Backstage  tala-jay-sol

Please click play to listen to the poem recited to the music
ll Rail Wa Hamad by Ilham al Madfai


Scrims and scenery of our lives,
love’s stage,
where all our dramas unfold…
At a certain age,
we build a prop room of memories,
but try as we may,
some plays when closed,
leave nothing left to store… anymore.

I pull the ropes backstage,
the transparent curtain opens,
revealing a small family
celebrating an unusual wedding.
The backdrop,
a room wrapped in tapestries,
decorated in love and haste.
The bride and groom, grateful enough
for this small public acceptance.
Dressed humbly, but glowing,
they glide down the Turkish carpets,
half way to the orchestra pit.

A colorful hand embroidered dress
for the woman of
foreign blood and tongue,
A new suit for the young man
who weds her against
all predictions and traditions,
The orchestra drones a repetitive beat
Brothers dancing with brothers
holding hands and singing songs
invented on the spot,
a clever custom of their village

Sisters clapping on the sidelines,
Hope, is the flowered centerpiece
and the chandelier lighting tonight.
The cardboard set looks almost real,
the audience, so caught up in illusion,
that they clap along,
shouting out well wishes,
The conductor, tips his wand and smiles.

The big white cake,
the tray of gold jewelry,
the professional photographers
reserved not for tonight,
but next season’s billing.
I pull on the ropes once more,
and remain thoughtful backstage,
The blood red velvet curtain closes,
while I hear anonymous stagehands
striking this set.

Karima Hoisan
April 27, 2023
Costa Ria

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Oasis Moon

Screen Shot 2023-04-25 at 12.50.04 PM

                                Water is Life @ Deviant Art (digital

Please play the live recording of this poem that I did at a reading in 2010 to the beautiful music of Karunesh.

Oasis Moon
for Umahmad

You are my other prayer, the one that has never been answered.
You are the fleeting memory that’s getting lost in a circle of reality,
Sacred words uttered with little faith, forehead submitting to the floor,
The repetitive question “why?” the never-to -be- revealed unsolved mystery.

Once upon our time you glided down the streets of the Middle East,
My eyes followed you everywhere, all my dreams included you.
Do you understand why now I must protest this shifting script,
That asks of you to be locked up in slippers and bathrobe,
Thorazined in a room with no view?

Yes, perhaps for effect, I might have let you get lost for awhile,
If I could have been the Creator and writer of your singular play.
It would have been fitting, as we had all placed a little too much hope in you,
Would have served as a text book lesson of humility,
When you took off to run away.

But like the prodigal son, I would have written all of us to be your father,
Standing on a hill watching you glide across the sands returning.
Knowing that after the opulent welcome home banquet we had prepared for you,
I would lay down by your side, and you would forever end,
this painful lifetime of yearning.

Devils inside, or fate’s bad chemistry, whatever it is some day proven to be,
There is no one steering at the helm, and your ship and me are going down.
Moon from our last Oasis rises, but now we’re both too far away to see,
And you can’t weep for what has been lost, but I can, and do openly,
For what has not been found.

You are my other prayer, the one that has never been answered.
You are the fleeting memory that’s getting lost in a circle of reality,
Sacred words uttered with little faith, forehead submitting to the floor,
The repetitive question “why?” The never-to -be- revealed  unsolved mystery.

Karima Hoisan
Nov. 20th, 2010
Finca La Generosa Linc Island  SL

* Reblogging this poem and recording that was first posted in 2011.

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Gliding Beauty – The Epilogue

                                      Illustration by Gino 2007

Preface: This is The Epilogue of a story, a book I began writing in 2007 in Jordan. I decided to not continue out of respect for the characters (both living and dead) It is a true story, my story and I will share it with you in a total of 5 chapters during this month of Ramadan.  This chapter, the final is a long one but it spans the period of time between 2004 and 2023.
I hope you will take the time to read each installment, before you read this last one.
Many of you know now about Umahmad from my poetry.

This is how it all began and how it ended and how it continues today…

The Epilogue

I am in uncharted waters in this epilogue that I am writing today in Ramadan 2023.
I am trying to capture the feelings, the chronological order of things, the twists and turns, the progressively more complicated and sadder developments and it is not an easy task for me, so I think I will start right where I left off at the ending of the last chapter, Chapter Four.

“She was really gone!”
I did not see Umahmad again until three years later.
I went back to Costa Rica a few times during this time and fell into a deep period of both mourning and writing poetry. I also joined Second Life. I think poetry and the virtual world saved me from falling into something even harder to get out of. Nothing was the same, even my marriage, which had been crumbling, was now visibly falling apart.
My husband was courting a second wife who unfortunately, from the first day, tried to make sure that one day I would go back to Costa Rica and never return.  She never liked me although in the beginning, she pretended to.
I wrote a poem then about the lack of Umahmad in my marriage, as odd as that sounds:

You never stopped to notice
her presence in the weave.
Her thread held fast
our rotting fabric
and bound it in one piece.
When someone pulled upon the end
it was lost and gone.
We crumbled into senseless strings.
Not even you can
what has come undone
what next the future brings

You don’t know
what I know
that I am leaving soon,
there is no
I-will- return- in- June.”

*            *            *            *            *              *

I was overcome with theories and the not knowing why she left was driving me mad.
After talking with my family, I finally felt she did what she did, running away, because she had lost the hope that she could make a better life with me and my husband. Her first concern always was her children and now I’m sure, she felt helpless to provide them legal status and stability in Karak. My family, too, were genuinely shocked and hurt by how she left. My mother-in-law said she cried for a week when that happened..and she talked so lovingly about her and my father-in-law got tears in his eyes when he talked about her. He worried about her too.
His theory on why she left, I felt then, could have had some truth to it, was that perhaps for the good of her daughters, she started a new life and cut off all ties with the old, hoping they might have a chance to get ahead or marry well, For this reason she did not trust anyone from the past coming forward someday and saying..Oh..but in Karak, Umahmad worked as a domestic employee! I said to my father-in-law,
”How could she ever think I would do that to her???”
He said “Because she thinks like an Arab woman..not a Western woman. She judges you by how she might act. She can’t trust you because she knows under the same circumstances, she might not be totally trustworthy.
I told my father-in-law, my love for her would have choked me before I would have said one word to destroy her future. Everyone says here “Allah maha” May she go with God..May it all be for her best..May she go in peace…and (I hoped) leave me in peace too, because I had yet to feel anything like peace.
This theory as it turned out was not totally correct.

*            *            *             *            *

“Not until 2007 would I ever see her face, hold her hand and yet, the person who I found after all this time of searching, writing poetry to, taking out ads in the  newspapers for any information about her etc, was not the same person who left me standing in the window in 2004.
The children, two twin girls about 14 years old and an older brother and a younger one, were the first to explain it to me,
“Mama not well Mama mareeda, mareeda fil ras.”
That their mother was sick and sick in the head.
I had been calling all her disconnected cell phone numbers for years, without
answer. While I imagined she might have slipped back into Iraq to look for family, she had actually stayed this whole time, hidden in Amman, in the capital of Jordan, stashed away in a very poor neighborhood.

My husband and I were in a restaurant in Amman waiting for the adthan to call in Ramadan of 2007. Everyone was sitting at their tables, the food served and yet no one was eating.
I always found this an amazing sight, steaming hot food served and all sitting in suspended animation at every table. As soon as the first note of the adthan rang out,
the noise level rose, silverware clinked and all began to drink their water, eat some dates and dig in with such relish that only an 18-hour fast can provoke.
A few minutes before, I had just unconsciously dialed one of Umahmad’s disconnected numbers when I heard a male voice on the other end.
Someone actually answered!!
I said, “Ahmad?”
He said, “It is”…then a pause…Donna?”
“Ana Donna”(I’m Donna) I said and looked over to see my husband gesturing to hang up as the adthan was about to call.
“Mama! Mama!” he went running to Umahmad “Mama it’s Donna! It’s Donna”
My husband took the phone and shut it off just as the adthan rang out.
I had no appetite, no desire to be sitting in a restaurant in Amman, I just wanted to go to her, find her and tell it’s OK. All is OK now. Three years of not knowing where she was, dead or alive in Jordan or Iraq, was now forgiven. It was all forgiven.

I was shaking and could barley eat, when my husband finally called them back after dessert (!) and they gave him directions to their home.
I found myself climbing a steep hill while four children came running down to meet me, hugging me, crying, it was such an emotional reunion, so beautiful and honestly we were all so happy to be together again in that moment…but no sign of Umahamd.
That’s when the girls explained that their mother was “Sick in the head” She heard voices, became very angry, talked to people not in the room and scared the children so much with her behavior. They thought she had a Djinn and kept apologizing for her in case she was less than happy to see me.

She was subdued and quiet when she saw me walk in and did not stand up,
but she half-smiled,
“What are You doing here?” she laughed.
It was an odd laugh, like she was talking to someone else and laughing about me…
not with me.
We went outside, the kids and Umahmad and all her devils and voices she carried in her head and we walked in the cool evening. I held her hand in mine and she walked with me, every once in awhile snickering and looking at me, like she had a private, running joke going on with some invisible other, also walking with us
and I was the the brunt of the joke. It was a very disconcerting feeling,
like two against one and I was the odd person out.
It was all I could do to not well-up in tears.
I had found her and yet I had not.
I found a new version of her, one assaulted by anonymous voices, invisible to everyone but her, voices that made fun of all who loved her. It was like dealing with the devil, her strange expressions and pointing fingers and laughing in this totally mocking, making – fun- of way.

