Red Lips & Battlefields

On Love & Woe

Dependence and expectation are the cornerstones of all pain. The great Buddha once said that one who has 50 loves has 50 woes, and one who has no loves has no woes. By this, he didn’t mean that we should not love, but that love, in essence, raises the very simple human person to an inextinguishable existence. That belief, which mostly stems from the Western tradition, uplifts us all to the level of “individuals.” It allows us to live under the false pretense that each of us, like a snowflake, is unique and that we all have some kind of everlasting purpose although our presence on this earth is so short-lived.

I agree with most of what the Buddha had to say, but this statement was one that I could never wrap my mind around. Being brought up in the Christian tradition embedded me with faith that we are all inherently important and that, in some way, somewhere, we will continue to exist long after we’re gone. The Christian tradition allows me to love, to elevate the human person onto the pedestal of eternal life.

I still do not dispute my own faith; however, I do recognize that the Buddha was on to something. The one statement he made with which I so adamantly disagreed suddenly makes perfect sense to me: those who have 50 loves have 50 woes, because the human journey is, in fact, a solitary one. We surround ourselves with distractions, conversations and plans with others, but to what end? Life is what happens when we are all so busy making plans. We depend on others, only to be disappointed time and time again. We expect a knock on the door that never comes, we expect to build a future with others that only truly exists on a hypothetical plane, and we avoid the pressing question: to what end?

When people have asked me what my purpose was in the past, I often responded with the same simple answer: to love. That is the Christian message. Jesus was killed for it, but at least his suffering wasn’t in vain. Well, wasn’t it? He suffered in order to alleviate human pain and yet, just take a look around you today. What do you see? Humans still killing humans. Humans still acting selfishly and senselessly. Humans still accumulating wealth that they cannot take with them to their graves, just because. Humans dying and, in dying, leaving it all behind: every last bit.

So, the question stands: what’s the point? I can love with all my heart, yet I cannot depend on love returned. I can love others until I am poor, tired, and bed-ridden myself, yet I cannot take an ounce of the love I have given with me. When I die, perhaps a select few will remember that I fulfilled my Christian duty to love, but they too will soon meet their end and all will be forgotten. It has been forgotten billions of times before. Why should we believe that we are any different, or any more important than our ancestors? How arrogant of us.

Dependence and expectation are the cornerstones of all pain. When one does not depend, one is free. When one does not expect, one does not base happiness upon the expectation.

Now, if I decide that I have established that the Buddha was right, where does that leave me? Do I not love? That seems out of the question. Loving others is the fabric of my most basic nature. I am meant to be a lover, a mother, and a teacher. I am meant to give others the satisfaction of being appreciated. I cannot avoid love, simply. So, what’s the alternative? Should I love and expect nothing in return, trust everyone but not depend on anyone?

Perhaps Jesus could do that, as Jesus was a Buddha. But I am neither Jesus nor Buddha.

I am only a woman who sometimes thinks too much for her own good.

MD 22/01/2015

Letter to Damascus


The irony of human suffering is that it embeds a zest for life in its victims that cannot be bought, borrowed, nor sold by those who are graciously blessed. As I listen to stories of Damascus, a city I never knew nor had the fortune to love, I marvel at the ability of even its most neglected citizens to raise it up again by conjuring memories of sunny horizons, promising youth, Arabic music, and a love of freedom. The dark and brooding street corners are brought back to life by the scent of fresh bread and hummus, as children dream lost treasures found again.

Today, O sorrowful Damascus, your open wounds are written into news clippings of obituaries mourning your lost and missing children. Vibrantly coloured glass lanterns are shattered, and the merciless bombs triumph over the cheerful derbekkeh. Yet, within a heartbroken conversation between two exhausted refugees sharing a stale loaf of bread, you are brought back to life in all your glory. Neither a sip of mint tea sipped nor a puff of argileh smoked is orphaned of its love for you.

As for us, who never knew you nor reaped the suffering of love for you: we too will remember. For every breath of fresh air that you crave, we will breathe Damascus; and every prayer stolen from the lips of your ancient Churches and Mosques will be pronounced until you are returned.

If only our naïve promises meant much.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Psalm 1:4

MD 7/01/2015


The fireplace flickers with the last oak ember, and all would seem peaceful to the silent onlooker who cannot hear the roar of a wounded Jerusalem in my soul. The light is dim and the only sound is the weak hum of the refrigerator, but the bright skyline of a busy Dubai midnight resolutely conjures itself against my drooping eyelids. I cannot hope for sleep, with so many airplanes zooming through the avenues of my memories of the Arabian Peninsula.

