Friday Poem – ‘The Storyteller’ by Abeer Ameer


This week’s Friday Poem is ‘The Storyteller’ by Abeer Ameer from her debut collection Inhale/Exile. This poem is also featured in 100 Poems to Save the Earth.

The cover of Inhale/Exlile shows an expressive painting of someone cutting yellow reeds over a bowl.

Abeer Ameer writes of her forebears in her first collection, Inhale/Exile. Dedicated to the “holders of these stories”, the book begins with a poem about a storyteller on a rooftop in Najaf, Iraq, follows tales of courage and survival, and ends with a woman cooking food for neighbours on the anniversary of her son’s death.

 “…these poems remind us that even in the darkest times, there is light, and there is love.” – Katherine Stansfield

The Storyteller
Aesop had nothing on her. The children gather
on the rooftop level with the heads of Najaf ’s palm trees,
sit cross-legged ready for stories before bed.
An uneasy weight on her chest; she’d found her youngest
trapping sparrows again.
There was and how much there was…
She tells the story of a beautiful bulbul.
Shiny feathers, bright plumes,
how its song filled the air
until the king ordered it be caught
and caged, kept for his eyes only.
Soon its feathers greyed,
the light in its eyes vanished,
the song in its throat withered.
Her eyes wander to that space,
empty since his fourth birthday.
She continues:
The bulbul’s mournful mother
searched everywhere for her child,
unable to eat or sleep.
Both died from sadness.
The king, filled with remorse,
promised to protect all his kingdom’s wildlife
Then he became the kindest, wisest king on earth.
And they lived a happy life.
She looks to the stars, mutters
When you cling to a thing you love it dies.
Sometimes when you love you must let go…must let go.
Her soft voice trails off. The children focus on the cigarette
in her left hand which balances a tower of ash.
In her right hand, amber prayer beads;
her thumb strokes the top of each before moving it along.
She recites Al-Fatiha, scans the sky for the crescent moon.

Inhale/Exile is currently half-price in our bank holiday summer sale. Buy before midnight on Monday 30th August and get your copy for just £4.99! Buy now.

Zoë Brigley and Kristian Evans, co-editors of 100 Poems to Save the Earth, are joining us at Virtual First Thursday on Thursday 2nd September. Tickets are £2.74 (inlc. admin fee) and available through Eventbrite https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/168074853411. We’ll also hear some of the contributors read their poems.

This bank holiday weekend, get 50% off all books on our website* in our half-price summer sale. Ends midnight Monday 30th September.

*marked titles only, subject to availability.

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