Of course her family felt she had a Djinn, but I felt she was suffering from schizophrenia and the sooner we could get her to a doctor, the more possible it would be to get her help, get her balanced and hopefully give her a chance to live some kind of life.
I knew a little about this tragic disease, but after I returned to Karak, I locked myself in my room to find out as much as possible, reading all the pages I could find on the internet. Honestly there were times, when I felt I was in an out-take of the Exorcist. Umahamd who was always so religious and pious, especially about her prayers would burst into the room when the girls and I were praying and swear and rail against God and Islam and Arabs and  EVERYTHING… using the most violent offensive language.
It was a hard stretch to think she was not possessed with some malign spirit or fiery entity. I had never heard her swear, not even once before then. At times. it was even easier for me to believe she had a Djinn inside who had taken control and locked her out of her own mind.
At this point the children were supporting her. The girls cleaned houses and depended upon charity from people at the mosque who knew about their situation (Their mother had a Djinn) The oldest boy went to work for a mechanic and the youngest… they were able to keep studying in public school.
The kids were heroes.
If it’s true that years before, she was their hero, always looking out for them, putting their needs first over her own, now they all stepped up to take care of her, without much help or experience. What they could do successfully, was keep her at home, not wandering the streets, which she had tried to do many times. They kept her fed and clothed and clean and paid the rent. Imagine what an almost impossible task it was for them, just in their early teens and their protector, their “Mama Lion” who was always there for them, had grown sick in the head!

While Umahmad and her family were going through these very hard times, I was going through my own back in Karak.  The second-wife-to- be had all but declared war on me. She whispered complaints to my husband and when he came back to our room at his parents, he would take it out on me. As this story is really about Umahmad and not solely about me, I will  just include this poem that has never been seen nor will be seen in any post,  except here in this story, written in 2007. It explains this part of my life pretty well.

My Long Teeth

You are out of my heart, while still in my sight
My wedding ring sits on the floor,
Two is one too many for your small love
There’s not much to give anymore.

A donkey brays as the wind howls up,
My life force strains, to blow out the door,
I will not compete if we’re not playing fair
You can’t ask this of me in love’s war.

She promised me loyalty, respect and my place
This second wife you chose from four
I believed in her sweetness and kindness towards me
But her strategy’s turned so hardcore.

Oh, will I pack it all up, whatever I can
Leave this battle-ground bleeding and sore?
Or will I blacken my nose and coif my mane
Bare my long teeth and then let out a roar?

I will not go into details about the end of my marriage, but it was violent, and what I finally decided to do, was decided for me, after a horrible episode with my husband one night, my in-laws put me on a plane two days later and said,
“We love you, but you are not safe here.”
I had come to that conclusion myself.

I found out years later, that when I was working on a Plan B (if Umahmad could not be the second wife) Umahmad was also working on her own Plan B. She had solicited refugee status for herself and her children through a UN program that had started taking applicants. In the years 1992-2004 there were more than 500,000 Iraqi refugees living in Jordan, and some countries like Canada and the US had agreed to take allotments of refugees to ease the burden that Jordan and Syria especially, were under, because they bordered with Iraq. They had received more than  they could possibly handle and maintain.
When she applied she had no signs of schizophrenia, but when she finally heard back from them in 2010, she barely remembered or knew what the counselor was talking about, when he announced to her and her family, gathered around his desk, that they had been accepted and would be relocated to somewhere in the next few months, after being on the waiting list for years and years.

Two years after leaving Jordan, I returned.
I returned because I missed my family and Umahmad and her children.
My husband had supposedly promised to leave me alone.
I went there to celebrate Ramadan with them my whole family and as a last show of love, I sold all my gold jewelry collection which was extensive and bought everyone, especially all the kids, gifts (in our family and Umahmad’s) for the up-coming Eid celebrations (Three Days of feasting after fasting)
I knew I was not coming back.
I went many times to visit Umahmad in this year, 2009 and twice I went with my mother-in-law. Since 2007 I was helping them out to pay rent and with the food and one of the girls started going to beauty school to be a hairdresser.
Umahmad had been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic with repeated psychotic episodes, where she would not even know where she was. She was prescribed some anti-psychotics which made her gain weight and other side-effects, but did not immediately seem to be working.
She was someone else to me, almost a stranger..but love is love and although I did not hold hope she would ever be totally herself again, I did pray she could eventually live some kind of life and yes, locked inside that turbulent mind, were so many memories we had one time shared together.
About a week before I was returning to Costa Rica for good, her daughter called me.
“Donna come to Amman, Mama is good today. She is so good.”
I begged my brother-in-law to drive me and he did and I spent an entire day and most of the night, with the Umahmad I remembered, my loving friend who had finally returned to me!
This day was really the day I finally found her, two years after I found her.
Like living in the eye of a miracle, we went to an Iraqi restaurant and had fish
in the delicious style they make it on a BBQ. We laughed and the children were so happy to see us together again, but mostly to see her so normal, so calm so present.
This miracle day of normalcy lasted all of 24 hours but allowed us to say goodbye with her understanding I was leaving. The next day when I called them, they said she was sick again and did not want to come to the phone.

A week later I returned to Costa Rica not in the dramatic way I had left in 2007 but taking everything I could with me, including my collection of Art, having totally decided that I was not coming back.
Our good day in Amman all together, was  our goodbye and I had resigned myself, that I might never see her or her children again.
As so many other times in this story….I was very mistaken.

*            *             *            *            *               *                *

When the children sent an email to me saying they were about to move to Texas, I didn’t know what to think. I had no idea Umahmad had solicited this refugee status years before. I didn’t believe them and called them from Costa Rica to understand what they were talking about. Ahmad, the oldest, answered me and explained it. He filled in my blanks and instead of doubting their story, I was totally excited for them. They talked about the worry they had of traveling with their mother on the plane. It was a 24 hour trip in all and she would not be the easiest of travelers.
Finally the doctor did prescribe her something to help her sleep and she slept across the Atlantic all the way to the Dallas-Ft.Worth airport.

One month after they arrived in Arlington Texas in a government housing project for refugees, a social worker called me in Costa Rica and asked if I could please come and help them, get oriented, help them with English and just be there for moral support.
I was the only one they knew in the Western world and with the language barrier, a schizophrenic mother, they were finding the whole process overwhelming.
In two weeks I was there with them in a small apartment in the height of summer 2010,
I had not seen Umahmad for almost a year and in this time she had gained about 50 pounds on anti-psychotics. She was big and bulky and when she was angry, she moved through the apartment like a heavy truck on road rage, knocking things over and talking to herself. I almost didn’t recognize her; she had physically changed so much. She was unrecognizable, but she did remember me and excitedly welcomed me into her “new apartment Saddam Hussein had given her in Baghdad.” If it wasn’t so heartbreaking, I would have laughed at the thought that everything that had been done for her to bring her to the US was in her mind a kindly gesture from Saddam Hussein whose picture hung in the living room and was the arch enemy of her real benefactors.

I stayed with them about 3 1/2 months. I survived 10 days without electricity in over 100 degree weather. The electric company had shut it off because of the sins of a former tenant there who had tampered with the meter. The innocents pay for the broken plates, and the family had their electricity cut off which also ran the water pump for their shower and in the most sweltering heat I had ever felt, not even in Costa Rica . These apartments were built for AC so there were no windows that could be opened, except for a small crack below. There was no breeze, no fans, no water and to the credit of the social worker who was on their case, she did everything possible. She petitioned the electric company, bought bottled water for us, battery hand-fans you could hold to your face and take- out food because cooking was electric. No cooking, no bathing and Umahmad getting more and more impatient until she finally threw a chair into the window with all her strength, shattering it so, according to her, she could get some air. The Cops were there in 5 minutes.

It was not all negative, these three months living together. As I wear a hijab too, I was gawked at a lot as they all were, when we went to buy groceries or medicines or took Umahamd to her appointments. Generally people in Texas seemed quite tolerant but there was always one or two that tried to make us feel unwelcome that we were living there. “Go back to where you came from” I always found that amusing because I would need to be sent back to Milwaukee Wisconsin:)
We slipped into a routine of studying plus learning how to fill out forms (so many forms) and I had ordered for Arab children learning English some excellent books and workbooks teaching English to native Arab speakers, that were bright, appealing and relevant. They contained words for any situation and phrases as they all seriously wanted to learn to speak English as fast as possible, Their success and even their stay depended on how well they assimilated into USA life. They knew this and felt a pressure to learn everything right now.

