What really did it, was that

My feet squelched the entire way back up the mountain.

It was almost amusing, the steady squish, squish, squish, squish against the rain sodden surface. The steep path uphill (or downhill, depending on whichever way you’re facing, I suppose) is painted in tyre stripes of mud tracked up by the owners of the little houses lining the paths. Roads, they’re to be called formally, because they have graduated being traversed by feet to being coursed by cars. A field could arguably lay claim to that by the same qualification, but well, roads they are. I’ll admit to having more than a little animosity towards them. At an incline of about 45°, they’re not the stuff of a casual stroll, regardless of where you’re headed. But the inevitable aches of separate groups of muscles in your legs is still the more pleasant alternative to taking the slower, winding path down the mountain, lined by houses that have homed generations, with their gardens littered with gnomes, and faces pointed with equal parts of inquisitiveness and guardedness, even some scattered hostility, towards obvious strangers passing through. Come to think of it, it’s an easy choice to make.

I dwell upon these minutiae. I could even say, I think it’s impossible not to. Whether it’s the odd tranquility inspired by a gargantuan golden candle hoisted up on the sides of buildings, framing in electric light the four corners of the city, or the peaceful steadiness with which the behemoths of trees drown out this human attempt of marking man-made boundaries here with the ease of their breadths, there is an unspeakable wonder in both. Depending upon which street you take, your shadow will be cast in the streetlight, or the moonlight, but never both. Depending on which way you’re looking, the mist will condense whisper soft on your face, or lose its fragile claim to existence on your shoulders, but never both. Heading into the woods, I would have still called it fog- visible, almost palpable, but not yet tangible. I moved through it like a brush through paint, like an eye through the ocean, watching swirls bloom and die under the sparse reach of streetlamps. Everywhere else, it was left to those most primitive of senses to still perceive. It feels like drowning in air with uncertain boundaries, melting unexpectedly, seamlessly, with a ground that springs into solidness out of the nothingness, with each step. And yet, the moment I left the city and ventured out to retrace my steps home, then it was rain. The only difference between mist and rain is, after all, how it falls. The deniable and the undeniable, the almost there, and there. Wetness, on my face, in my hair, under my feet. Not flowing yet, but enough to add a layer of movement imperceptibly yet definitely there. I wondered, on my way between two candles, if the frog I saw at the side of a path knew where he was going. Or, for that matter, where he’d come from at all. There were no ponds or streams here anywhere, spare the river, at least two candles away. For a fleeting moment I wondered if I should take him home, but then the impulse passed, and I let him be. You can’t save everything. Most days, you can’t even save yourself.

On the cracked glass globes that cover the streetlights, barnacles grow. Exactly like the ossifications that encrust the skeletons of ships, or the undersides of piers. I remember most clearly ones that grew on a fence half-sunk into a rock pool I used to walk past, a lifetime ago. They looked just the same. Just as sharp, just as desolate. I wondered if they sleep when the snow comes. I wonder when the last time was that the ocean had covered this mountain. I wonder, when the next time will be. I wonder if I will calcify too, before then, if it too would be tangible, and wet. If the frantic lady who discovered at the cash counter that she’d left her credit card in her car, and left a line of people tapping, shifting, and sighing in those unmistakable nonverbals of repressed exasperation behind her, will be there for it. If that man I perceived walking behind me with the slightest, most visceral and peripheral of instincts, will be there for it. If the frog will be there for it. I wonder if it’ll still feel like drowning in air, when it’s salt water instead.






I overheard something amusing earlier today. A patient’s attender had apparently asked for me, but she didn’t know my name. She asked the nurse on duty where that ‘fair, brown haired’ doctor was. The nurses conveyed the message across in the exact same terms, and it amused me to no end, because I’ve never been referred to as ‘fair’. What made me chuckle louder internally was that if my father ever heard anyone calling me ‘fair’ within earshot, he’d probably have a coronary.

