“The Words Come, They Choke Me” by Leila Chatti

Leila Chatti


for Deah, Yusor, and Razan

Too many times I have written
this poem: blood a dark ink,
moon a bullet hole.

My tongue flaps useless
as a bird. The words
come, they choke me.

Somewhere, always, smoke.
Somewhere, always, something
burning, something snuffed.

The sun set again,
bled like a wound.
I stood; nothing could

move me. The world went on
spinning tiredly, & like that
I survived another day.

I breathe & life
keeps coming.
It feels simple enough

that I know to be suspicious.
Tonight, dark as a flint chip, candles
each a pinprick. I swallow

a flame within me,
shelter it as the sky
dons her black veil.

Poets Respond
February 15, 2015


Leila Chatti: “This week, I woke up to the news that a few miles away, three Muslim students had been shot and killed ruthlessly—an execution. As a fellow North Carolina State University student and Arab-American Muslim, this tragedy resonated on a deeply personal level; always, horrors like these raise the quiet fear, “Could I be next?” That the question exists is an ugly thing. I have spent days trying to find the words to articulate this grief, grief at a pain that seems unending. I struggle to speak about it, but I feel I have to try. This is my attempt at that.” (web)

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