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Three poems and illustration by Donna Zaki

Illustration by Donna Zak

February 6, 2013

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The Night Before

I shower six times

plus once for good luck.

I beg my tita

to braid my hair.

I iron each item

of clothing I own

before boxing them

neatly and saying


(Will I sleep for eternity?)

(God only knows.)

Everything is packed

to be buried with me.

I ring my priest 7 time

zones away.

I am scared, my choices ignite.

My guilt combusts.

“Why so ignorant, stubborn”

as waves.

I scold the grinning six-

year-old version of me

I release from

a forgotten yearbook.

Maybe I have some

bullying part to play.

What lets you down slowly

in life is you.

I am not scared so scared

of death— that 5%

my doctor says —

but that cage of

thorns transporting me

from this world to the next.




In a dark, cold car

Cold as blood-starved fingers.

I trace my name as if forgotten

on fog-blushed windows.


We are lost in an unknown place

Though familiar, filled with silence

And street-lit nightmares.

So this is metamorphosis.


One creature anaesthetized into another

But we will always crave the same

Comfortable as thunderstorms

That groan at the past.


Maybe I am the strong girl

Who must turn her back

To her family, their diamond-studded eyes

etching every detail.


I chat with the nurses as if

Catching up with old friends.

Children paintings canopy me.

I dare not skip a footprint.


The stage is set — props of scalpels,

screws and drills. The actors’ fears

Mirror my own. Monitors emote each heartbeat.

The mask releases its suffocating sleep.



In anaesthesia

Below, the crowd cheers.
I breathe and stabilize.
The sigh of a passing lark,
an elephant’s dancing trunk,
the slightest flutter
is the deepest plunge.
My next steps are light,
nimble, quick — Leggiero.
Yet, I must be calm.
A metal rod binds
my vertebrae, my back
opened as parched earth.
My knees crucified.
My skull cored.
My body limp as a deer
seized by wolves.
The hours upon this wire
are endless, the crowd
whispers, “Will she fall?”
It’s lonely here, the clouds
won’t comfort me. My friends
are off at the beach,
their bodies free
and in one piece.
My determination for survival
spurs my last steps.
What the soul desires
mere hope completes.

About the Author(s)

Donna Zaki

Donna Zaki is a 16 year-old emerging writer of Egyptian descent currently attending Branksome Hall

3 Responses to "Three poems and illustration by Donna Zaki"

  • Naomi 08:48 PM 06/2/2013

    What a powerful and unique voice! I really enjoyed reading these. Keep writing, Donna.

  • Ugochi Babajide 09:32 AM 07/2/2013

    Wow! Wow! Wow! My goodness. This is definitely what inspiration looks like. The first was heart pounding, the second brought tears and by the third, I was crying like a baby!! My goodness! God bless you girl! So beautiful, so young and so gifted. MORE PLEASE!!

  • Ace 09:03 AM 08/2/2013

    What a beautiful poems! Your emotion pour out through your pen. Good job Donna! Keep up the good work.

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