I’m a mix of colors. I suppose I was a standard fat white baby when I was born, but a lifetime of playing too much in the sun, horse riding, a fair smattering of assorted sports and swimming, and the ever present tropical sun, have ensured that I never went back to the baby’s pink bottom thing I was back in the toothless days. Which has always been a particular thorn in my father’s side, him of the bone white complexion. He always had issues enough that my mother wasn’t as white as him. Add to that the shame of a daughter who was clearly headed to the other end of the skin spectrum, and it was one blow too many for his fragile ego. My entire childhood was peppered with a steady upkeep of comments about how dark I was, and naturally in succession, how ugly. There was this one particular incident, an Eid party when I was twelve, where he called me out to say hello to his friends. They all asked the standard ‘how is school’ questions, and my father answered for me, saying, ”Oh, she’s just an average student. Everything about her is average. At least if she’d inherited my looks or color, she’d have something good about her.” The comment was met with laughter from some of his friends, and awkward smiles from the others. And I stood there, in all my twelve year old offended pride, and announced, ”What’s wrong with my color? I like my color!” This time, all of them laughed. My father pulled me out to stand in the middle of the room, and said something from his usual repertoire of back-in-his-modelling-days, if-only-you-had-my-color-you’d-be-worth-something- spiel. Followed up with his standard ”See, what you look like right now, nobody likes that. Nobody’s ever going to want that.” But I was properly worked up at this point, and I informed him that I happened to be a very nice color. There were tons of white people who went to the beach trying to get to my precise color. And I still remember the faces of each and every one of his friends chortling at that statement. Including my uncle, who’d had enough of my embarrassment, and goodnaturedly told my father to shut up and leave me alone.

I guess it’s more than a little strange that I’ve made a full, full circle from that point, and come back to where I was then. I was only allowed clothes in certain shades of beige, brown, and gray, because I couldn’t ‘pull other colors off’. I think I was sixteen, when my aunt, exasperated with the contents of my suitcase, tossed half my clothes in the Salvation Army bin and replaced every one with popping reds and pinks and purples. ”You dress her like a medieval widow!”, she told my parents, to which my father replied calmly, ”it’s what she can wear, with her coloring.” And then confiscated the brightly colored clothes, when we flew back home.

I remember coveting red, and blue. I wanted blues so much. The first time I bought my own clothes, I bought four dresses in the same shade of blue, because I loved that cerulean so much. Overkill, I know, but it made sense. And unsurprisingly enough, the same shades still peekaboo in my closet now. Only more normally interspersed with other, more taboo colors. Maroons and emeralds and royal purples, lots and lots of glossy black, some pink (even though I loathe it), and even the occasional bumblebee-butt yellow.

But more than anything, I’ve settled into a peaceful coexistence with my own color. My father, I think, never will. He went off  last month and bought me a ‘designer’ dress worth a comfortable $300, in the same drab beige as the curtains in my house, the same tired color I wore almost as a uniform at home.  But at some point, we stop being the broken children of broken parents, and start repairing ourselves, because we cannot repair them. His logic is still the same. His daughter’s too dark for actual colors to look anywhere good on her. By someone else’s reckoning, I am, amusingly enough, ‘that fair doctor’. And somewhere in the middle, I am my own spotty, tan-armed and pale-legged, dark circled and healthily scarred color.

Just that I like my version of it. Because I’m more than my color. And I happen to like that.


Until next rant,

Your ever lovin’ Cookie ❤

Pilgrim By Proxy



It’s hard to live at the mercy of a sixty five year old man, who has the stamina to walk up twelve flights of stairs, and reserves the energy to mock you all the way. It makes you wonder, whether effective channeling of maniacal power is less disease and more tool, at the end of the day.


My parents recently returned from Hajj, the compulsory pilgrimage all Muslims must go on at least once in a lifetime, when they have the financial means to afford it. Depending on the spiritual window of the pilgrim, the experience is either an exercise of faith, or simply a series of exercises. Some people come back with a new recognition of God in every space. Others come back having merely visited God. So it’s entirely possible to return having had your tendency towards intro- or extrospection completely altered. It’s also possible to go on the pilgrimage, do every ritual by the letter, and come back with tales of how wonderful you were on the trip.


