Bryana Joy

Vibrant Photos That Show What the Middle East is Really Like

(title of January 18, 2019 VICE article highlighting photographer Ali Al-Shehabi)

In every way he can, he is saying his country is beautiful too.
The curls of carnation against the wall are witness,
the gold-headed gahwa cups peering over each other
parse this riot of tenderness:
the open Quran resting in the crook of the rehal,
the black hair on the model’s head and legs and arms,
the Calvin Klein boxers over which his belly
only just begins to spill, the scent of the coffee,
the white Saturday on the walls.
And I don’t for a minute doubt him.
I also hold a land in my heart

               as sweet as the last sip of amber çay
in a tulip glass with the sugar cube still crumbling
               as joyous as a cross-legged meal on the carpet,
everyone eating from the same dish
               as hearty as a haul of hazelnuts
being husked through the night in a circle of song
               as golden as hot lokma
in a borrowed bowl
               as generous as yellow plums appearing 
like bulbs of summer light
               as sparse as a little boy with no pants
peering over a wall of smashed oil cans
               as impaired as the amca’s one milky eye
when he said keep a stick on her back and a child in her belly.

When I was eleven I stepped into a room
full of a table covered with
a thousand parted lips and pairs of glowing legs,
piles of arched backs, little waists, bubble breasts; 
on all the walls, chairs
occupied by men    
filling ashtrays, flipping pages.
I went into the street. I walked
up and down to console myself.

About everything there is 
so much to be told.
Let us not be afraid 
to tell it all.

Bryana Joy is a writer, poet, and painter who works full-time sending illustrated snail mail letters all over the world. She has lived in Turkey, East Texas, and England, and currently lives in Eastern Pennsylvania with her husband. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in an assortment of literary journals, including Beloit Poetry Journal, Chestnut Review, and Red Rock Review. She has a thing for thunderstorms, loose-leaf tea, green countrysides, and the music of Johann Sebastian Bach.