Soft pillows are never soft enough and so softer ones are bought until pillows pile up across the surface of the entire bed. As I sink into them, I cannot help but remember how much softer it was to rest against the dunes of the Sahara in the evening desert breeze.

The Montreal snow plays a rap-tap-tap against the windowpanes and I am suddenly brought back to Abu-Dhabi rains that flooded the city and forced me to swim through a pond to get to my second grade classroom. I giggle; what fun!

There would be greater floods after that, cyclones that sweep through the nation that most vibrantly colored my youth and leave it a skeleton of what it once was: my precious Muscat. She would soon rise again.

And as I rise with the first glimpse of the morning sun and yawn through the frustration of yet another sleepless evening, I take a mental stroll through an autumnal summer snow and smile at passing ducks, squirrels, and camels. I tend to rest under palm trees, but sometimes choose a pine. My favorite is the weeping willow, but I hardly ever find one amongst the miles of olive groves. For every tree uprooted in Ramallah, I have planted one within myself, and so conditioned spring to visit me as often as Doha’s visionaries raise cities from dust.

Scorching desert temperatures are woven into the fabric of my mind alongside freezing North American wonderlands and their sleepy winter suns. I turn the coffee brewer on and patiently wait for my dose of fair trade caffeine. The only sound is the light rapping of the elixir of life against a porcelain cup, and the thundering thoughts of a third culture woman.

MD 6/01/2015

An Indulgence of Thought

Most Christmas Eve soliloquys dance through memories of lost loves along the rhythm of falling snow, likely with the writer cushioned on a comfortable couch beside a roaring fireplace. Mine is hardly that. I am happily enjoying a nice Christmas in a warm country that offers no promises of rain, and spending my day by the poolside is hardly unfortunate. Lost loves definitely still surface here, but the memory is hardly pressing, especially as I am currently very happily in love.

It is an odd phenomenon that holidays are expected to bring back hard feelings. In reality, it is all just a matter of choice. Perhaps we enjoy dwelling on past memories and find the practice more comfortable than enjoying the moment. This holiday season, although I am conditioned to reflect upon my past, I am reluctant to dwell on its misfortunes as I see the people around me struggling so much to make ends meet, to support their families, and to survive. Very few have the privilege of peacefully typing away at a MacBook after spending the evening with a wonderful family. I do recognize, however, with guilt, that I tend to reflect on past memories too often and too much although I am aware of my blessings. I wonder if this warrants an apology.

As I spent the day tanning by the poolside, I noticed how quickly I was flooded by “what ifs,” “buts,” and “maybes”. I now carry the Western tradition of waltzing with Scrooge, even as I take my moment to be grateful; there is incredible joy and debilitating sorrow in Christmas. What for? I’ve tried so hard, for so long, to avoid absorbing the negative culture of complaint, excessive desire and abundant consumerism; but the effort has been to no great avail. I realize now that there is no real way of avoiding the waltz, as I will dig into the past whether I want to or not. Maybe it’s worth the indulgence.

I used to think that I owed my visits to the past to my desire for reminiscence; however, I have come to the realization that, on a slightly significant level, I may enjoy reliving the pain. Perhaps we all do. In our crystallized, politically friendly, organized, sanitized, and neat lives, that may simply be a result of our need to feel something powerful on this day. Perhaps it makes us feel more human.

Achieving that sense of humanity, especially when you are not facing any serious adversities, is often dependent on a self-prescribed bombardment of thought. This is a necessary but dangerous activity. On some level, we all know that, but we indulge in it anyway with the conviction that a lack of deep reflection is even more dangerous. So, instead of spending some time in Christmas present, we call eagerly upon ghosts of Christmases past. It is such an odd, and very human, phenomenon. We search so fervently for all the knots to be neatly tied, so that we can organize our lives into a chain of events in a perfectly seamless choreography.

Letting go of that ideal is probably the most difficult step to take. When we have been taught, since childhood, that every story has a very specific and all-encompassing ending, how are we to accept that our lives cannot suddenly “make sense” one day?

Most of my readers probably can’t even accept that this particular post doesn’t have a specific point. We are obsessed with thesis statements and conclusions.

Today, I don’t have either. All I have is a series of disrupted and unorganized thoughts, and questions with no particular answers. I am happy and fulfilled, and I am also heartbroken. It doesn’t have to make sense.

What a revelation.

MD 25/12/2014


Politically Correct Palestinian

  “But, why don’t you speak Hebrew?”

I smile,
“I don’t know what to tell you.”