Suffice to say, I have one parent per category. The one who actually has had her soul truly stirred, keeps getting interrupted by the other one blithering about how he was mistaken for an Arab, a British man, a Nordic man, or whatever the whitest variant of man is. And in one room, you have a succinct summary of what it is to be Muslim- one, who loves the spiritual connection her religion helps her forge. A second, who is still heady off a lifetime of authority being a ‘good Muslim’ accords him. And a third, who hasn’t figured out how to hold on the tenuous but lilting call of faith, when every practical aspect of it in every day life has been so thoroughly cruel. A burr in a horse’s backside under the saddle. Or God’s fingernail. Whichever metaphor works on the said day.


Waves of visitors have been crashing onto our doorstep today. Everybody asks the same questions. People who’ve been to Hajj already, seem to inquire with almost a competitiveness. People who haven’t been yet, also have the same air of ‘Oh, did you do this? I read online that you’re supposed to.’ Barely a handful seemed to be genuinely interested in the answers they were getting, and not in the answers they were giving. It makes you wonder, how much of our conversations qualify as conversations. But then again, when you’re well versed in standing or sitting in a corner and serving,  being the audience isn’t so bad either. Especially since you have better conversations with a blank page later, in the privacy of your head. Ruminating about belief, the validation of it, our sense of seeking reinforcement from those around us. The subliminal tang of jealousy that people seem to have about something as inherently humble as going on a pilgrimage. The bizarreness of the exchanges, and the laughable overtones. It’s enough to drive an already sputtering belief system to a full stop, and then tumble headfirst over the line into full blown nihilism.


Then again, maybe it’s not God I need to be giving up on. It’s people.




I’ve been oscillating between reasons to write, and reasons not to write. My motivation for the first, the second, and both, has been my simultaneous need to feel. And the pure, sheer fear, of what I know is coming.

That if I allow myself to shake, I’ll fall apart. And nobody, not me, nor even you coming back would be able to put me back together again.

So I’ve been allowing myself some words. Mostly technical words. Dry, desiccated facts, terms and phrases that would drive a rock to boredom. I trapped every instinct pushing me to let everything screaming and hysterically laughing out, or even in words approximating it. I have been systematically, intentionally, exhausting myself to the point where my restless brain is forced to shut down by my aching body each and every night. There has been no space to feel, to think, to let any of this come anywhere the visible, palpable surface. Because it would make everything real. And I’m not ready for real. I’m not ready for the barest mention of real. Real means me having to face an endless stretch of truths.

But these lies, they sit like a hot coal in the middle of my chest. I don’t know which pain I prefer anymore.

I’m so, so alone. He’s not there. He’s not there. And that’s become the sum backbone of my existence. My days are propped up by stacks and bricks of work and responsibilities, because they are interspersed with.. nothing. Not him. Not the mention of him. Not even the fact that he doesn’t belong to me anymore. Not that I don’t belong to him. And never will.

I’ve been breathing in a handful of maudlin words. Admissions and tiny, tiny permissions of grief that I let myself briefly touch. Smear the closest letters I find onto a surface, pretend it’s poetry, and fall back into the forced, safe, nothingness. I’m craving solitude, terrified of my loneliness, and growing heartsick of the people I’m filling every inch of my day with. But the nights…

I miss him in every inch of the pale night. I cannot fathom how it can be this heavy, to carry a hollow inside. And I wonder. Which of these exhaustions will finally drive me to sleep.

Half Past Two 


Sometimes, words come to you at two thirty in the night. 

You don’t know the words yet. They hover just beyond the edge of consciousness. Half of them you want to attribute to epiphany. Half of them you know belong to a fever slowly coming down. 

Words. They grow like that, sometimes. 

