True Love

Stay open.

In the streets of Paris, they beseech:

Open. Stay.

Though that breath is an ocher stain, warm, waning

thrum of furtive goodbyes, the last of love slipping

into palms, into eyes and ears that strain

for more than the savage blasts, the fugue of terror

at La Belle Equipe, Gates D and H,

the Bataclan, each terrace of wheeling joys.

Make all that burns a temple, though the blood

is bitter, our place of belonging pendulous, shattered

and flayed once again.

Pick up the small grace, the one that bore you

through San Bernadino, and Roseburg and the WDBJ

morning news, the scrap that kisses

the face of humankind, flutters

for freedom, peace.

You do not have to know the way,

whether you keep your vigil quiet and solitary,

or with the throngs that rally for Michael Brown and

John “Trey” Crawford, for Tamir Rice and Freddie Gray,

who raise their voices for the Emanuel Nine, who cry

for justice and equality from gutted hope and wounds

that seep beneath a bilious scab.

Remember Aylan, truth washed up

on a Turkish beach, his 3-year-old body

a soft weight, a soft nest, in your fear.

Gather him in, gather them all from the nameless

corners and scalding headlines, from the unfathomable

and familiar, until they have broken you, rearranged

you into more. And then,

turn to face the day.

Lace kindness into your boots.

Trade your gold coins of desire and want

for mercy, salty and honey.

Share them with abandon, with haste, a small

sun to break over you and I, us

and them, arms for this wearying world.

Take it in, such thirsting wilderness,

bruising wonder… and bow

to the mystery still.

Carry the ache around daily, a loss to blister

the black mouth of your sorrow, strike

the flint of your rage. Give them

a voice. Let them wail, tear

through the bright gloom and trembling

dawn, a torrent of holy fire.

Then begin, close in, closer still

with what has locked you away,

the haunted dream, the hurt that spears

you in the silence of your lover’s

gaze, your mother’s glare.

Stir the words you buried, shake off the dust

that settles itself in a cancer of regret.

Reel in the forsaken, the unforgiven.

Reach for a whisper, roll it around

on your tongue. Feel the smooth petal,

opening vein and secret pulse.

And, lean in because

your father is dying.

Press your ear to his chest.

Listen for the sound he never

spoke, salve from a spirit that drifts.

Take your sister, the barbed wire

of her name, the son who has squandered

your hope, the one whose promise leads

you to a raft of loneliness.

Find a keyhole, a quiver of light

on the long lip of darkness.

Fall to your knees, grasping prayers

from the weeping sky, the singing earth.

Let them slide through open fists

and budding heart,


refusing nothing,


to these bare bones

of love.

Note: This is an older poem written after the November 2015 Paris attacks but amidst another horrific news cycle, I needed its reminder today to keep an open heart, to choose radical compassion and  fierce love, to feel the deep sorrow and pain of what’s happening at our border, to remember our oneness.


8 thoughts on “True Love

  1. Sweet Naila, yes, your poignant poem is relevant again, still…..and is a timely reminder to lace kindness into our boots. The depth of your compassion and awareness touches me deeply. xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, my beautiful friend. I think it can be so tempting/easy to let ourselves be numbed by all that is happening around us, to somehow become immune… Yet I think holding others’ suffering as if it were our own, though we cannot truly know how they feel, is such an act of healing and love.


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