Within a year the oldest would get a driver’s license and the youngest was learning by attending High School in a special class geared for the newly arriving refugees. Everyone started to do very well, but Umahmad. I thought of how difficult for these four kids, starting from scratch, not knowing the language, the culture, anything, to be thrown into this situation, this immense learning curve without a responsible parent helping and guiding them. It was just the opposite and I thought so many times, how fitting-in for anyone, would be a challenge under normal circumstances, but Umahmad was like a weight tied to their lives, not allowing them to even study, for example, when she had one of her meltdowns, that brought the police to the apartment, for disturbing the peace. She did disturb the peace and yet, I saw how all of us, all her children and myself included tried to have patience with her.
Sometimes it was impossible. I saw her once in a rage grab a hot large glass casserole dish, fresh from the oven and throw it at one of the twin’s back. She never apologized, she just went off to complain about how horrible everyone was treating her to her voices who were always on her side. I actually feared her sometimes, especially at night where she roamed the apartment unable to sleep, talking to “herselves.” I had the kids hide the kitchen knives and sharp objects because of that.

I thought of her destiny. Here she was in the USA safe from the Iraq war or Jordanian immigration, with legal status and yet she never really knew that her dream from long ago, when she first filled out those refugee papers, had actually come true,
She was like a tragic Moses who could see the Promised Land but not enter it, dying before that could happen, in her case losing her mind before she realized she had done it. She had made it! She had gotten her children out of a very hard life to a land where it seemed a much better life was possible.

I want to share a very poignant scene now, that inspired a free verse poem written in 2010. I was to leave to return to Costa Rica. I had neglected many things in my own home and I had to get back. The children were all enthusiastic about English, making friends in the projects adjusting to their new routine but Umahmad could not be left alone, so someone always had to stay behind with her. She had been given a new treatment by her doctor. It was a month supply, from some samples but it was working!!  We all noticed her less angry, more tranquil, even laughing with us not at us or as mocking and sinister as before.
We decided to take her out to a lake that had ducks outside of Arlington. This is what happened.

for Umahmad

The ducks caught your attention
As you strode to the lake shore, bubbling angry energy.
It was like they caught each strife and slowly turned them into grace.
The breeze hit our faces, all the ducks looked only to you
and you sat down, while I slipped bread into your hand.
“Feed them. They are always hungry. They will be yours for a sunset.”

Breaking off little portions, you threw them methodically, trying to be fair,
while I laid on your knee and counted Texas cotton balls stitched to blue sky.
There was that incredible moment of lucidity, when you were just normal,
shining seconds everyone hopes for in your life, but hardly ever sees.
I knew I was in the miracle when you turned to look at me,
“I’m so sorry if I have caused you pain. There is something going on inside
of me but I feel soon, I will be myself again”

The clouds held my gaze, while I held my breath
You held my head propped and melded to your leg like an after -thought,
like Siamese twins joined by the knee and head,
something so rare, a picture would be in order, if we had brought a camera.
I said thank you to that Messenger that spoke out of your lips…
and let my tears flow into the lake, some blessed ducks called home.

Karima Hoisan
July 17, 2010
Lake Arlington Texas

She was better.
The new medicine the doctor gave her was doing some good.
I accompanied her, with one of the twins, to the last appointment I would be there for.
 When I reminded the doctor she was running out of these pills and needed a new prescription, she announced in a dry manner that these meds were very expensive, almost $800 a month and that Medicaid would not cover them. We pleaded, we called in the social worker to help us, but to no avail. The only medicine that had ever worked, that actually made a difference in her life and the life of her family, was out of her reach or mine. One month of relevant calm was all she got, because she was too poor and even the government was too poor to keep her on it.

I left feeling awful for her, for them all and did not see them again for two years.

I stayed in contact weekly with either the girls or her sons. I knew they had taken Umahmad  in for a routine Pap smear and I asked them to let me know how it went. When I talked to Umahmad, the times she wanted to speak to me, she was nice, although disoriented, telling me to “Come tomorrow for Ramadan. I made mamúl) a delicious date cookie) In the last two years, the doctors could not seem to find the magical balance to keep her calm and if not cured at least manageable for her kids who were still taking care of her with no extra help.  She had midnight trips to the psych ward, the police called in periodically for disturbances. She was even sent to Oklahoma for two weeks for shock treatments.
 Nothing had really changed her quality of life for the better. 
Then one day I got this call from one of the girls.

“The doctor says mama has bad tests; she has cancer.”
What? Cancer? What kind of cancer? Where?
“He say in ovaries.”
“Oh my God!” “Did he talk about a stage? Did he say the word ‘stage'”?
“Yes, he said stage”
“What stage did he say?”
“He said stage 4. Is that a good stage?”
(My heart fell to the floor)
“It’s fine, don’t worry, but I will be there as soon as I can to help you.

Two weeks later I was back in Texas. It was June of 2012.

*            *            *              *            *             *             *            *            *

IMG_0747 2 2
                                  Illustration by Gino 2007

The Umahmad I found in the back bedroom, lying down looked exactly like
the one I lost in Karak Jordan in 2004. Without even thinking, I dropped my bags and went to lay down with her, hold her spoon-style. She allowed it, welcomed it and knew who I was.
Her vibration was very different, she seemed more quiet, pensive, sad.
“I am sick,” she announced and pointed to an IV catheter in her neck.
“This will cure me, but I want it out.”
Probably because of the cancer, she had dropped the 50 pounds she had gained on her
medication. Looking at her, I could hardly believe she was sick, she truly seemed like she was in 2004 before she had run away. She looked beautiful, the screen goddess of the 1940’s had returned
I think I wanted to hold that delusion as long as possible, but she broke it by saying,
whispering to me,
“They are trying to kill me.”
“Who is?”
“They are, My kids, the doctors, maybe you too”
Not much had changed with her paranoia and psychosis in the last two years,
and now 4th stage ovarian cancer!
She just looked fine, but she wasn’t.

I was with her for her next appointment with her oncologist, an absolutely wonderful
doctor, with such a loving bedside manner and I translated for her, about the proposed treatment she recommended. She wanted to give Umahmad a round of chemo therapy to shrink a tumor in her abdomen, that was causing her much pain. She was honest with the kids, that this was not a cure and that she was too advanced for surgery or anything else. She was terminal and so all treatment would be to give her a better quality of the life that she still had left to live.
When she refused chemotherapy, while she was about to be strapped down in the chair, and caused a scene that took all of us to control her, her doctor, promised when the time to hospitalize came, she would make sure that Umahmad was in the best hospice;  and that we (as family) would be allowed to stay with her too.
She was on the board of directors of The Community Memorial Hospital in Fort Worth, with an excellent hospice on the top floor.

Is it all luck that twists our fate in certain ways, pushes us one way or another, or is there a plan behind it all. As Muslims we believe that many things are written or destined for us.  Being with her, with her children that last month of her life, I saw
clear acts of divine intervention.  She was blessed. Even with schizophrenia, terminal cancer, she was blessed. People she didn’t know loved her and went out of their way to help her. Her oncologist was a good example, and when the time came to admit her, we all were allowed to stay with her. They provided mattresses and blankets and pillows and we all camped in her room.

Umahmad’s paranoia was running very high, a few weeks before she was admitted into hospice care. Her feelings about me wavered between affectionate and relaxed with me to accusing me of trying to poison her, Because she was now in such pain and could barely eat, the out-patient nurse had provided morphine and instructed us to give it to her at 8 hour intervals, if needed.
The first day the nurse tried to inject her, (I was there alone with the twins,) Umahmad reacted by pushing her to the floor and fighting with her. The nurse called the police as she couldn’t restrain her. Everyone was shouting and when the police came, they just wanted to make sense of what was happening. The nurse explained she was trying to inject her for her cancer and I explained she was schizophrenic and paranoid and believed the nurse was trying to kill her.
It was horrible and then in the middle of the chaos, Umahmad jumped up and yells
pointing her finger directly at me she tells the police in Arabic,
“That one. That foreigner, she brought poison from Costa Rica and is trying to kill me!”
The police didn’t speak Arabic (thank goodness) and when they looked to me to translate,
I gave them my own version.
“Oh she was saying that I came all the way from Costa Rica to help her, but she is afraid of the shot.”

In my mind I saw Umahmad like a wounded deer on the highway, who had just been hit by a car…in pain, stunned, not knowing what had even happened and some kindly people stopped to help it, move it off the road, but it kicks out wildly attacking those who were only trying to take away its pain, only trying to help. In her confused state,
she had no idea what was making her hurt, but she suspected that all of us had something to do with it. It had gotten so she would not eat food if she didn’t open the can herself and eat it directly from the can.  She trusted no one, even though her kids who were so affectionate to her, assuring her they were only trying to help. How much they loved her!  Their mother was now living in total delusion at the same time excruciating pain, lashing out with  everyone and they stayed calm , loving, trying to soothe her.

One of the boys, the next day, decided to get a group of people and we all took Umahmad to the park. There was a beautiful park nearby with tall trees and picnic tables and we set up camp for the day, bringing a mattress and some blankets to make her as cozy as possible. She accepted the morphine shot and when she got to the park she slept. I think this outing was more for all of us, her caregivers than her, but she slept peacefully under the trees while we all ate and talked and enjoyed being out of the sick room and breathing fresh air all together. It was a beautiful day and at the very end of it, her youngest son, coaxed her to walk a bit down the path with him. You could see she was making a superhuman effort to get up and please him, but she walked maybe fifty feet with him, holding his hand. I took their picture from behind and I treasure this photo, because anyone who didn’t know, might think she had a bright future ahead of her, strolling through the park with her youngest son.
That night Umahmad had a dark night of crisis, not even the morphine could calm her and it was so hard; we tried everything, all of us and still we could not help her. I called her doctor and she said,
“Do what you can to get her through the night and tomorrow I will make sure they are waiting for her at the Community Memorial Hospice in Fort Worth.”

