Tuesday, January 26, 2010


                                             "The Fabulous Racetrack of Death"
                                                                                   by Roberto Matta

it happened again today
i remembered you
though you rarely cross my mind
i don’t know why you did today
cross my mind that is
i think it was the boy that was walking down the hall
with his hairless head bald but not shaved
bald with the sickness that you knew so well
and he walked past me like he didn’t see me
but then he turned around and said hello miss
and i said hello toni
and he smiled that weak smile that he tried so hard to make work
and so i remembered you thierry with your smile
all that time ago
the memories fell on me like warm rain
and i remembered the day that it happened
we were all sitting in french lit class discussing l’étranger
and you kept dropping your pencil on the ground on purpose
just to make us laugh
and dr rizk kept turning from the board and telling you to
stop fooling around and fait attention
then she went around to get one of those pointers she loved to use
and you dropped your pencil again
and when you bent down to pick it up that last time
you banged your head on the bottom of your desk that didn’t budge
didn’t make room for less pain
but sat there solid and allowed you to hit it
and you came in after the weekend with a bandage on your head
and we all thought
how odd it is to need a bandage for a minor bang
but that wasn’t the end of that because after a couple of days
you came in with a larger bandage and said
they’d had to shave off some of your hair
right there where the bandage is you said 
they had to shave so they could stitch
but that wasn’t the end of that because after a couple more days
you came in with your whole head shaved
and wrapped in a large dressing
and we all got scared because this is not normal
but that wasn’t the end of that because after a couple more days
you came in with your whole head wrapped
and the bandage was tied all the way around your chin
and you wrote us a note and said
i can’t talk because it makes my head move
and that was when the darkness started to fall on us
our small group of eight in that french lit class and dr rizk the ninth
eight wannabe scholars who got together with their teacher
to read balzac and zola and maupassant for shits and grins
but that wasn’t the end of that because after a couple more days
you didn’t come back to school
and this happened in early february and dragged into its end
and i remember it because march was coming up
and i kept wondering
will thierry make it to my birthday party
i was young and selfish and thought of my own wants
and i wanted you there to make me laugh like you always did
so i called your maman and she said you weren’t doing well
but that i could visit you in the hospital
hospital i’d said thierry is in the hospital
so i asked my mother to drive me to the hospital
after school the next day