   *Confused silence*

I was born under exploding skies
And soil thick with children’s blood,
The sound of bullets lulled me to sleep
As old men sang ice-cream truck tunes
In the streets
To sell their bread
                 “KAEEEEEEEKK Come get some Kaek!” (Sesame buns)

I am from a place where
Students are greeted by snipers
On their way to school
             Where they share bread,
             And express their dreams,
             And make jokes about
             Whose father was abducted last week
             By Israeli soldiers

My people laugh,
With the hope that the sound of laughter
Will surmount their sorrow;

            Misplaced, horrifying laughter.

I am of the land of aching olive trees
Which lean over, exposing their broken flesh
When farmers leave their homes for an hour
            And never return.

Outside, the tourists roam,
Singing hymns and carrying crosses,
Paying cold cash to partake in the “pilgrimage experience”
                                                       Of the “Holy land”

                                                Created by an apartheid state.    

They don’t know what goes on
            Behind closed doors.

 Our houses are made of brick
And streets are lined with cobblestone
That date back to the time Jesus walked
The Via Dolorosa.
               If you are silent enough,
              You can still hear His wail as He falls to the ground
                       Three times, and then again.
                       Still, the street soaks up His blood,
                       The blood of Palestinian children.

What should I tell you?

My ethnic identity is denied
            By the “civilized”

 My history is painted in the light of


I am of a forgotten people,
Massacred like sheep
           Their stories cremated and sprinkled
            On the outskirts of
            The collective human memory


My friends
Have the audacity to tell me
            That my people
                        Do not exist

I am your imaginary, exotic,
            Dark eyed, long-lashed brunette,
            Past-less, soulless “friend”
            With fictional Bedouin beauty.

               You don’t even know me.

So, what do you want me to tell you?

Should I tell you I am from Jerusalem,
Then sit here and smile at you,
            As you ignorantly tell me a colourful story
            About some fabricated “birthright” experience
            Your friend had last summer?

Should I plaster a crisp, clear, North-American definition
On my forehead
For your convenience?

                        “ Alien”                       

Should I purse my lips together
            When you tell me that all is fair in love and war
            As long as I support “God’s people”?

            You have seen nothing of love, nor war,
            And certainly nothing of God,
                         If you think it is “fair”
                         For children to be killed
                         Then be deemed “non-existent”. 

I am of Oud music pounding against the human heart
            I am of Argeeleh scent floating up to the heavens
I am of children striving against bat and bullet for their education
            I am of fathers giving blood
                        Mothers giving blood
                        Children giving blood

                        Christ giving blood.

 I am of Palestine

And I speak the language of my ancestors.

Not Hebrew. 

“I guess I just never learned it,” I respond.

“That’s too bad”

“ Right.”


MD 22/07/2014






A Proposal

I can write you a love letter.

I can spell this romance like
A fountain pen spills red ink
From the slit of its pierced lip
And crafts a masterpiece of literature.

The words would glide swiftly
And swell in your heart
Like invisible helium that lifts
A sleepy balloon to heaven.

I can call upon history’s greatest muse,
And her army of birds, to chant eternal songs,
Until all of magic resides in the sacred space between
Your lips.

I can write you a love letter.

I can spin metaphors of raging storms
And triumphant battles
And roses growing out of concrete
And fairies dancing around the vineyards of my dreams,

Then watch readers raise their eyebrows,
Rub their chins, trying to understand
What I mean.
But, how could they?

I can write you a love letter.

I can invent an entire universe
Apart from this world,
And hide you in a treasure chest
Somewhere safe, between the words.

Between my words,
You will be immortal.
Between my words,
You will always be loved.

MD  15/05/2014


I believe
That before grandeur there must be ruin;
My soul must stray
Along broken pavements,
And must reach the top of the tallest
And fall, like a pebble, or a feather,
Or a boulder
From the breadth of the strongest foundations
Before it can
Finally be whole.

I believe
That salvation is unattainable
Until I have plunged into the depths of my heart;
Yearned and loved,
Lost and grieved,
Left no corner undisturbed
In the prism of my mind;
Broken through it all,
Rebuilt it all,
And made a mess of the rhyme.

My mess is
My treasure.

I believe
That promises upon stars
Lack value until they are
Once broken,
And that the soil of the earth
Is death, and that life grows from death,
And that life and death are only brief
Moments in the human state of mind.
And lust, fear, envy, and hatred are, too,
States of mind.

But, not love.
Love is a state of

I believe that children know better;
That their bright eyes pity adults for
Their blindness;
And of either adult,
Woman stands stronger,
Because in the battles of love and war,
Her heart is the anchor
Of life.

I believe
In chaos, and the lack
Of pattern,
And the raw beauty of art
For art’s sake,
Or for the artist’s sake,
Or for the sake of nothing.
Craft has no guidelines,
Passion is not built upon an outline;
And the creative spirit rises
Not from linear time,
Nor from consistent truth,
But from ashes.