It was the longest night I could remember, , but at 9:00 am the next day the four children and I were standing in the receiving area of the hospice penthouse, with Umahmad in a wheel chair, our bags packed with clothes for an undetermined stay.
As it turned out, we were there almost two weeks. All four of us slept on the floor of her spacious room  and we rolled  up our mattresses and put them away in the morning so they could clean.
We bought our own food in, but as Umahmad was eating so little, what she left behind we would all share. One very poignant moment I remember all of us sitting on her bed and she was sitting, not eating but carefully feeding each of us, like she did with the ducks back at Lake Arlington. She took turns and picked up a forkful and waited until we opened our mouth, in turn, like baby birds, she fed us. We all had tears in our eyes. On the second round, with her eyes half closed from the effects of intravenous Ativan and pain killers, when she got to me, she fed me and then, spontaneously, she pulled me close to her with both hands and kissed me on the lips. My tears turned into sobs, it was so moving. None of us could resist the deluge of tears. Even in her pain and delirium was that innate generosity and mother instinct to make sure all were fed, even if she could not eat a bite herself.
They kept her so tranquil, not agitated and she almost appeared to not be suffering the symptoms of schizophrenia. When she had pain they would semi -sedate her and she would sleep and dream and then she would tell us her dreams after. We played the Quran for hours and the feeling in that hospice room was holy and full of peace. There was a nurse, who would come sit with us sometimes, because she was drawn to the sound of the Quran being chanted. without understanding a word, she felt the ambiance of peace and purity in that crowded hospice room.
The tension and anger that surrounded her was gone. There was a certain tranquility mixed with, the sadness of waiting for someone to die, but hoping to not have to let her go, too soon. All of us knew in our hearts that her exit was one only she could take and we couldn’t go with her.
A few days before, she sat up in bed and said to me ,
Donna, Ana asif. Ana Asif habibity” (I am sorry. I am sorry my love”
I said to her, “Ana asamhik habibiti” (I forgive you love)
She was at that moment lucid and when she looked me in the eyes, I saw the
Umahmad of our early days. For just a few minutes she held that state and I knew what she was saying, “I’m sorry for” and it felt so good to be able to let her know…all was forgiven, just like what I wanted to do the night I finally found her after searching three years and she was too lost in her disease for me to even attempt to say it.
I sat on the bed and held her in my arms. It was her official goodbye to me. It felt that way and I cried.

The next day, she asked for a bath and we set that up for her. They used a crane to lower a stretcher table into the warm water of a large bathing tub. It was amazing how they did it, and the girls and I could wash her and watch her clean hair float behind her.
She looked like a sleeping mermaid floating on the surface. We groomed her and she was fresh like a new born when we pulled her out and dressed her.  An hour later she asked to be put in a wheelchair and taken to every room.  Her head was still wrapped in a towel and she looked like a desert princess in a turban, while we made her comfortable and  pushed her from one room to the next, where she waved to everyone she saw. She was so gracious and elegant waving as if she were in a carriage meeting her subjects. She smiled and waved at nurses, patients and visitors alike. The beautiful thing was… everyone waved back and I was once again choking back my tears. It was such an impromptu and very emotional tour. She looked beautiful. Terminal people don’t usually look beautiful…but she did. Against all logic and pain and schizophrenia, there she was, an alabaster statue of a desert queen,  that came to life and spread beauty and joy to the entire hospice floor. She was saying goodbye to everyone. She knew before we did, that tomorrow would be her last day.
I am going to describe this moment with a post, I posted on July 3, just a few hours after she passed. I am honored to say I was was by her side when she departed.

                             My Gliding Beauty 1971-2012

Gliding Beauty
for Umahmad

my gliding beauty,

you walked an inch off the ground.
You could enter a silent room
without making a sound.
In a market of black-robed women,
you were the first to be found.
We walked as one,
and when we knelt
with our heads touching the ground,
you pressed your shoulder into mine
in perfect unison
as we bent down.

I bless your grace and your profile
your blood mixed in Iran,
those two Iraqi pools
that peeked out from clasped hands.
We were just so new, two women who loved
that we stopped our own heartbeats
the Above.

                                                           2001 Jordan
Glide Away
for Umahmad

I trace circles on your arm to the chanted prayers of the Quran.
Every twisting curve I make is a switchback in our extraordinary timeline, our history written by a weaver,
a true believer,
and you believed,
that all that was laid upon your back,
you could shoulder,
and not only support it, but walk carrying it proudly.

Outside is Texas not Iraq,
but you sigh peacefully and ask for mercy,
god’s mercy after a lifetime of struggle…
the short straw in the deck of life…
even your lifeline stops half way down your palm.

My friend,
who else in my life could have showed me the hidden gift of loving another,
as I learned to love you?

From your lips I learned a language a culture, a truth.
Your children were your wealth and your reason to live, to seek, to dream, to cross borders so that they might have a better chance..a better role in Life’s play.
And now today I watch you prepare to set sail, your closed eyes opening slowly like  spinnakers unfolding, and you look upwards, the purified face of one who is being carried to the other shore, and your last breath is the wind that finally fills them and they snap and billow, and there you go…you depart and glide away.
July 3, 2012
Community Memorial Hospice
Ft.Worth Texas

*My greatest muse, my deepest friendship, a truth more rare than fiction.

Gone From My Sight
by Henry Van Dyke

I am standing upon the seashore. A ship, at my side,
spreads her white sails to the moving breeze and starts
for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength.
I stand and watch her until, at length, she hangs like a speck
of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.

Then, someone at my side says, “There, she is gone”

Gone where?

Gone from my sight. That is all. She is just as large in mast,
hull and spar as she was when she left my side.
And, she is just as able to bear her load of living freight to her destined port.

Her diminished size is in me — not in her.
And, just at the moment when someone says, “There, she is gone,”
there are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices
ready to take up the glad shout, “Here she comes!”

And that is dying…

*            *            *            *            *            *            *            *

She died on July 3rd. She was 41 years old and because the next day was a holiday (Fourth of July) She could not be buried as Islamic customs dictated. We had to wait until the next day, the 5th, which was Friday and Jummah prayers, where the whole community gathers at the mosque to pray. In the Quran, Friday is designated as a sacred day of worship, like Sunday is for Christians.
As Jummah prayers are very important, the mosque was filled and we were all there too. Umahmad’s coffin was up in front, lying in state. There were hundreds of worshipers that day and when prayers were over, all the male worshipers (maybe over 100 cars) made a funeral procession all the way to the burial site. It was such a moving spectacle. It looked like a funeral for a dignitary or royalty; people turned their heads to see such a large procession and wondered who it was for?

…and that is why I wrote this story,  to tell you….who it was for.

So now you have had the chance to know a little better, an amazing woman, who had an even more amazing destiny, who brought her children to a better life and who touched mine so deeply through-out almost 12 years, and who is still today
my most constant muse.

Today, in 2023 her four children are still living in the US and just as Umahmad had hoped, they all are thriving. Three have married, the twin girls and the youngest son and between them they have 7 children. Two are living in Los Angles and two stayed in Texas. The oldest son, Ahmad, for whom Umahmad is named (Mother of Ahmad) is engaged.
We are all in contact and planning when we can get together again, hopefully this time in Costa Rica.  I love them dearly and the feeling is very mutual. Just like their mother was, they are part of my story and I am part of theirs.

The End

*            *            *            *            *            *             *            *            *

 Footnote: These are all the poems of mine inspired by Umahmad that I have posted on my blog, or have been posted on other sites. As you can see, she has been my singular muse.


1. Minted Breath
2.  Oasis Moon
3.  Pale Veiled Memory
4.  Flying Away For Awhile
5.  Tea and Poetry
6.  Reality Check
7.  Two Poems From the Past
8.  Way With Words
9.  Your Movie
10. A Delicious Moment For A Haunting
11. You Snored Like a Bird
12. Surfacing
13. Holding Hands
14. In The Window
15. Short Prose Poetry Contest Honorable Mention
16. Way With Words on Spillwords
17. Against Those Tides on Spillwords
18. Pale Veiled Memory Om MasticadoresUSA
19. This Beholder on Spillwords
20. Errands to be Run
21. Written in Stone
22. My Gliding Beauty 1971-2012
23. Tarpit Never YouTube
24. Pure Love

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An Invitation to Read My Short Story-Gliding Beauty

dramatic                                          Illustration by Gino 2007

Hi everyone,
some of you have already started this 5 chapter story about Umahmad, someone who appears in my poetry consistently. I am a poet, not used to writing prose, but this story has been sitting on old hard drives and in drawers since 2007, and this Ramadan I thought it was a good time, to bring it out into the light and share it.
I just finished the 5th chapter and just published it on Wednesday, a few days before Ramadan ends. It is the longest chapter, but it brings everything up to date to 2023.
I encourage those who started reading Gliding Beauty to finish it and those who have yet to start, to try the first chapter and see if it holds your interest.
I really appreciate your support and your feedback. This is an intimate true  story and if I did not feel so comfortable here among you all on WordPress, I would not have shared it.
You can find the chapters in order here:

Chapter One Can Be Found Here

Chapter Two Can Be Found Here

Chapter Three Can Be Found Here

Chapter Four Can Be Found Here

Chapter Five (The Epilogue) Can Be Found Here

Thank you so much for your wonderful support and friendship over the many years.
Hope you enjoy my story:)

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Balance & Symmetry


                                Balance” by Dale Innis on Midjourney

Balance & Symmetry

Balance and Symmetry
perfect meter, perfect pitch
picture frames hanging straight
colors that blend just because they do.