and i remembered
i remembered in drama class when
we went backstage to read our trojan women script
and work on our blocking and then decided to run off
and get a pizza on rd 9 and so we went
running and running and running with the wind in our hair
and the devil in our blood
and caught a cab right outside the school gate
and put together our coins so we could pay the driver
and went to get our pizza
and didn’t have enough money to each get our own
but had enough to buy one pizza and share it
one slice for each of us but back then one slice was enough
and we were all skinny as a rail and food was just food
but it wasn’t even about the pizza thierry
it was about the thrill we shared at having skipped class
and knowing we’d be in trouble ‘cause we’d already been seen by
mr marshall’s assistant as we ran off campus
while she was coming in
and she’d given us a look like i’ve caught you
and we’d looked through her like she was the air
and we’d laughed out loud ‘cause we knew we were getting it
so what the hell might as well live it up now
it wasn’t like we were going to be in less trouble
if we were gone for only half the class
and i remembered in french lit class
when you’d climbed up on a chair
while dr rizk was out in the hall with another teacher
and you’d set the clock above her board ahead 10 minutes
so dr rizk had dismissed us 10 minutes early
and we’d all exploded with laughter
and fell over each other as we ran down the hall
but then one of us had had a change of heart
and said this isn’t right and that one was you thierry
the very one who had changed the clock
and we’d all gone back to class and admitted our deed to dr rizk
and she’d cried and said
why would you do this to me what did i ever do to deserve this
and we’d all been mortified with guilt and gone up to dr rizk
one by one
and hugged her and said we were sorry we’d never do it again
and i remembered the countless times
we’d gotten together to study for those
ridiculous vocab tests dr stein gave us every week
75 words a week plus etymology plus define in your own words
plus two sentences for each word plus bla bla bla
and this happened
it happened
your maman and papa had waited twelve years for you to arrive
twelve years of tests and hopes and shattered dreams
as you had told us
and then i was conceived and then i was born and then i became
as you had told us
and maman and papa were the happiest people in the world
and that had been the end of that story
at that point
but now i was in this hospital room
sickly blue like the color of tired veins beneath parchment skin
and looking down at you
so weak and helpless in your bed that was not your bed
and listening to you as you said
they came and took me in this big ambulance nevine
and watching as you licked your brick-hard lips moist
the lights were crazy nevine
red and blue and red and blue and spinning and spinning
and your maman was sitting on a small chair by the window
her head in her hand
and the door opened and in came the doctor a doctor another doctor
and one of them asked me to leave thierry can you imagine the gall
but your maman said it’s okay she can stay
and the doctor said i’m sorry to inform you madame
but it appears the tumor is beginning to metastasize rapidly
and i’ll tell you this
my mother had made me read the fucking dictionary
every day from the day i was seven until i was seventeen
and in dr stein’s class we’d learned 75 vocab words a week
and even with my dictionary reading and dr stein’s vocab lists
i still didn’t know what the hell metastasize meant
so i reached my hand in my back pocket
and pulled out a pen and scribbled the word
on the inside of my hand because thierry
i didn’t know what the fuck that word meant
but i did know that word sounded pretty damn sinister
and tumor
who had said anything about a tumor
these doctors must be in the wrong room
but no
it seemed
that small bang on the desk
had triggered some dormant something in your head
or at least that’s what the doctor said
triggered and dormant
and i’d never heard the word trigger 
used outside of the context of a gun
he used the word trigger which
i can no longer hear without thinking of you thierry
and when i realized
when i realized
i remembered
all those countless times our small group of eight had held hands
like children
out on our school’s green soccer field under the cairo sun
and bounced around in a circle singing
sur le pont d’avignon
on y danse on y danse
sur le pont d’avignon
on y danse tous en rond
and we’d bounced around
high school seniors going on kindergarten
but i wanted to know what that word meant
so i got home and pulled out my worn-out webster’s
with years of my graffiti all over it
i got home and voluntarily picked up that dictionary
and i looked up that word that
the doctor had let slip from his mouth
so swiftly so smoothly
and when i read the definition my mouth fell wide open 
like i was catching flies 
and there you were in your hospital bed that was not your bed 
thinking i don’t know what if you were even thinking anymore
and this happened
it happened
i came back to see you in your hospital room
that was not your room
and you looked at me and said
i want to fly to my silver castle in the sky
and i said
why not a golden castle
it seems a more becoming color don’t you think
and you said
no it’s too bright and in your face
a silver castle suits me just fine
and my heart went doink pinch bleed
because fuck
i was seventeen and you were eighteen
and death was not in our world
or not supposed to be
nor were those needles they had pinned
to your arms and your legs
or those tubes with
clear liquids going in and colored liquids coming out
or those horrifying doctor statements like
sometimes we have to poke several times before finding a vein
and i did not understand why
for the life of me
someone who had a tumor in his head should be
poked all over and bled
and i did not understand why
those doctors answered most of the questions they were asked with
i don’t know
or why the priest that your maman brought over
to pray for you said
i don’t know
or why the holistic healer who came with oils and crystals said
i don’t know
or why you couldn’t come to school anymore
or go swimming anymore
or come to my birthday party
i mean you had a tumor and we all knew you were dying
but why couldn’t they let you die doing what you wanted to do
and this happened
it happened
i came to visit you one day and you were all but gone
laying there with a tube sticking out of your chest
and tubes stuck in your arms and in your legs
and a strange looking pump stuck on your head
does it hurt i said
yes you said
do you cry i said
yes you said but not in front of maman
are you afraid of me nevine
do i scare you now
just a little i said i’ve never known anyone who… you know…
is dying you asked
yeah i said
i’m tired nevine you said
i’ll let you rest then
and i went
but not before clutching your hand between both of mine
and you asked when i die will it hurt
and it was my turn now to say i don’t know
because i didn’t know
and you asked me when i die where will i go
and i said i don’t know
and you asked me will they bury me underneath the ground
and i said i don’t know
but then
didn’t you say you wanted to fly to your silver castle in the sky
and I cried and you said don’t cry nevine
and you said my name as it should be said
avec un accent aigu sur le premier ‘e’
and i held your hand still and prayed
like i’d only prayed once before
and this happened
it happened
my mama was on her way to hospital to deliver my little sister
and i made a promise that if my mama came back alive if if…
and i had never finished the prayer…
but my mama did come back alive
with my healthy baby sister in tow
and i’d never given that unfinished promise a second thought
but now i prayed for you thierry
while this cancer metastasized and killed you
i prayed and said you were so young and so sweet and
so intelligent
and why you
but it was like my prayer was
falling on deaf ears and blind hearts
even as i was saying it
and it went unanswered
and you were taken away quietly and gently
on a warm and sunny day of may
23 days before we were all supposed to
graduate in the shadow of the sphinx
you were taken away