And you find yourself leaving a comfortable bed, shrugging off a warm blanket that you suddenly can’t breathe under. And you know that it’s simultaneously too hot there, yet too cold and too empty to be lying in, all of a sudden. And the one warm body that could possibly make any of this livable is so, so far away at that moment. You can’t change that. Sometimes, he won’t even let you change it. 

Bodies. They rebel like that, sometimes. 

So you walk out to the porch, staying on the dark side, the one the harsh streetlight hasn’t stained golden yellow. You sit on yesterday’s newspaper that the wind threw to the floor, and you learn against the wall. You’re not sleeping, you’re wide, wide awake. The dream like quality of all this is painted deeper by the words that your heart promises will come. Sometimes they do come that way. But words are capricious, occasionally on purpose. They like to needle, to hurt a little, and watch the game play out. 

Hearts. They’re much of the same. They hurt like that, sometimes. 

This night’s chill is not good. My feet are wet from the dew, and I’m coughing again. Morning will be work, no more sick days left. And yet I’m loathe to leave this bare boarded surface, where the splinter is digging under my thumbnail. Boards are not meant to gripped for comfort. 

But neither are nights. And the edges of this one are painted with promises, and words, and the hope of a warm body who will look at mine and smile, and his heart won’t be capricious even when mine is. And till the moon goes down and the stars fade away, this breathlessness will stay with me, because none of that might happen, but the words still might. Sometimes, they do that. 

Twilight and trees, sleepless eyes and empty hearts. They come together like that, sometimes. 

My heart is so full, that I may burst

At the seams of my being, but yet 

I can’t kill this thirst

I walk this knife edge, veins 

Alight with madness 

Feverish wanderings compelling me

To gamble the dredges of sanity 

Tiptoeing reality, tonight

It’s not hard to do 

Speaking in the silences

I lie in the one place you’ll never be

And I watch for you 

Half Past Two 


To Catch A Thief, You Need A Shoe 




To Catch A Thief


To catch a thief, you need a shoe
And maybe some blueberries
Skim milk, cereal-oh wait, that’s for
Breakfast- no, get cherries

A pair of socks will do you well
A bed head is a must
An itchy toe is just the thing
A sense of self robust

Spirit, willing, determination
To go get yourself shot
At least, get 1-2 fractured knees
Work with what you’ve got

To catch a thief, you’ll need the shoe
Berries are for a distraction
The pair of socks to help you creep
Up closer, ninja action

The bed head so your silhouette will
Strike fear in the hearts of men
The itchy toe will keep you awake
Where courage fails; then

Surprise the bastard in the dark
Pelt him with fruit unseen
Let him feel the point of your shoe
Poking his neck, lean! Lean!

Put your weight into it, if
You only stretch up chest high
And keep the will to get shot handy
Thieves tend to be ready to fly

Between the milk, and the stabbing heel
You’ll have a thief ready to be caught
Good thing you saved the milk for breakfast
– look at that, didn’t even get shot.



My bedroom’s the one closest to the door. So at 4 am today, when the light outside flickered on and off for a minute, being the raging insomniac I am, I bolted awake. I listened very, very closely. There seemed to be some sort of scuffling near the gate. My dogs are on the other side. After a few moments of crippling sleep paralysis, I somehow moved with leaden limbs and dread pouring through me.

There was a thief in the house. 

I got out of bed, looked for a weapon, and picked up a heel off the rack. Then I picked up the blueberry jar in front of my door and tiptoed out very, very softly- Bruce lee would have been proud. In the span of two minutes visions of my dead family were dancing in front of me. It’s a wonder I didn’t flat out run or wobble in the dark- I’m one of those people who can trip on thin air. And I knew it- the front door was open.

I crept closer to the door from the darker side, just in case the burglar was standing on the outside. Still holding the heel- in retrospect, not a bad sleepy choice – and the damned blueberries. There was a steady clack-clack-clack coming from the yard- was he trying to get into the shed? Why did he leave the door open and go into the shed? Had he run out with something?

