Friday Poem – ‘Four Poets in a Bookshop’ by Abeer Ameer


This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Four Poets in a Bookshop’ by Abeer Ameer from her debut collection Inhale/Exile.

This cover shows a closeup painting of someone cutting reeds. The text reads: Inhale/Exile Abeer Ameer

Cardiff-based poet 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.

Four Poets in a Bookshop

In the land of two rivers and hanging gardens,
four poets meet in a bookshop. No one can know.
Portrait of Saddam watches; they hide under the cloak
of Arabic lexicon. They share with one breath
meanings that turn the Master’s key
to worlds where Adam was taught the names.

Trees, reborn as pages, witness the names
of four and those gathered to reach the Gardens,
as they escape their locked chests without key.
They are four men who know.
Reading between lines of apocalypse, each strained breath
foretells of beasts with their daggers and cloak

scarring minds and hearts of men by Baathist cloak.
Present are bygone days of Karbala’s names
which poets dare to mention under their breath.
Alive and well with the Lord of the Gardens.
Willing to exchange this world for the next, four know
that informants sell to the cruellest bidder for neighbours’ key.

Saddam’s spies claw to learn of persons key
and clothe their families in mourning cloak.
Three-quarters give eyes, tongues and nails. They know
they must not, to treachery, yield any names.
Silent skin, dipped in acid, bastes in hanging gardens
bearing to keep hidden secrets beyond dissolved breath.

No haste nor waste for ordained beat and breath
nor desire for the iron key
to dust’s throne; they dream of other gardens.
Longing only to reunite with the People of the Cloak
and the Most Compassionate through His Names.
Those clinging to ebbing sands of time do not yet know

The bookshop bears witness to what few mortals know.
Its shelves and books inhale each whispered breath
and all that poetry and scripture, names.
Kerosene warms the last poet. He clutches the bookshop’s key,
drinks black tea sugar cannot sweeten and wears a black cloak.
Alone; his companions have already reached the Garden.

Many years after a shroud is his cloak and cancer takes his breath,
the names of seekers are still hidden. Their key is kept buried in the earth
upon which gardens grow, and reed beds and shrines know how to Read.

Inhale/Exile is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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