and i don’t think of you often thierry
but when i do it is always with a memory of your very blue eyes
and the cairo sun shining through your golden hair
and your childlike laughter
and us holding hands
you and me and jéhane and sandrine and
karim and hervé and sherine and tareq
and us going around in a circle on that green soccer field
in the middle of what should be an arid desert
holding hands and singing
sur le pont d’avignon
and i don’t know thierry
if you and i would know one another today
if you were still alive
or if we would be in touch
or if i would remember you or you would remember me
but i do know i remember you every now and then
when i see a boy walking down the hall
with his hairless head bald but not shaved
bald with the sickness that you knew so well
and he walks past me like he doesn’t see me
but then he turns around and says hello miss

you come into my head
you fall on me like warm rain
and when you do i feel that doink pinch bleed in my heart
and i tear up
but then i smile because how could i think of you and not smile
it would not be possible
and how could i think of you and not sing

we sing 
like children 
who will 
forever sing
and stay


  1. That was one of the saddest things I ever read. You always impress me with your outstanding talent!


  2. Nevine

    People touch us, and become so much a part of us, that when we bleed, they bleed, even when they are long departed.

    There's a current running through this post that will hold anyone who reads it.

  3. I was sweptaway by your words, Nevine...this was beautiful, and yet haunting...to have felt such deep loss at such a tender age....oh..........
    we sing

    like children

    who will

    forever sing

    and stay



    Your friend, forever a child, singing...what a wonderful way to remember someone. Thank you for opening your heart to us,

  4. Aww, Nevine, what a sad and touching story!.I feel tears dropping on my cheeck.
    Love never dies.
    Extremely beautiful!! You hooked me, as usual.

  5. Je ne sais quoi dire d'autre à part que deux rivières coulent sur mes joues*

    Que notre bonne étoile nous préserve de telles épreuves, car quoi de plus terrible que de voir la mort emmener des êtres chers et cela d'autant plus à un âge où il reste encore tellement de choses à vivre*

    Des étoiles de tendresse
    je laisse*******

  6. absolutely beautiful. what a wonderful tribute to someone who touched your heart and what a wonderful friend you were to be there until the end because a lot of people are too afraid of death.

    much love

  7. there is more love and devotion in these words, these many and well crafted, gracefully remembered words - there is more love in this than my heart can bare tonight... i thank you.


  8. "It was beautiful
    Beyond any singing of it"


    You broke my heart with that...

    And that meta word, metastasize

    Is an oversize awful word

    I hate that word

    A word no one should ever know




    Oh Nevine, you broke my heart...

    If only we could turn

    The clock back again

    After we'd set it forward...

  9. Névine. I don't even know how to comment on this, it is so moving. I was tearing up through the whole thing. What a sad sad thing! My god. But once again, in the telling, your writing is so absolutely captivating. Engaging. Your writing is like hands that grab the eyes and won't let go. Thierry was lucky to have had a friend in you so you could memorialize him so incredibly beautifully.

  10. This was the most powerful thing I have read, and by far your best piece because it carries a piece of your soul with it.

    I cried. I don't think I can swallow at the moment. I'm speechless.

  11. I was so moved to tears reading this piece. The way you have described the minute detail makes me feel as if I was there in that French class and knew Thierry and saw him as he was in the hospice.

