of the affair

and the moon in pity tears a strip
off her black blanket and gifts to me

a blindfold, so I can re-enter my home
unafraid to call those I live with by their names.



After my mother, who gave me the wounded earth
leaves my house, a stolen peach

in hand, and with only cherries to speak for her
presence, I shudder all over, again

at how close she came to knowing me.
I bow beneath the mercy of our separation.

It turns out language is good
for nothing except accumulating damage,

a barrage of expensive fireworks & missiles.
Such ecstatic displays! Smell the cordite. Watch

the smoke become memory. Ya immi, won’t you
take back these unforgiving waters?

As you return to your own lonely home,
past the tree you plundered of its fruit

won’t you pause a moment to say, mother
to mother: I, too, have children

I tore into pieces.



I suppose I am a student of the world and all
its subtle variations. I suppose I want an ode
to the mundane, yet glory keeps veiling
my mother’s ashtray, a cracked slab
she either stole from a temple or was gifted
by a man bamboozled in a boutique store.
I suppose glory flickers. Glory ghosts.
Sometimes I lick around the coffee cup
lapping up the omens and summon
onto my tongue the sorrow that made
everything possible. I suppose
I sound religious. I suppose I am doomed
to finding angels on my shoulders anyway.
Nobody needs my hands raised as supposed
shield yet I keep raising them. I suppose
this existence, this country, this coast
where beached angels gleam enormous
blowholes sputtering a final fitful prayer.
I would have spared them once, but no longer,
bodied as I am with everyone I forgot to look after.
My mistake was in supposing to study the world,
instead of love it. I walked away from the landed
celestials, who even dying were so full they
burst to feed generations of bird, fish, crab.
This is the measure of holiness I suppose,
how much we can give at our last.



Overland’s Friday Features project is supported by the Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund. 

Omar Sakr

Omar Sakr is the author of two acclaimed poetry collections, These Wild Houses (Cordite, 2017) and The Lost Arabs (UQP, 2019) which won the 2020 Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Poetry. His debut novel, Son of Sin (2022) is out now.

More by Omar Sakr ›

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