Rose water syrup by Maha Zimmo
Firstly, Maha Zimmo describes the intent of her long journey to Canada. More than anything else this book is a Memoir. Memoir has been around since ancient times. Perhaps Julius Caesar born 100 B.C., died 44 B.C., who wrote and depicted his personal experiences about epic battles, was the first memoirist. The memoirs by Julius Caesar were : The African Wars, The Alexandrian Wars, The Civil Wars, The Gallic Wars, and The Spanish Wars. These narratives were written and published annually during or just after the actual campaigns, as a sort of “dispatches from the front.” Memoir serves to preserve history through a person’ eyes. It is of course, also an autobiography, and a Feminist autoAmazon USA
Firstly, Maha Zimmo describes the intent of her long journey to Canada. More than anything else this book is a Memoir. Memoir has been around since ancient times. Perhaps Julius Caesar born 100 B.C., died 44 B.C., who wrote and depicted his personal experiences about epic battles, was the first memoirist. The memoirs by Julius Caesar were : The African Wars, The Alexandrian Wars, The Civil Wars, The Gallic Wars, and The Spanish Wars. These narratives were written and published annually during or just after the actual campaigns, as a sort of “dispatches from the front.” Memoir serves to preserve history through a person’ eyes. It is of course, also an autobiography, and a Feminist autobiography at that !.
cried rose-water tears
into her soil
plucked and offered her daughter
for the long walk
to Canada. |
it is why
rose-water seeds of home
in my mother’s belly.
-an immigrant’s mother’s intention
She characterizes the lives of the Muslim under Western rule. As we see, Memoir is a written factual account of somebody’s life. It comes from the French word mémoire, which means “memory,” or “reminiscence.” This literary technique tells a story about the experiences of someone’s life. A literary memoir is usually about a specific theme, in this case Maha Zimmo’s view of the occupation of the Arab lands and her peoples’ persecution, their lives. It is a story with a narrative, in this case in the form of poetry; the subject, the refugee’s journey leaving her land and carrying with her the scars of their invasion, or the escape from the Western soldiers into the lands of the West. Of her reflection on her pain and scars.
Occupation was bre(a)d (& butter)
whose heart direction facing east
still today, especially today
is cause for imprisonment. bullets. bombs.
from the poem : -the conversation we never had
In her autobiographical work she identifies herself over and over again, as a woman As a memoirist in each individual poem and often groups of poems, her work resembles that of George Orwell in Homage to Catalonia Orwell’s gripping tale of his days during the Spanish Civil War. Philip Mairet said of this account that the work shows people a heart of innocence living in revolutionary days.
This is definitely a Feminist telling of the refugees early and later life. This is the history, growing up and later years of a very strong woman ! She says of her feminity :
They can be women and strong in the face of these invaders because :
there is rose-water syrup in our hearts
and steel in our backs.
And as well in the same poem “-gratitude | offering” she says of her poetry and her vision :
i cast a net,
catch your rose-water stars and write structure
to keep the hearts of my ancestors.
She says, of what the rule if the “Whiteman” has done to the colonized women :
we burn the kink straight
peroxide hair confuse pale skin with (en)light(enment).
we swap blood for alcohol
crisp bacon face west.
we have learned to dust our brows with powder instead of soil.
fading our ancestors because this is the colour of civilzed.
-the colonized iii
We can see that all Zimmo’s poems, taken together, also form an autobiography. The first autobiography was supposedly written by Saint Augustine of Hippo, who wrote his own autobiography in form of confessions, around 400. The creation of this word is attached to William Taylor, who was said to use the word in 1797 in one of his reviewed periodicals/journal.
Here, Commemorating the day following Israeli Independence day, the day of the expulsion of the Palestinians from their homes there, she writes :
today is a day
when i have to tie my hands beneath my rib cage.
if i do not bind these hands
i am terrified that i will reach through my softness
to everyone who has been quiet. complicit. loud. implicit
and squeeze their life from their hearts.
-Al Nakba | 15 may (1948)
Of the Occupation, her land, her life, she says :
to eat lemon
dipped in salt.
this. a ritual
-in sourness is treasure
Of her vision she says
in their eyes.
and then :
i spilled tea
burning the counter
while trying to speak.
you would not have a conversation
because truth is
the only thing which lives in my mouth.
a sign that
the spilled tea
was not in error.
An abstract by Buhlmann states that emotional (or body) dysmorphic disorder, the title of one of Maha Zimmo’s, following an abusive relationship is as this poem states : Confessions have much in common with what came to be known as autobiography in its modern, Western sense, which can be considered to have emerged in Europe during the Renaissance, in the 15th century. One of the first examples was produced in England by Margery Kempe, a religious mystic of Norfolk.
i could not kill it
first i placed my fingers at my tongue
then quietly reached past my throat
found its beginning
believing i could remove it instead –
-emotion dysmorphic disorder p58
defined by Buhlmann in an abstract as :
Poor insight and ideas of reference, common in BDD, might partly result from an emotion recognition bias for angry expressions. Perceiving others as angry and rejecting might reinforce concerns about one’s personal ugliness and social desirability.
Then later we hear an obviously well Zimmo state,
i refused the creation of borders
the earth’s surface
all and infinite possibility,
salt-kisses of ocean
each held in our bodies. affection. care
the only passports required.
how was i to know you are a Patriot.
-me, the global citizen
But we hear her fear physical and emotional relationship again :
watch out for men with teeth in their eyes.
But the past is left behind in what we finally See as the true telling of the tale :
my new status
forced across a map born of the violence
and war between us.
And these are the secrets she hides from the world around her :
she could not help herself.
it’s not that she wanted to cook a bad meal
it’s that she could not give softness away
outside of her skin
and so cooked, though in earnest,
she could not help herself…
and then we see her healthy resolution of her inability by a return to her youth’s early self-love to develop an ability to have a ‘real’ and loving relationship :
she had been flayed and broken
hung upside down and drained
that she could not help herself but
to turn the tap inward
in order to keep what little was left
inside of her skin
replenish and drown in her first love,
before she could once more
at the lips of another.
-my secrets, spoken in the third person
And further she says in another poem with others that make up a memoir and a culmination of her autobiography :
the heart-pain i feel
is in direct proportion to the heart-pain i feel
is in direct proportion
to your ability to love
i reminded myself.
to envy the quick shedding of a lover
is to turn your back
on the softest you.
She culminates the story of her growing into her new nation thusly :
at the hands of others
their love soft. manipulation hard,
we are simmered by the pain.
changed by the simmering. at the hands of others
their love soft. manipulation hard,
we are simmered by the pain.
by the simmering.
for the simmering.
in my grandmother’s recipe book –
lemon, sugar, rose-water.
-elemental | rebirth
In this autobiography she returns to her beginning. This is a book to read and experience, to see the Muslim-Christian relationship from the other side in the life of a strong but peaceful Muslim who seeks a life away from violence. Please, if you wish to understand the effect on a woman of war and hatred, READ IT !
Review by Mary Barnet
Founder and Editor In Chief of PoetryMagazine.com
Poetry: The Train I Rode (Gilford Press, 2018),
86 Sonnets for the 21st Century (Casa de Snapdragon Publishing)
Critique: Haiku for the 21st Century : The Haiku of Sayumi Kamakura (Cyberwit. 2018),
At the Top : The Haiku and Poetry of Ban’ya Natsuishi (Cyberwit, 2019)