    Very poignantly described. Almost like a ballad albeit a very sad one.

    Joy always,

  12. P. S: I like the picture of you and your husband. You both look lovely together :-)

  13. so so very sad... i just couldn't stop reading...

  14. Secretia – Thank you, my dear.

    Martin – “People touch us, and become so much a part of us, that when we bleed, they bleed, even when they are long departed.” That is so very true. There was much bleeding of flesh and mind and gut, but overwhelmingly, there was togetherness.

    Steven – And thank you for sharing these moments, so precious, with me.

    Betty – You’re right: love never dies. And true friends are loved and remembered forever.

    Crémilde – Je suis désolée de t’avoir fait pleurer. Mais je sais que c’est une histoire vraiment triste, et ça, parce que c’est une histoire vraie. J’ai attrapé les étoiles que tu m’as rendues. Vraiment spéciale…! Merci, ma chère.

    Stacey – I am afraid of death, too. I’ve watched people slip into it so peacefully, but I’m still afraid…

    Kim – You are so so kind to say that. I thank you for it.

    Owen – I hate that word, too. I’ve hated it since I first heard it. It sounds as insidious as it operates. “If only we could turn the clock back again…” Sometimes I think I would and sometimes I think I wouldn’t. But I’d make the choices of turning back time for only myself. I’m too cowardly to make choices for the departed. Thank you so much for the beautiful little poems that you always leave behind... :-)

    Cat – It was the feeling that came out in the telling, I think. I was at work, today, and it was just like I said it. That boy was walking down the hall and I was just standing at my door. And though he knows me, he just walked by me and didn’t say anything, and then he turned around and said “Hello, Miss”. And I looked at his head and at his eyes and it was like I was taken right back… to Thierry.

    Eva – Thank you for sharing that opinion with me. I think that every time someone we know well and love dies, they take a piece of our soul with them.

    Susan – I think you would’ve loved Thierry to bits. He was funny and smart and fragile, all at once. Oh, and thank you for the comment about the photo of my husband and me. :-)

    Caio – Thank you, dear friend.

    Shadow – Sad, yes. Very…

  15. In my mind the next morning, thinking about this poem, I am filled with images of your youth in Cairo and I hear all this sweet laughter and innocence. There is just a magical transporting that happens when you write in this streaming way. Your writing is a magic carpet and we fly on it to wherever you want to take us.

  16. Speechless.

    This poem is such a huge undertaking.

    Because of it, both of you have lived more.

  17. Lyrical and profound.
    What a talent you have. I'm so very glad to know you and your work.
    Also I see from you profile that you are a boar so this is to be a brilliant and lucky year for you according to Chinese astrology.
    Warmest regards,

  18. Nevine, I was brought to tears reading this tragedy! While working on an oncology unit for three years, I witnessed several young adults in their final days, surrounded by friends and family... and hurt and pain and loss. I sensed your confusion and feelings of loss. I visualized it in my head....

    Yes, Thierry was fortunate to have you there. How touching!

  19. The kreativ blogger award is waiting for you @ No excuse No explanation....enjoy ;)

  20. I loved that to bits, Nevine. Dramatic,profound and achingly powerful. A beautiful, beautiful read before bed. :)

    Steph x

  21. Cat – I’m so touched by your comment, because what I always try for most when I write is to transport the reader to the place. But I find that when I want to write about a truly personal experience, one that I really lived, I’m most comfortable with streaming it because I don’t have to worry about the conventions of language and structure and all of that. I just start writing and I even close my eyes. And then it just flows… This was a painful memory for me, and I felt slightly relieved after writing about it. Thank you, Cat, for feeling it so deeply inside your heart.

    Jason – It was a painful undertaking, and yes, huge. But along with the painful memories came the beautiful ones, and yes, I do agree that we’ve both lived more.

    Simone – I do hope for good luck this year… don’t we all? And I know some of my writing can be dark and heavy, and so very different from what you enjoy writing about, so I’m truly happy you were able to stomach this and appreciate it. Thank you, my dear.