I did a quick survey of the hall. All the bedrooms seemed peaceful enough, all the doors shut. Swapped the berry jar for a torch on the counter and sneaked out into the yard, going barefoot and slowly because ninja and all that, but I didn’t want to surprise the man and get stabbed. I went around the house- he was there, a dark shape, washing something on the outside tap??? I froze, confused as hell. Suddenly he swung around and started walking towards the house, in my general direction. Now or never!- I let out an almighty shriek like an avenging banshee and jumped out onto him.

Hopped out, more like. Dad screamed right back at me.

He’d got an emergency call at work and was leaving. All the sneaky fuss had been to make sure he didn’t wake us up- mom had already gone back to their room. He was waiting in the yard for the cab to pick him up, when he noticed the dog’s dish was lying in the grass and went to rinse it. Which is when I came charging out from the side of the house in my pajamas, holding a high heel aloft. And all the screaming woke the dogs up, who, bless them, had slept through every scrape and rustle we’d made till the surprise-surprise!

I mean, my response isn’t completely kooky. This exact thing has happened before when I was little. One of the nights when dad was away, mom got up next to me suddenly and walked straight out to the living room and chased a burglar out. She’d counted an extra head, and instead of screaming, in a fit of adrenaline fueled courage, gone after the thief before he went into our rooms. She actually did chase the man out. And he was so shocked by this charging specter out of nowhere that he ran for it. He took all the VCR and the speaker system with him though. Mom chased him into the street, and then he just ran for it. It’s weird how almost ten years later, I did exactly the same thing.

And if you think I’m making any of this up, think again. It’s now 5 am and I’m writing this down because I can’t sleep, and what the actual fuck, I nearly my stabbed my father with a shoe.





To The Writer Who Sexted Me 










This is why I treat you with
Condescension and amusement in
Equal measure
You infinitely stupid creature
I am complexities and galaxies
Universes thinly restrained
Destruction and your two-celled mind melting
If I so deigned
I’m the weakest and strongest person you’ll
Ever meet
You should fear me, revere me
And I know this

But you’d rather call me ‘baby’
And ask to see my tits




To The Writer Who Sexted Me


I’m not even angry, to be entirely honest. The entire situation was so funny in a cringey way. Having a personal idol crumble down in front of you eyes and proceed to bonk you on the head during his descent- yep.  I’m sitting here with the most irrepressible bemused grin you can imagine.

The story here is that a writer whose work I’ve liked on multiple occasions, added me on Facebook. Given that we had about 35 writing friends in common already, and that I was a fan, I added him without thinking twice about it. I quickly skimmed down his ‘About’ page. I’d read most of his recent posts, oh look, he’s married and got a kid, how cute, new book in the works- and about five minutes later, when I’d gone back to work, a notification pops up.

Hello, gorgeous‘.

Ohkay.. It’s not unusual for some people, especially the British lot, to start off with a ‘hallo, beautiful’ or such like. I could let that slide. I responded with a ‘Hello, thank you for inviting me to be friends. I look forward to reading more of your work.’ I don’t know if the scaly old maggot stopped to even blink at my reply. Next notification reads-

Do you have Skype?’

This was definitely odd.  ‘No, I don’t use Skype.’ I wrote, a bit terse now. ‘What for?’

Oh, how sad‘ popped up. Then a few minutes of nothing, aaaaand-

So what are you wearing?’

I kid you not, I wasn’t even pissed. I decided to fuck with him a bit for being such a reptile right off the bat. ‘Excuse me?’

What are you wearing? You know.. clothes?

I didn’t reply to that. Then,

Do you speak English? Are you Greek?’

Do I speak English?  This guy has commented on one of my poems. I gave him a polite enough greeting to start off with. I think it was established that I do speak English. About ten minutes later and-

We should get to know each other better. Do you have Messenger? Whatsapp?’