Pleasing voice tones, soft words
notes of deep emotion, that make you cry
textures blending naturally
a gentle manner, beautiful eyes

Perfect shapes, lines that are straight
curves and calligraphy, darkness & light
A heart-stopping sunset, art that makes me breathless
pastels beautifully subdued or colorful & bright

I am so sensitive, all these things make me feel pleased
and when they are the opposite, they make me grind my teeth

Karima Hoisan
April 13, 2023
Costa Rica

* You too?


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Gliding Beauty – Desert Journey Chapter Four

Screen Shot 2023-03-23 at 5.34.31 PM

                                                 Illustration by Gino 2007

Preface: This is Chapter Four of a story, a book I began writing in 2007 in Jordan.
I decided to not continue out of respect for the characters (both living and dead) It is a true story, my story and I will share it with you in a total of 5 chapters during this month of Ramadan.  I hope you will take the time to read each installment. This is as far as I got. Many of you know now about Umahmad from my poetry.
This is how it all began….and how it ended.

Chapter Four

The dark days came more regularly about two years after my marriage began.
One day my brother-in-law came to visit me and talked about a situation, concerning my husband, in Jordanian terms, that I had no idea existed.
“Did my mother tell you my brother (My husband) has a Djinn?”
“What? Ah…no she didn’t”
“Well he does and my mother has actually seen it and it is an old woman who takes him over and hates you and any woman who is close to him, even her, my mother and a few of my sisters.”
“Wow, well that could explain a lot.”
I thanked him for clarifying a bit more about why my marriage, was seemingly getting harder to navigate instead of easier.

After he left, I picked up tea cups and was thinking:
I know nothing about Djinn or how to even approach handling this.
I should try to talk to my mother in law about this.
I should probably confide in my father-in law too and tell him that,
my husband had hit me a few times in a total rage and that it was happening more frequently than before.
I had these talks with them both and as was expected they both had different approaches to how I should try to handle this.
I think it is important to clarify here, I really did love my husband. I married for love as he did too, and the first year, if it was a definite cultural adjustment and fit, it was also amazing.
He had opened up a world that I had no idea existed and as his wife, I was allowed into that world with a golden VIP pass.
Every day was a learning experience, something new and we got along very well and had fun together. I discovered Jordan, the richness of an Islamic culture, a new language that was opening up the most wonderful experiences that were totally new to me. We laughed, we talked, we dreamed and always held the same feeling that destiny had brought us together.
Looking back, I realize that instead of a “happily-ever-after” with my husband, life was using him as a giant doorway that lead to learn and love, a language, a religion, a culture, the most wonderful family (his family) and to meet my beloved, Umahmad.

My mother gave me some prayers to use against this Djinn
when it/she was trying to invade my husband’s head.
I learned them and said them religiously, but they seemed to not have as much power as that Djinn did.
My father-in law who I also respected and loved, told me the same explanation and just said, “Try not to do anything to antagonize him when he is possessed.”
Those are easier words to write down than actually put into practice.
Looking at this situation in Western terms, I am pretty sure my husband would have been diagnosed as bi-polar but this was the Middle East and the verdict was totally agreed upon…that he had a Djinn.

In months and years to come, I fell into the loop of abuse, surviving the attacks and yet keeping the hope alive that this one that just passed would be the last.
I apologized for his behavior to others by saying, that I should have known better than to say “so and so” or “roll my eyes” and that his raging violent outburst…was all my fault.
I would accept the blame and try harder, to be more passive, “more a real women” He started seeing my way of being, (confident and outgoing) as a negative. My voice was too low, my ideas were too Westernized, I was too used to getting my own way and now he could barely put up with any of it.
He slapped me across the face many times and when my tears automatically started running down my cheeks, he would grab my head and threaten, “If you cry one more tear I will hit you again” I COULD NOT CONTROL THEM..
What superhuman could control tears under these circumstances?
It got to the point that I was finding it so hard to just be myself and I slipped into a depression, a feeling of futility that I would ever be able to please my husband again. Everything I did was wrong…
But after a violent session it was always the addicting calm..the good times, the promises, pledges, presents, sweetness, tenderness.

One of these times I wrote:

“But the very most fearful
Djinn of them all
is the one who glares out at me
from my lover’s eyeballs.
The one who rants and threatens
when just 5 minutes before,
he was buying me a double cone
from the corner ice cream store.

The Djinn that twists my husband’s face
into a steel-gray horror dream,
shouting obscenities from the mouth
just finishing  prayer, and now is forced
to do nothing but scream,

“You want an elbow in your face?
Then just say any word;
I’ll knock your teeth out with one blow.
You think I won’t? Don’t push me now
I’ll grab you by the hair,
drag you down the boulevard for show.”

Against this Djinn I am powerless and weak.
I keep silent, look down  don’t even breathe,
cannot speak. I muffle my tears and suffer
the ascending anger peak.

Just as this element comes
into a troubled soul,
it leaves, and a gaping empty hole
inside my true ones eyes,
slowly fills back in with remorse
as now dispossessed he grieves.

This is the explanation
my in-laws choose to believe
when they witness the unbridled anger,
his ten minute insanity.

There is talk of seeing the sheikh
for an exorcism or a prayer maybe,
then it all slides into another day,
another scary part of our hidden life
that even we inside choose not to see.”

*            *             *            *             *            *            *

I was hiding so much sadness behind my apartment walls…
Then Umahmad would come in smelling fresh and new and when she touched my arm tenderly and looked me in the eyes, all I could do was cry.
My marriage, full of passion and destiny, was also full of violence and tears.
I had no one to talk to about this, not even did I have all the words to talk to her, but she totally understood. Each morning when I let her in, she looked deeply into my soul, and she perceived, what I had been through in the days we had not seen each other. When she saw my blue eyes sparkle, she laughed and kissed me many times on both cheeks saying “habibiti” my love. When she saw a frightened dullness there, she framed my face in her cupped hands and kissed me softly, directly on my lips. I always felt like she was pulling the pain out from the farthest recesses, where I had successfully hidden it from almost everybody, everyone that is but her.
She always knew and she always kissed me on the lips before she said “Mush Mushquile” It’s not a problem habibiti .” Ana hoon”’ I’m here now.”

One day of misfortune, she was in the apartment when my husband was having one of his Djinn possessions.
I wrote this poem soon after… She was willing to lay down her life for me that day, as she always said she would, but he knew the perfect thing to say to her…and she was neutralized on the spot.

White wings of the angel,
head wrapped in black,
interceding for the impossible

“Donna I will die for you”
standing between us a wall of protection
against the infernal blast…

“Hit me.” she taunts, if you need to hit someone
“Hit me.”
Dismissed like a fly, like a bad smell,
his nose wrinkles up at her,
the snarl of the wolf,

“Get out of my way”
Pleading, oh she begs,
the diplomat for the abused

I know she was capable of sacrificing herself,
If she thought it could win my case,
but this jury was rigged and
the judge handed out sentencing.

To me he says,
” Go in this room and don’t say one word.
A whimper will be a foot in your back”
He whips around and grabs the angel by her face,
“If you attempt to open this door…
I will kill her. Listen to me now. I will kill her!”

I look back over my shoulder at her eyes,
they are filled with tears and they say,
before the door blocks the way,

“Forgive me Donna, but powerless am I”

*            *            *            *            *            *

In this apartment there was an extra bedroom and I started using it as my own especially when I wanted to stay clear of my husband immediately after an episode.
She would come, even if it was not her day to be there. She would come and apply the salve of life to me. After the pain comes the numbness that deadens nerves but also deadens joy. She would slowly bring life and light back into my own dark moods.
Is it any wonder that her importance in my life took on almost survival proportions and grew accordingly in these years?
She was not just my friend, or someone paid who helped me 3 or 4 times a week; she became my lifeline, my life vest and I pressed her close to me each time I saw her again to keep from succumbing to hopelessness or worse.
On these times, she would spend the night with me and hold me, just hold me until I could asleep and then we would wake up and kneel side by side and do our morning prayers together.
I wrote this poem for her:

Mated Beauty

for Umahmad

The gifts we get are measured and beloved,
The Writer of our book knows just the time,
To leave a present when we ache too much,
A healing salve to cure a soul sublime.