    Roxy – I can’t imagine working in an oncology unit for a single day… I would be broken after one minute, so bless you for having done that. And thank you for understanding where all of this was coming from. I appreciate your visit, Roxy. :-)

    Steven – Why are you so sweet to me? Thank you, Steven. I’m speechless at your kindness. :-)

    Steph – Oh my, I hope you don’t have nightmares. :-) I’m so glad you liked it…

  22. and this happened... and it happened...

    And I've happened to cry my eyes out in the toilet just now after reading your beautiful, beautiful memory. It's so well-crafted, eliciting laughter and reflection from the reader. You're a magician.

    And this:

    'the memories fell on me like warm rain'

    Synchronicity is a marvellous effect of minds thinking in tandem.

    Thanks, Mitra. :-)

    Greetings from London.

  23. "i see a boy walking down the hall
    with his hairless head bald but not shaved"

    You opened up, just as Proust did with his madeleine, a well of memories that go straight to the heart of what emotion is and,through that emotion, to what life is. Masterfully done.

  24. dear nevine - i read this the other day - so haltingly beautiful it is - and was sure that i had left a comment as i always do but today, my note is not to be found - was having computer problems so maybe that's what happened - in any event, here today to re-read and it of course is just as powerful if not more so, like great homemade stew, the second and third times! just wonderfully beautiful! oh, and i, too, noticed the glowing photo of you and yours - a more beautiful couple not to be found!

  25. Cuban - It is amazing how synchronicity works, isn't it? I read that passage you had selected from "Reading Lolita in Tehran" and I thought, "Amazing!" But that is exactly how memories feel, isn't it? Even to you? Like warm rain? Say it's so... Thank you for sharing this precious memory with me, Cuban.

    Judith - It seems that reality is always more "real" than fiction. Why would it be otherwise, though? How could it be? And, by the way, I love Proust. Many find him depressing and difficult to read, but the man is a genius of understanding human emotion. I thank you, Judith, for the "masterfully done" - I do appreciate it immensely.

    Jenean - Our comments sometimes disappear into cyberspace. I've had that happen to me a few times. No worries. I'm happy to hear your computer troubles are over, and that you enjoyed this piece of my soul. And the photo... yes... isn't he just so handsome? ;-) Thank you, Jenean!

  26. I love it but this is so sad. Why dont you use your wonderful talent to write some happy stories and poems from time to time. I dont know others but I really need to read them.

  27. I have a lump in my throat that won’t seem to go away now…


  28. Turquoise - I've dabbled in writing happy before and generally feel that when I do that my writing comes out sounding very 'put together.' My worst nightmare is writing that sounds fake, or has a decorated voice. I try to be true to myself in everything I do, especially with my blog. My purpose here is always to be true to my inner self. I am a very happy person with a very dark mind, and my writing is a reflection of that. I'm sorry if my writing makes you uncomfortable, but I can't make my writing about appeasing others; it is my true self, and I must remain true to it. That having been said, every once in a while, I have written pieces that are on the lighter side of things, but that is the exception rather than the rule.

    Reaper - :-(

  29. Turqoise, I hope you don't mind my replying to your comment. I personally can't find anything to complain about on Nevine's blog. Everything she writes sings to my heart. Even in this piece, I found so much that made me happy. Yes, someone died, this is the story of that and that is sad, but there was so much within the story that was lovely and innocent and beautiful, like a jewel, carved out of the sadness, a celebration of life and living is contained in this post. I feel a little sad that you would take this moment to complain when Nevine clearly wrote this with every fibre of her heart. Just sayin'...

  30. oh why cannot stop crying... please do not do this again love- please do not... I've come a few times. only today i could finish it. do not do this again. or please do it with a warning notice that says: 'this can badly hurt those who have experienced the going of a beloved in a bed which was not theirs...'

    great post though
    My sweet queen

  31. Beatiful!!!
    Roberto Matta. he was a genial painting surrealist artisit of Chile.
    I wath so much works of him ,here in Bs As
    Osk Doyle

  32. Oh this is beyond touching, Nevine and the line...

    "and there you were in your hospital bed that was not your bed"... this just went right through me...I cannot tell you how this "song of love" as Caio so eloquently stated has moved me.