I believe that faith is weak
When preached by men who
Uphold it only in word,
But not in doing;
And that it will only spark
The human heart once again
After it has been completely forgotten
And sought, and found again,

And perhaps
Once more.

MD 13/04/2014

The Floatin’ Love

Minutes, days, months, years passed. No messages, no contact, no touch… nothing. I try and fail, but I keep trying and trying. Maybe he moved on? Maybe he forgot me? Maybe he’s happy? But I’m not.

Close my eyes and remember every second spent with you; that touch, that smell, those lips, those eyes . Those arms where I found refuge. Keep looking everywhere but I can’t find you. Cross my fingers and pray, and wait, and pray, and wait. Today you are back, but you can’t be mine.

Why? Why does he show us dreams when, once back to reality, he shatters them? Why so much pain? They say time heals all pain. Why doesn’t this pain heal?

Every time I talk to you, hear bout you, see you, my body freezes, my mind stops working, my heart beats as fast as the speed of light. They tell me it’s wrong, I can’t love you, and I can’t be with you. Doesn’t God create every human with a soul? Why you takin’ my soul away from me and still expect me to be alive? One word and I’m alive, but they don’t let me get through to you. I keep on trying’, like a man takin’ his last breaths.

Until you are, I am;  and when you won’t be anymore, I’lll be gone with u. My heart’s restin’ in my body without beatin’. No sound, no feeling, nothing. Wish I could rip it apart off my body and throw it in the sea, but I see it floatin’ back to you.

– Anonymous
April 10, 2014

(For more information on the Kiss&Tell project, as well as access to other anonymous letters or to submit your own, click on the menu option at the top of this page titled “Kiss&Tell”.)

The Doll House

“Dance me to the end of love.” I had just been listening to my favorite Leonard Cohen song in the car, and was quite amused when your mother greeted me at the door, humming the same tune. As we sat down for dinner, I remember thinking that it was funny that she happened to be playing the same CD that I most often played on my iPhone. I thought that, perhaps, it was some kind of sign that we were supposed to be together.

In retrospect, it seems that I was always looking for these signs, trying to convince myself that I was in the right place. Deep down, I knew I wasn’t. That isn’t to say I didn’t care about you. I did. It’s just that I always sort of knew, silently, that we weren’t meant to be together.

We were much too different, you and I. We just didn’t see things in the same light. You were, for lack of a better word, very mathematical: every decision you ever made was based on a logical formula of sorts. I, on the other hand, was not quite so calculated. I had a vision of the future that I wanted with you, but it was built mostly upon frivolous daydreaming. I knew that it wouldn’t be too long before I snapped out of it.

I don’t know if I can say we were in love. I feel like it isn’t fair to say that we weren’t but, at the same time, I’m really not sure anymore. I feel like we tried to make things work because they looked good on paper. No outsider could have ever guessed that we were unhappy. We were both very good at playing nice. Eventually, it started to drain me. It even became a little bit painful. When I tried to envision the life that lay before us, all I could see were dead ends. I could only see a whole lot of compromising, and a load more of political correctness. Nevertheless, I somehow convinced myself [for a very long time] that I ought to be satisfied.

Leaving you behind was very difficult. I had developed a loyalty to you, which, honestly, could have probably withstood time. We could have probably built a white picket-fence life and filled it with children’s toys. I could have set a meal on our table every day, and you could have brought home the bread. We could have shared a retirement fund.

We would have both been so devastatingly miserable.

You are a wonderful person. One day, you will make someone out there very happy. Someone will choose you with adamant conviction, and you will help her build the most intricate parts of herself, just as she will seal yours. You will be the fabric of each other’s dreams. I could have never been that person. I would have always felt cheated, like I had received the short end of the stick because, with you and I, everything was based on compromise. In order to love each other, we both had to sacrifice the love of ourselves, and we both became bitter.

One day, you will find a love that completes you, and that does not ask you to change in order to earn it. Perhaps I will too. Only time will tell.

All I can really say to you, at this point, is good luck.

Good luck and goodbye.

– Anonymous
April 1, 2014

(For more information on the Kiss&Tell project, as well as access to other anonymous letters or to submit your own, click on the menu option at the top of this page titled “Kiss&Tell”.)

The Butterflies

Fumble, tumble, mumble.
My tummy’s in a jumble.
Track of mind derailed into
My heart, and then it rumbled.

Flutter, stutter, wonder,
Of happily ever afters.
The wall around my heart has failed
To keep our love asunder.

– Anonymous
March 24, 2014

(For more information on the Kiss&Tell project, as well as access to other anonymous letters or to submit your own, click on the menu option at the top of this page titled “Kiss&Tell”.)

Post Navigation