So lay beside me, hear the morning call.
Our prayers today beginning side by side,
Before we rise to give our thanks on knees,
Tell me you feel our destiny’s still tied.

I kiss you, not with a lover’s passion,
But from a deeper need that lies here too,
The search for that one soul to bind entwined
My mated beauty, you and only you!

*            *            *            *            *            *

I was counting the days that early Spring in 2004 until my husband would be traveling back to Costa Rica alone.
I was scheduled to go back with him too but in the last minute.
I was told some dear friends from Costa Rica, a Diputado (like a Senator) and his wife would be coming to stay with me for two weeks at our apartment in Karak and then another week traveling to Israel with me as their official translator.
My Jordanian family, especially my father-in-law rallied all my sisters and brothers in law to plan the red carpet treatment for them, an official luncheon with the Governor of Amman, another luncheon exchanging keys to the city, with our Uncle who was the presiding mayor at the time of Karak, and a few nights in the desert on camels and then two days in Petra, Jordan’s mystical world treasure.
I got permission to allow a strange man into the house (with his wife) without my husband being there, because I had explained the guest was like a brother to me, who knew me many years before I converted. I also had promised to not sleep in the house but above on the roof, where we had a small room. My father asked Umahmad to please watch over me and stay with me those nights my guests were using our master bedroom. When we took off with the guests, to show them Jordan, Umahamd was by my side every step I took…
It was a dream come true for me…for us both.

I had an entire summer with her to myself the summer of 2004.
My husband left and stayed behind in Costa Rica working and I was free. I won’t go into all the magic of that summer but imagine the possibilities when two women find they have fallen into a platonic romance with each other, against all odds, and against all norms and have the freedom to just enjoy it for awhile!!
We drove around at night, all the windows open those perfectly cool and breathtaking desert nights, the wind blowing smells of fresh bread and falafel into the car.. We stopped and shopped.. Walked hand and hand the night was magical, the feel of the air, so soft and caressing. I can remember our scarves blowing the bottoms of our abayas about to lift off and show that we both wore jeans underneath. I bought a stuffed Dalmatian for her and she named him Chacooch (The Iraqi word for hammer)

When my guests arrived we were already installed on our
rooftop camping site with a few mattresses and a small room for changing, We had a tiny alcohol stove we could make 2 cups of tea at a time with, and we sat drinking tea, playing music eating falafel and fresh bread. , after they had gone to sleep below.
She would let her hair down, wild and free and it reminded me of a waterfall cascading down her back. It brought to mind the first time she ever did that a few weeks after I met her.

I could see her again,, the very first time, she removed her scarf in front of me. She looked around twice, coyly, as if to say,
” Could there be a man hiding in the closest ready to pop out and defile me with a look?”
Then satisfied that we were alone, and women with women could literally “let their hair down,” she lifted off her head covering in a one-handed sweep and there was a mass of black, thick curly hair pulled back tightly and restrictively, tied into a sort of fat bun.
She started yanking on the compressed tail, and from deep inside, she pulled out a cylinder made of metal” “What that?” I said. She pointed inside and showed me a piece of rolled paper with Arabic writing on it. “Prayers. Good for being safe” Then she tugged on the elastic band, and her ebony mane fell down way past her shoulders to the center of her back. It kept falling in slow motion, section by section, she let it loose and it was truly a black waterfall of shining curls. I was speechless. She looked so totally different to me. I had seen her maybe three or four times, but usually my husband was in the house and so she never felt comfortable taking off her hijab, but that day, standing in my kitchen, I saw her for the very first time.

She was not only a beauty of profile and features, but her long wild tangle of curls drew me closer. I felt an incredible urge to stroke her hair, and I did. She remained motionless as I ran my fingers, if that is how I can describe trying to entwine them in her hair. They were lost, and stuck and hidden inside and I just grabbed big handfuls and resisted the urge to press my face into those thick loops of natural geometry. I made a joke out of it teasingly.
“Your hair…like horse hair ”and I laughed as she pretended she was very offended and pulled it back out of my reach.
“You think?” she countered, :”Don’t touch ugly horse hair anymore.”
With that we wrestled in the kitchen, both standing. I made attempts one after another to grab her hair and she would pull it away. We flushed and we laughed and we gestured and offended each other playfully, then we sat down at the little table and I served us both a bottled mango drink. I looked at her white face, an alabaster statue at my table, with soft pink glow on the cheeks, lips dark red without any make-up, and her hair framing not only her face but her entire upper body.
“Helluwa” Beautiful. Your hair is really beautiful”
She pouted in fun “Anjed? You, for real think hair beautiful?”
“Yes I do” Your hair and you, jamilah jamilah jamilah.
She reached for my fingers across the table and held them tightly.
“You most beautiful, anjad It is you” and she blew me a kiss with her free hand.

The last night before my husband was due home,
we couldn’t get out of bed..all day and all night..As it never was a sexual thing with us, it was a desperate emotional closing of a chapter and we wrote it in each others arms just clinging. Clinging! ..We clung to each other and we cried..I used to listen to a piano piece on a Leonard Cohen album called ‘Tacoma Trailer” It is a whimsical very moving simple piano melody..that made us both feel like we were floating on a rolling sea..and I hung onto her shoulders, molded myself to her backside like my only lifesaver keeping me from drowning that day in total sadness. I tried to engrave that sensation of feeling her, loving her because you know…. I just KNEW I would lose her..I felt this couldn’t go on..I mean I planned for it to continue..made steps to even bring her here and her children to Costa Rica..but somewhere inside I KNEW it was over..and it was so overwhelming..I tasted death in each breath I took..I clung even harder to her..I wanted to always remember that feeling of floating pressed to her in a sea of poignant piano notes and destiny gearing up to rip us apart.

I knew by now my husband, his family, his tribe, the entire Jordanian world would not accept his marrying Umahmad and bringing her into our marriage as his second wife. I had to tell her in our last moments of intimacy and peace, that it was not a possibility, but I was thinking of a plan B. I told her I was willing to separate from him, especially as now he would be looking in earnest for his real second wife. I painted a picture of us all living in Costa Rica, I would be responsible for the children’s education and welfare and we would become one happy (I was sure of it) oddly blended family.
She listened but stayed silent..and her tears gave her away, that this was a blow she did not expect.

While she stayed silent in her disappointment, I recorded the smell of summer, the blowing of the curtains, the children’s laughter below on the street, the light dancing off some hung crystals in the window…. and they still play in my head..they will continue to be those iconic symbols that represent who she was to me. I can’t see a curtain snapping in the breeze today, without remembering this last day of freedom for us…holding her while the minutes and hours pulled us apart and when she said,
“I should be going..he will be here soon,” I hugged her one last time and then watched her out the window as she glided away, getting smaller and smaller She waved one last time and I waved back and she was gone.

She was literally gone.

Two days later she was supposed to come to my apartment, but she didn’t.
I drove to hers when she didn’t answer her phone,
and found the door wide open, the landlord and a few gawkers looking inside at…an empty room, just some rug rags and papers as if it had hastily been swept.
No one knew what had happened. It was like she and her 4 children had been victims of an alien abduction. They had disappeared into the night, leaving no explanation, or change of address. Leaving nothing behind but questions that could not be answered.
I drove to my mother-in-laws in shock.
I was on automatic, not even seeing the road, driving on rote. I felt cold and light- headed and I drove a little faster to get there before I collapsed. All the thoughts and questions tied themselves into a big shock- knot that was choking me around my neck and I could barely breathe by the time I reached their home.

I ran out of the car, leaving the door open, I found my mother-in-law in the kitchen and seeing her face, was like turning on a switch, the tears poured out of me.
“Umahmad ran away last night.”
“She’s gone”
“Oh my God”
“She’s really gone”

*            *             *             *             *

In The Window
(I know many have heard this but I thought it was a good way to end this chapter)

Chapter One Can Be Found Here

Chapter Two Can Be Found Here

Chapter Three Can Be Found Here

To Be Continued….


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Our Fading Historian


                      My Aunt Lil, me, my Father, my Cousin Dan 1947

Our Fading Historian
for Cousin Dan

And lying in a clean bed,
looking out the windows,
the pine trees whispering about him
in his yard
lies my very last cousin on earth,
the oracle of my life
the only tie left to my family
and his light is dimming
and he lives in twilight.

My Mother, My Father, Me and Cousin Dan in New York 1951

He’s still here but not wanting to be,
trying to cross over;
his time not yet expired, so begrudgingly
he lives another day.
I call him once a week to hear his voice
and tell him that I love him.
When he says, “Be happy for me when I go”
I say,  “I love you and I will be happy
when you can get away.”

                        Cousin Dan and his young bride Iris

He’s 92 with a brilliant mind,
a chess master,
speaks 7 languages
but he is too weak to get up from his bed,
and so he tells me he wants to die,
but I am selfish, he’s the last soul alive
who remembers my mother, my father.
Tells jokes and anecdotes,
“Oh your mom was a great gal”
“The ladies loved your dad”

603690_10203563035692915_1432723956873814774_n 2
Cousin Dan Linguist and Chess Master

Months back he was still able to enjoy a chat;
we spoke in Spanish so he could practice
He saw me at 3 days old,
and spent weekends at our home,
when he studied at Madison.
He says that he loved me
from the first time he saw me.
He calls me precious and sweetheart
and tells me stories.
He is truly the fading historian
of a dying family.

