One of the most enriching, forward-thinking, fastest-growing online creative communities flourishing right now is the Poetry community, especially in those scenes that center on marginalized voices — Women, POC, Neurodivergent, and LGBTQ. Poetry Spotlight is a feature aiming to showcase the work of some of the most talented creators we’ve discovered making waves on the Internet literary circles, inside or outside the mainstream. This installment is dedicated to the work of Amerah Saleh.
Amerah is a spoken word artist born and bred from Birmingham. Her Muslim Yemeni roots give her space to get lost and found on multiple occasions between identities. She is the cofounder of Verve Poetry Press and a Producer at Free Radical as part of The Beatfreeks Collective. Amerah has performed all around Europe and released her first collection called I Am Not From Here in April 2018. Her work touches on identity, womanhood, religion and the obscure idea of belonging only to one place.
Amerah’s writing and performance has been stunning audiences for quite some time. An artist who mixes passion with fiery intelligence and an uncanny insight into what it is to be human. She works in theatre, performance and poetry aiming to find new ways to engage communities and share secrets from within her own community. She has performed around the world, sharing her stories and connecting with people. Poetry has taken her around the world sharing stories with people and also gathering them for her own suitcase when she needs them. Amerah Saleh has performed around the country at events and festivals, and has received commissions from Sampad, BMAG, mac birmingham, Channel 4, Eastern Electronic Festival, TedxBrum, Library of Birmingham, REP Theatre and Watford Palace. She has performed around the world, sharing her stories and connecting with people. She has performed and created pieces in Birmingham, London, Oxford, Preston, Scotland, Ireland, Poland, Bosnia, New York, Budapest, Austria, Belgium and San Francisco.
Birmingham 2 Aden
I often wondered what you would do if I left,
Would you take a minute of silence to mourn my absence?
More like disregard the empty part of your belly and carry on
You are made of so much beauty,
You hide it behind walls I am not tall enough to climb
I want to explore your body,
Some parts of you have been forbidden for me
You break me
Each time you make a decision for us
I fall out of love with you
There is a battle inside my being,
And of despising who you are becoming
You are so still in your change,
You nonchalantly brush off what they’re trying to make you
I am angry, ashamedly
I am trying to un-love you
When I don’t want to think of you
I often take my mind to her
Think of her Ottoman Empire like body
The smell of her perfume reeking on my skin
How my heart can feel broken and whole at exactly the same time
She never has an empty belly or lets anyone leave with an empty stomach
She will greet a newcomer into her home with salt and crack an egg to remove bad spirits
She has loved too hard and is spending her life apologising for it
My tongue is stained off her,
My tears taste like her water
She is broken now
And I am stealing the bricks from my mind to fix her
I want to fix her with each fibre of my being
I want her to be fixed
I know I may never see her again
I may never be able to witness her grow again,
How my mother witnessed her mountains rebuild themselves from sand
Her image has become vague
I Google her to remind myself what she looks like
My god, she’s beautiful.
She’s so beautiful.
Forgive me Father
Forgive me father,
I have taken your words and interpreted it as my own.
Taken people from you and influenced them in what I understand.
I have skin that is coloured in colours the eye cannot bear.
For my father was never there to tell me how to make it right
For my father has just walked in,
Forgive me father for the father you gave me has misunderstood what it is to be, I think.
For i have fought
I have started war
I have founded my own foundations of family
Father, your eyes look tired, like you’ve been watching out for us whilst we have been asleep
Father, your mind seems lost in your own words you wrote
Father I am trying to love like I am told
But my eyes love what they see,
hands love what they hold,
ears love the sound of those
Father the words you wrote down have never been outdated,
so me dating seems to be out in the open and I am figuring out what my father would have
said to me had he been the father you asked of him.
Father, I have skin
Skin that is brown
Skin around edges that curve like wo-man
Skin that gets dry
Skin that needs cream
Skin that needs no man to make it warm
Skin that is scratched and skin that is torn
Skin that has changed from when I was born
Skin that has been on show
And skin that is hidden
Skin that is scared of love
Skin that has been told it’s forbidden
Forgive me father
For I have sinned
For I have sin in me
For I love a sin
For sin loves me
Forgive me father for I have skin that sins
Forgive me father for I have skin
Forgive father for all the sin
The sin I will do
The sin I have to do
Forgive me father for the sin of me is the skin of others.
I imagine she is finding out stories of each tattoo you’ve carefully inked into your skin before I do,
finding out your darkest memories from years I weren’t apart of.
Finding the surface level down to the dead Virgin Mary on your inner arm by your wrist.
That she treads her warm soft hands across your arm and you find comfort in her meddling,
that she wants to know your story tonight.
She will leave when you have just fallen asleep,
drunk on curiosity and the idea that someone wants to hold you.
The scent of ink and cigarette is spinning around the room from early hour wondrous discoveries.
I am sure you won’t remember her name,
Guaranteed she will remember yours.
Muttered under your breath in a sweat filled club night with a whiskey in one hand
insecurity in another.
She remembers the way your lips move when you say your own name,
you weren’t even looking when she said hers.
Coming home to nobody is just as lonely as coming home to somebody holding secrets, disguised as wrinkles at the corner of their eyes.
I switch myself off paranoia mode,
tell myself words are as much as a promise than touch
that your words are a promise to us.
I stir a teabag in my mug,
thirty irritating clicks of the spoon hitting the mug,
in a light pink dressing gown,
a stupid lavender scented cushion in the microwave.
Sometimes I pour whiskey on my cushion cover,
imagine you tip toeing home from a night out.
Whiskey glass on the side of the kitchen cabinet.
I like to think I know you,
even if only a little.
Fantasy keeps us close together,
my imagination says someone closer is better than someone further away.
Wanting you to be loved is a stronger desire than me being the one.
We can say time is non-existent,
a myth in our world
5 hours behind means 5 more hours of your feet on a dance floor with eyes wide open
my head on a pillow with eyes closed
If I am not there,
how will you remember me?
You don’t remember people.
You fall for stories.
My story is you.
You don’t fall in love with yourself as often as I want you to.
My tea is cold,
I forgot to take the lavender pillow out the microwave.
Your name pops up on my screen
“Hi mujer [quien]
paso toda las hora del dia”
My body wants to hold you,
5,116 miles away type
“You were missed, how was the party?”
She is a mythical angelic light,
That sits on her tattered weathered down maglis
wondering whether her sons are coming home for lunch
She aligns the overused curtains across the balcony to dry
The long grandfather clock dangles its existence into the room to remind her of time.
Her sons are bloodied red meat rebels fighting the devil for blessings,
Their coal stained chipped fingernails remind them of the elbow grease they put into home.
They wrap her into exorbitant ribbons of gold for solitude and protection.
She, she is the acrylic softness on a paintbrush breastfeeding two babies at once.
Whilst her feet flake off excess of disorientated bodies into her eyeliner outside,
She does not know of sons who come home.
[All poems come from Amerah’s collection I Am Not From Here available to purchase now]
Photography by Paul Stringer – @ThePaulStringer