Who Gives Us the Permission to Exist?

Dear God, if only you knew the sound
coming out of my mouth
was pleasure not pain, if only
how the ways we touch each other
can be both. The scramble to decide who we are
originated not so long ago. If words mean something
then choosing holds all the power. Flesh is flesh is flesh only
when it’s dead. Alive, it is skin and bones and smiles and slaps
and foreign and loved and close and new and perishable
and hurt and the redness of standing out
in the cold with not much on. Stab me in the back
why don’t you? The trust we feel
has been given to us by men
who treat children like play things
and women like vessels. Don’t stop there
we must criticize and criticize
with an openness like the potholes in Montreal.
Saying one thing and meaning another
has not led us anywhere. Speak the truth, they say
but what is the truth
when we’re all holding on
to something different. What is the truth
when the lies we tell ourselves
help us sleep at night.



Eli Tareq El Bechelany-Lynch is a queer Arab poet living in Tio’tia:ke, unceded Kanien’kehá:ka territory. Their work has appeared in The Best Canadian Poetry 2018 anthology, GUTS, carte blanche, the Shade Journal, The New Quarterly, Arc Poetry Magazine, and elsewhere. They were longlisted for the CBC poetry prize in 2019. You can find them on Instagram and Twitter @theonlyelitareq. Their book, knot body, was published by Metatron Press September 2020, and their upcoming poetry collection, The Good Arabs, will be published by Metonymy Press in 2021.