WhatsApp Image 2019-09-05 at 7.05.12 PM

                                 Cousin Dan on his 90th birthday in New York

How hard it is to let him go.
I say “I love you mi primo querido”
He says, “I love you too sweetheart”
No one else calls me sweetheart.

He says he’s proud of me,
I have the genes for languages
from the family.
He loves my poetry
when I read it to him on the phone
He loves remembering me
as an awkward teen.
Handsome and strong all his life
about 7 years ago,
he started losing his eyesight.

I call him every week
I know he hopes he won’t
be able to answer me;
he’s waiting for his own call
to finally rest after 92 years…
but I wish he would be here forever,
and that’s very unfair of me.
Just that when he goes…
all his memories

will be lost to me…
and yet when I hang up the phone
I truly pray he gets his wish. 🙏

IMG_2702 2
                           Cousin Dan and Me in Costa Rica 2017

Karima Hoisan
April 9, 2023
Costa Rica
*after hanging up from talking to him.


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Gliding Beauty – Desert Journey Chapter Three

Screen Shot 2023-03-23 at 5.34.31 PM

                                               Drawing by Gino 2007

Preface: This is Chapter Three of a story, a book I began writing in 2007 in Jordan. I decided to not continue out of respect for the characters (both living and dead) It is a true story, my story and I will share it with you in a total of 5 chapters during this month of Ramadan.  I hope you will take the time to read each installment. This is as far as I got. Many of you know now about Umahmad from my poetry.
This is how it all began.

Chapter Three

Crazy ideas tend to appear normal when backed by an entire belief system. When a culture places a seal of approval on an act or an institution, and when even in general conversation everyone seems to agree that something is accepted although perhaps usually only under extraordinary circumstances, then the unthinkable begins to be thought about.

When my husband and I were married a few weeks later, we went down to the Islamic Court to pick up the marriage book. I was curious to see one, this being my first, and nothing even similar was used in the West. It looked like a passport, and like all Arabic documents opened from the back to the front in the right to left style of its writing. The first page had my husbands details with picture and the second page had mine with a recent photo taken in a scarf by a small studio in Karak. I continued paging and in both Arabic and English were blank pages with the title “Second Wife “ Third Wife” and “Fourth Wife” I marveled. It was a concept so unheard of, something people made jokes about in Costa Rica, and I was struck by the oddness of facing the legal possibility that Osamah, if he chose, could marry three more times and it would be not only legal but accepted by, our religion, our society and the family.
At some point in my friendship with Umahamd, I found myself considering the real possibility that my domestic employee could be transformed into my husband’s second wife.
Her disadvantages, in his way of thinking , would be her age, 32, and her marital status married before with four children, and widowed in Iraq in 1992.
In Jordanian society it would not be considered proper or wise to marry a domestic employee It could reflect badly on the man’s judgment and as in everything in Arabic life, there was nothing done by one person without considering the effect and fall-out on an entire family, or even tribe.

I loved this about the culture. I saw many examples of it all through the years when I was living there. Selfishness was not allowed or promoted. Before any life changing decision was even taken to the second level of planning, most of the family would have been consulted about it. The elder grandparents having a real lobby on protocol. would influence in a persuasive way, what would be the best for everyone.

Many months before I approached my husband with the idea, I started making subtle hints as well as I could with my beloved friend. I fantasized that with Umahamd, I could really feel that my husband’s taking of a second wife, would still allow me to feel part of the whole marriage. The fact that we got along so well, and in a warm sisterly way loved each other, would only help to make a strong bond between the three.

It was true that society looking at it from a social point of view might wag tongues, from a religious point of view it could be seen as a great “hasana” a good deed, to give a widowed woman with four children, dignity, security and love.
She was after all, beautiful and her age still allowed her to give him many healthy children while she was still fertile. The twin girls, and two boys, would most likely approve of their mother re-marrying especially because then they would all gain legal status as residents, instead of fearing the look of a policeman, or patrol car, because they were illegal refugee immigrants, who at any minute could be tossed over the border into a now open war zone.

* * * * * * *

Umahmad poked me in the stomach with her index finger, and asked me accusingly,
“Wen boo boo ?” “Wen dem?” “Where is your baby? Where is your blood?”
She had all the right in the world to ask me this because she had been working for me several months and was getting impatient that I had not gotten pregnant again. Working in our house she saw no tell tale signs that I ever had a period, and she was now suspicious. She had no idea I had my uterus removed after Julian. My husband was in his late twenties, but I, his wife was almost 25 years his senior, and now almost past childbearing limits. To have no child in the Arab culture was to be totally forsaken by luck or good fortune. Children were welcomed, coveted and displayed as integral parts of any social occasion. There was no concept of “leave the children at home, babysitters for an evening out. If you had been blessed with six children, those six children would cram into the backseat and go anywhere and everywhere with you, They would be welcomed with kisses and open arms by their relatives and family friends, who opened their doors and their kitchen to all who arrived.

Umahmad was in the kitchen with me that Ramadan evening right before the fast breaking meal of fatoor. We had invited the immediate family, which included, nieces and nephews and added up to about 25 people. Even with her working side by side, it was a push to have it all ready by 5pm and I couldn’t get into answering her questions on “where my boo boo or my blood was”
“Later we will talk about this okay? “Badén later”
“He will find other wife if you don’t have children. You know that?”
“Yes I know that. “Wen bigdona?”(Where’s the parsley?)
“Why don’t you marry him? I said casually, “I would say mush musquile (no problem)”
“You mean for real? You would have no problem with me as his wife?”
“No, I wouldn’t but let’s get this food on the table and talk about it later”
Umahmad stood standing in the kitchen with a heavy circular platter , piled with a rice and chicken dish called “kebsah” It must have weighed 10 pounds, but she held it like a frisbee, and she looked at me. She read me inside and out, and I think she was searching for me to laugh, or me to say “bes kithib”( I was just joking).
“I come back we talk more on this” and she rolled into the guest-room where guests were already starting to arrive.
I considered what I had just said, but I realized I was serious and if I had to share my husband, wasn’t it better to do it with a tried and proven friend instead of an enemy, or a young usurper, who would come in like a lamb, and then strategically plan my demise? Even if it was on the books that a man could have four wives, no beautiful, self respecting young woman would want to come in as the second. Some, who thought it might be hard for them to marry for circumstances of education, family back ground or simply because they lacked beauty and charm, would outwardly say yes to honor and obey the first wife, while behind her back , they plotted her exit, hopefully through a final divorce, and ma3 salaama good bye wife number one.
It was maybe two minutes to the adthan calling the Maghreb prayer
(sunset prayer) from the mosque’s loud speakers, that would signal the first meal of the day, as the sun was setting, was now allowed to eat.
“Would you marry my husband?”
“La” and she shrugged her head NO
“For me? Ashani? Would you do it for me?”
“Nam” for you I do it”
“I would die for you habeebiti. I will marry your bad husband. I will protect you
and give more children to him. Anjad, really I do that for you By Allah I say I would die for you. I take care of you like my own eyes.”
I laughed, “Habeebiti and I put my arm on hers, You don’t have to die for me. Just make a nice home, bring more children to our marriage and be my friend.”
She opened the oven door and got down on her knees.
“What are you doing? Get up! The Adthan is about to call”
She stuck her head in the oven and pantomimed the twisting of the dial as if she were turning on the gas.
“You see? He hurt you or I hurt you. Look I do this” she let herself slump onto the open oven door, as if intoxicated beyond return.
Just then the call of the adthan sounded out, and my husband appeared in the kitchen doorway,
“What are you two doing? The salads are not served. Everyone wants to eat. Where are the dates? He glared at Umahmad who pretended to be cleaning something on the inside of the oven door with her scarf.
“ Get the dates. Clean up afterwards”
We held in the spontaneous laughter until he was out of sight, then we fell into each others arms, laughing quietly but with the hysteria of two schoolgirls just busted by the principal. The imam called all to prayer, the smells of food warmed the house and I felt new possibilities rise in my chest. I felt a love I could not easily describe, and I let so many scenes play out in my mind, the night Umahmad and I shoulder to shoulder served his loving family their first fatoor in our brand new apartment.

To Be Continued…

Chapter One Can Be Found Here

Chapter Two Can Be Found Here

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My Ramadan Poem is up on Spillwords

Hi everyone,
Ramadan Kareeem!

I am happy to share my new poem, “Running on Empty” that is up on Spillwords Press today. Many Thanks once again to Dagmara K. and all the folks at Spillwords for publishing my poem. I am honored to be there. Please ❤️ it if you liked it:)

Running on Empty
The new moon proclaims the time
Ramadan is on our lips and in the air.
From the first day we begin our fast,
food and drink are replaced by prayer…..

Please go to their site to finish reading it:) Spillwords
Have a great week!

