While Reading Arabic Poetry

(Inspired by the poetry of Taha Muhamad Ali)

while reading Arabic poetry tonight,
sitting on a sofa on the second floor
of a library in Orange County, California,
I suddenly realized why I couldn’t be with you.

you will never feel the way I felt tonight.
you, with your blue eyes and white skin.
you, with your beautiful face and long back.
you, with your sweet gestures and loud voice.

you, sir
will never understand what it means
to love in Arabic.
and I can’t explain how,
or why it hurts me to say that this is why
I can’t be with you.

even if you learn the language
like you said one drunken night,
as I laid in bed listening to your voice
on my phone, wondering how I allowed myself
to fall for you.

you will never get it.
you will never feel nostalgic for words the way I do.
you will never be able to appreciate the sounds.

your language, sir, I’ve mastered.
I spoke it when I was three,
and I learned it side by side with Arabic.
while you were watching nineties shows,
I was doing just that.
and so I know yours.
I know about the euphemisms,
irony and sarcasm.
I know about hyperbole,
and personification.
but what do you know about mine?

I wonder how I can let you love me
if I can’t love you back
with the same words.
our hands connected,
but your mind is not where I want it to be.
mine will never settle down,
although my heart has.

I am stuck.
I read poetry in Arabic, but I can’t think of you.
I can’t imagine you understanding.
and because of that,
I decided I can’t be with you.