for every woman i have ever known

Amani Mahmoud


my mother’s hands, protruding veins embroided onto age old skin

like roadmaps leading to nowhere

hands that have kneaded too much atta

hands that have held too many broken things

i watch them drown in the moonlight

and i can’t help but say

i want a life that is nothing like yours

i don’t want sacrifice

and she recoils


she says this is my choice

she runs on open, bloody wounds

towards a narrowing horizon

towards a sunset perpetually out of reach and says to me

these are my choices don’t you ever look me in the eyes i gave you and have the courage to pity me

she says choice but how can i see choice

when i see her mother, her mother’s mother

all the women in my family, all the women i have ever known


i see the wounds they held closed with calloused hands


i see the sewing of smiles into tired, weathered faces


i see unreasonable compromise after unreasonable compromise


i see them standing in shallow graves


i see them just being in the wrong place at the wrong time


think of all the slit necks and all the blood spilt just so he could drink, just so he could see something red


i see acid tears burning their hands that they made the mistake of crying into

they made the mistake of whispering their fears into


i see generations of frustration that she’ll only ever show through a single sigh

i saw the light leave my friend’s eyes

when she told me she’s going back to him

she’s giving this abusive man another try


my cousin calls with a split lip and with a joker-like smile says “what? nothing happened?” and then she drowns in denial

and i’ll always ask why she stays and goes through enduring this exhausting mess

people i know have left for a lot less


she said don’t you worry

i’ll drink the blood that they took

until it pours from my eyes

and maybe then you’ll realise that i don’t need help i don’t need pity i’m doing just fine


she’s free from him now, at least there’s that,

but she told me she can’t help but miss the knife in her back


i remember when my cousin’s abuser died (a different cousin)

she said it doesn’t matter

and that her jaw still clicks

and her mind still plays tricks

when she sees him at night

and when someone touches her she’ll always flinch


i tell my mother i still pray for a life nothing like theirs

and i know we’ll always disagree


but she says instead you should pray to be anything, anything like me.