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Gliding Beauty – Desert Journey Chapter Two

Screen Shot 2023-03-23 at 5.34.31 PM

                                              Drawing by Gino 2007

Preface: This is Chapter Two of a story, a book I began writing in 2007 in Jordan. I decided to not continue out of respect for the characters (both living and dead) It is a true story, my story and I will share it with you in a total of 5 chapters during this month of Ramadan.  I hope you will take the time to read each installment. This is as far as I got. Many of you know now about Umahmad from my poetry.
This is how it all began.

Chapter Two

Donna found herself in a small apartment on the other side of the world Christmas Day 2000, the first anniversary of her mother’s death.
Being an only child, and having lost her father so early in her pre-teens, made her mother a particularly strong and vital influence in her life .
She was old enough now, to even look back and feel sorry
for her, trying to raise such a child as she turned out to be!
Other subconscious thoughts and intentions can be seen by Freudian psychiatrists, like great motion picture projected on the outside of a face, while they remain totally invisible to the one inside having them, experiencing, and planning their life without even realizing how they are triggering and affecting each plan, like magnetic fields acting on the earth. Perhaps it was plain to everyone but Donna, that when she converted to Islam in the simplest of ceremonies, that June 23rd day year 2000 in her living room in Costa Rica perhaps she had decided somewhere in the dark plots of her own mind that she would never celebrate another Christmas as it would be too painful.

Forever it would remind her of calling her mother, who was almost bed-ridden on Christmas morning and have no one answer. Knowing her mother had a phone in every room of the house, including next to the toilet, there was no good or logical reason why she didn’t answer her early morning Merry Christmas call. One year later, Donna was celebrating Ramadan, the muezzins song heard through the cold air like a chanting invitation as a reminder of how far away from home she had traveled.

Lying by her side, a new husband, so much more difficult than the others before him. A gas space heater turned off for the night was put on hastily and she wrapped herself in a long wool coat, with scarf to brave the temperatures of the kitchen, with its big windows, so lovely to see out of in the summer, but so easy for letting in the cold desert drafts that whipped her second- story corner of the building without mercy.
The houses were not constructed for this weather, and for Donna, the fact there was even such a thing as a harsh winter in Jordan, was beyond any rudimentary knowledge of the country she held, before she actually mounted a plane that would carry her away to a new life.

A Jordanian winter was so much colder than she could ever imagine and some had said it might snow that night. Here she was in the land of sparkly new moons that shone like crystal instead of Santa Clauses and Reindeer, Christmas trees and nativity scenes . From her kitchen window she could see the green and red lanterns hung on windowpanes, lit even in the day, to mark the approaching Eid, a three-day feast that officially ended Ramadan and the obligatory fasting.
The only thing she needed to do in the kitchen that 25th of December morning, was to cook rice in boiling water, to feed to the hungry sparrows and pigeons and doves, who had come to expect a hot steaming plate of sticky starch every morning on the window sill behind her kitchen sink. They were already lining up, hungrily, fighting for position and peering in through the semi frosted glass which proved it was a bit colder outside than in. Breakfast would be ready in about 15 minutes, but only for the birds.

Her first meal, her” fatoor” would be at sunset perhaps some 12 hours away. Her husband stayed up all night, eating his last meal, perhaps at 4:00am before the “fajar” dawn prayer was called. Then he would sleep maybe at 6am and wake up a few hours or less before the call for the “Mahgreb” prayer which signaled the end of the day’s fast. Most of his fasting was done asleep, but she could not breach that subject, as it would be the beginning of perhaps a fight to last all night. She was a new convert, and knew next to nothing . Getting irritated with her was a regular habit of his, even when he wasn’t on his Ramadan schedule, which meant he was in a bad mood and she had to tip toe around the house all day to not awaken him. If she closed a door too loudly she would hear from the bedroom, ”Now, what are you doing?” His shouts echoed her own thoughts,” What was she doing on Christmas Day, keeping a husband asleep until the late afternoon?” She studied Arabic on the internet, wrote emails to friends back home telling them how exciting her life was, when the truth was, she felt lately like a prisoner, trapped in a cold apartment, with an  unconscious husband, who could transform into something worse with just the sound of a click or a doorbell.

Umahmad knew enough to never ring the doorbell, and Donna never forgot to leave the door unlatched on her days to come to clean. She heard footsteps on the stone stairs, and she smiled. Her friend was about to come to the rescue. She felt as if she had one big present, that would soon sweep through the door, dressed in black and perhaps a gold scarf. Her very own package, that little by little, if she could just learn the language, she could unwrap to reveal the gift she sensed waited for her inside.

* * * * *

I never learned how to pump up the kerosene heater to make it work instead of making it smoke. It was the heater we used in the kitchen, but since I wasn’t planning on cooking anything until mid-afternoon I gave up quickly and thought soon Umahamd will be here, then I looked up and she was in my kitchen doorway. It was her way of walking that allowed her to always surprise me. She could creep up behind me and I would not even sense her presence, let alone hear a footstep. I loved that about her and when I was alone, I even tried it myself, but I could never do it like she could. I looked rather ominous, where she was the height of gracefulness, I looked like I was stalking, but she, looked like she was gliding.

She was holding an immense heavy pot, giving off steam, and a rather deliciously unusual aroma and she said
“Peace be with you” I helped her put it on the counter,
“And also with you” and we smiled simultaneously.
I had now two months speaking to her three times a week and she was my inspiration and my teacher. I studied my Arabic course online, but she told me that it was really only good for reading the newspaper and literature, that “real people” spoke the “spoken language” and that was much more vital for me to learn than any Modern Standard Arabic course. I was convinced that I just wanted to learn to be able to speak with her, so if it was spoken Arabic, with a Jordanian dialect and many Iraqi words thrown in..then that was the Arabic that mattered to me. I just wanted to be able to convey my feelings, hopes, wants, fears and my life story as well as understand hers. I didn’t care so much about learning how to say” vacuum” or” iron” I could do that with charades and make her laugh. By The end of December, I only wanted her to know how important she had become for me and how I felt she was holding my sanity in her strong hennaed hands , that if I didn’t see her one day, that I felt like I was holding my breath until the next time she came back into my life.

She looked at me in the harsh kitchen light and I felt old and ugly, compared to her beauty and unblemished skin. Even in bad winter lighting , she looked beautiful and I felt her stare a little too long at my face and thought she was analyzing my crows feet. There was an uncomfortable moment and then she said, pointing to the big pot, ”Kershat” I said “Shoo?”(What?) she used the word for cattle (kershat), which could mean, sheep, goat, lamb, or beef and then pointed to her stomach and then licked her lips. I understood it was tripe probably from a goat, but it struck me so funny. I said “This is for me? For fatoor?” and she nodded and pointed to the bedroom as if saying” and for your husband too” I pointed to her “Your stomach you will share with my husband?” and she caught the joke and we laughed even more as she violently shook her head “no” and wagged her limp wrist up and down in a gesture of “shame on you.” While she rolled her eyes in pretend embarrassment.
“What’s wrong with my face? “ I said and gestured
“Nothing” and she made a face like she had no idea what I was talking about.
I said “You looked at my face a lot, is my face so ugly?”
She looked shocked” No never ugly. Why you think that?”
“I see you look to my face. I think it is ugly so you look.”
“No. No” she protested, I think your face hairy.
Arab husbands don’t like hairy face.”

This made me laugh even more and I closed the kitchen door to not wake up the sleeping faster in the other room. I was blond and had a very light hint of peach fuzz in an almost invisible beard and mustache. I had never thought about doing anything about it, as no one did in Costa Rica, and it was barely noticeable
“Where is Husband?” she said and then made the gesture of sleeping and snoring.
I said “shhh” and we both grabbed each other on the elbows and steadied our balance that had been thrown off by our silly brand of humor we had been perfecting from the first time we saw each other until this present moment.
She said “Dishes I wash later, you come to living room, I make your hairy face… beautiful.
She held nothing in her hands and I was thinking what could she possibly do to make me less apelike with her bare hands?

She led me to our guest-room, the most formal and lavish room of our cozy apartment. She was always holding my hand, inside the house or in the street; I always felt like an awkward child being led by a floating princess. She sat down on an embroidered Damascus cushion of our wall -to -wall Arabic couches that covered the outer walls of this large room. Beautiful oriental rugs, originals, lined the floor. She gestured me to sit down next to her and I did, and I found myself, pulled into her lap looking up into her face, and having no idea what to expect. She pulled out a bobbin of strong black sewing thread, and tore off a large strip. Placing one end in her teeth, then turning and twisting the other side so that it made a little lasso, she began passing it over my face starting at my cheeks, all the while it slid between her teeth.

Years later people asked me in Costa Rica how it was done, and I never could figure it out. All I can say is, it left my entire face tingling, red like a spanked baby’s bottom and just as smooth. It was absolutely the most painful beauty treatment I had ever experienced, but I trusted her, looking up into her face, her large black eyes staring down intently on the area where she was pulling out peach fuzz. I relaxed in her lap, never taking my eyes off of her, and the way the thread slipped through her teeth without breaking. When she was satisfied, that the ape had been changed into a woman, the kind “Arab husband’s like”
She looked me directly in the eyes for just a prolonged second, and then she bent down tenderly and kissed me on the lips and the forehead.
I could have stayed that way forever.

To Be Continued

Part One can be found here:here

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