    * and on a happier note ~you and your man are a gorgeous couple!

  33. What a beautiful tribute to your friend. Death is a difficult concept for most of us to grasp, but when we are confronted by it as children/teenagers it changes us.

  34. That was absolutely beautiful. It made me cry. You have such a talent. And what a wonderful tribute to your friend. xx

  35. There's a whole story behind this, but what you've written is sad and beautiful. Needs several readings to do it justice.

  36. It is perfect, as thierry was perfect, as you all were dancing and singing, as the day is, as is our beginning and even our end. Beautiful. poignant. perfect.


  37. I am very touched by the intensity of your feelings. Your feelings are my feelings because we are all one. I have gone through chemo, radiations etc and cannot forget the kids going for the same treatments as me. I pray a million time to me never to my kids.

    Love& rainbow

  38. The beauty, for me, is in the tranquillity of your reflection. Powerful writing. Stunning. Thanks for sharing.

  39. That is beautiful, I have never heard of either of you before today, but I am crying. It is a good kind of cry, a release. Thank you.
    I am a nurse who works with some Oncology patients, may I print this and post it up at work?

  40. Sometimes life happens and then it really comes down to what a person is going to do with it. Sometimes that is hard.

    I really enjoyed reading the reality of what you were sharing.

    Tom Bailey

  41. Cat - Thank you for the support; you don't know how much I appreciate it. My writing comes from inside, and nobody tampers with inside... :-)

    Dulce - Sorry to have made you cry, but yes, we've all had a similar experience, and it is always such pain.

    Osk - Thank you. And I do love Matta's work; he's a genius!

    Calli - I appreciate your feelings. And thank you much about the pic of my husband and me. ;-)

    Felicitas - It certainly does change us, especially because we were so unprepared for its arrival. Thank you so much for stopping in!

    Akasha - I daresay it wasn't so much my talent that was speaking, here, but the feeling in the depth of my soul. I'm so happy you thought it was beautiful.

    Mme. DeFarge - It's true; there is a whole story. Thank you for reading this part that I've shared.

    Erin - Thank you so much; I'm so touched.

    Lorenza - I'm so sorry, but I never knew you were a cancer survivor. It is a terrible thing that strikes, and I hope you are safe from it forever, now.

    UnifiedG - I tried to be as true to my feeling as I possibly could with this. Thank you for sharing in this reflection.

    Kat - Yes, you may. I'd be honored to have a small bit of my soul amidst Oncology patients. Thank you.

    Tom - You are so right, and sometimes we just don't know what to do with it all, but life happens anyway.

  42. This poem of yours is a heartbreaker, Nevine.
    Written cleanly and honestly. Because of the
    no nonsense words the momentum is kept up and
    the words of remembrance flow into one's
    mind, the thought of theirry, becomes so real
    at times and other times it's as if he were
    a shadow hoovering over us all.

  43. Cynthia - Thank you so much. Yes, this was an honest and very open writing exercise for me, and the memory was like reopening a terribly painful wound from the past. I am happy, inside my heart, that you were able to embrace this memory of Thierry and share it with me. Thank you, Cynthia.

  44. I'm late to commenting, but I have read this poem several times. Each time has brought a special poignancy. Anyway, it's all been said by others, but if I can say anything new, I have a feeling that you're an even better friend than a poet. And that is truly astonishing.

    Monumental in its honesty and grace, Nevine. I always think of you as a conduit for the words. I'm sure that's not true, and that you have to strain as much as the rest of us for much of the time...but your writing has the bracing vividness of spoken thought.

    We all know Thierry now.

  45. Sarah - I do have to strain to write; it has never been an easy task for me. But when I stream I feel a certain liberation that allows me to open up my soul and just write, without worrying about thinking and making things perfect. I go back and fix stuff after I'm done, but I always feel that when I stream, the honesty comes through.

    You, as always, are very perceptive, Sarah. And I appreciate that a lot! :-) Your comments make me feel like you're inside my head!

  46. Non-fiction makes for some of the best words. These words were the best Nevine

  47. Dusty - Thank you for your visit, and for your very kind comment.


Your thoughts are deeply appreciated.