I think you’re a little confused about something. Good bye.’ I unfriended him the moment I sent the message, and that was that.

Apparently not. A few hours later, my phone pings.

Hello, gorgeous.’ So unfriending people doesn’t mean they can’t message you anymore. ‘Are you in bed, darling? What are you wearing?’ That did it. I was debating whether or not to tell him to check what his mother was wearing while she fucks his dog, when-

What colour is your bra?’


Seriously. I mean, what is wrong with guy. He’s no spring chicken. He’s no drunk guy ambling over and asking me if it hurt when I fell, as if that’s the most ingenious pick up line every crafted (And incidentally, it should be a bro-code commandment never to use that, it stopped being funny twenty years ago). This is a guy with his wife somewhere around him. I’m closer to his son’s age than his. It doesn’t matter if you’re short or fat or bald, or tall and handsome and intimidatingly pierced. Surely by now he must have figured out that there is nothing so deeply unattractive that poufing around like a randy dodo on steroids. Or the verbal equivalent.

He kept messaging while I blocked him. And then he followed me on Twitter. It’s sad and hilarious at the same time. You’d think someone who writes fairly engaging political essays could have learned social cues by now.

Or learned to do anything but that.

To the writer who messaged me. I’ll keep it short, for the sake of brevity. You’re an ass








Destiny is such a strange thing

Some of us take the same paths

Twenty more are walking

All in a hurry to pass

The rest, and surge ahead

Treading on footsteps still fresh

Where the dust has not even settled yet

Repeating victories of our own imagining

But some of us stop, and

Carve roads of our own

Eschewing the rest, to

Where none existed

Hewn out of rock and stone

Scraggling through impassable terrains

Struggling to stand, then walk alone

Which is destiny?

Is the man who walks the beaten path

a man who cannot see?

If I burrow through a mountain for

My whole life

Is that foresight? Or tunnel vision?

What if the stream dries, halfway home

Before it reaches its destination?

Was that my part, or is carrying the pennant ahead, it?

How much is foretold? How much writ?

How much of myself do I follow,

what part do I create

What fraction is preordained, what value self made?

Have I chiselled myself for greater things

Or has Fate?

Because there are footprints behind me

And nothingness where I push through to

Destiny, you are a strange thing

And I don’t know, whether

Ambition or folly are winning,

But how much of this is me

And how much you?

(c) CM


I ask to give credit,  I ask to lay blame. For every decision I chose to take, I can count two that I had to take- and even with my choices, where did the choices come from?

Who am I, to plan and scheme and chart my future? I don’t even know what I’ll have for dinner tomorrow night. Every time you switch the TV on, you hear of so-and-so number of people who were killed by an attack or killed in a retaliation. Did they decide to become a statistic? Did someone make them a statistic? Who made them a number? Am I a number, are you?

And what have I done, that I was allowed to live, and agonise over stupid things like what shoes I should wear today, when in some corner of this human hive, someone looked at the sky with flickering life for the last time? Am I worth more than them? I know I’m not. Luck, merest chance keeps us alive. Something unidentifiable keeps us alive. Master of my fate, captain of my soul- really?

I think not.

Whether or not you choose to believe in a higher power, believe in this. You are inches away of from being a statistic. You are a passenger, you are evanescent, you are inconsequential, you are mortal. You are small.

But you are not weak.

We choose what we leave behind. Even if we do not choose our options, we have some control over our choices. We are all here, and we are all leaving, sooner or later.

Choose what you will leave behind. That much, I think, is left to us to see. That much is not just destiny.

Love, love, and light,

Cookie ❤

Calliope Live!

Hey y’all!


I’m going to do a Facebook Live session later today. If any of you want to tune in, find me  (Calliope S Lyre) there or leave a poke here for me, and I’ll find you! I’ll be doing a sort of Q and A, so if  you have any questions, fire away! 🙂


Also if you want me to read any of my poems out loud, I’ll try to do that. Just leave the name or the link in the comments below!


Happy Cookie Weekend!