Dania Aya Alkhouli (Lady Narrator)
Dania Ayah Alkhouli, a.k.a. Lady Narrator, is a Syrian American writer, author, and poet born and raised in Southern California. Alkhouli earned her B.A. in Sociology and her M.A. in Public Policy & Administration from Cal State Long Beach.
She published her debut poetry book at 19, titled 91 at 19. In 2017 she released her second book Oceans & Flames, a collection of poetry shedding light on her experience with, and survival of, domestic violence. Alkhouli’s poetry has also been published in three anthologies: The Silent Journey, SEVEN—a collection of poetry in response to the Travel Ban, and V Anthology.
Her work centers around themes of feminism, mental health, sexuality, identity, culture, religion and her war-torn homeland, Syria. She has been featured on Buzzfeed and Jubilee Media, and has performed nationally at venues such as Da Poetry Lounge in Los Angeles, House Slam in Boston, and Busboys & Poets in D.C.
In 2012, Alkhouli and her mother founded the nonprofit organization, A Country Called Syria, a traveling exhibition that showcases the history and culture of their country, Syria. Their goal is to tour the exhibit and events nationally, and eventually establish a permanent base where the community can connect even more deeply with Syria, its rich heritage and resilient people.
ON THE NIGHT BEFORE HIS SURGERY
my dad came home wearing a pair of medium wash jeans
instead of the suits I grew accustomed to.
He brought oval yellow mangoes
and wet cucumbers in a reusable bag.
My mom burned the filet, for the first time.
Everyone became vegetarian at dinner.
He said he was too nauseous to eat but finished
his soup and two servings of Syrian ishta.
My mom asked me how I didn’t notice
the obvious smell of burning meat.
I spilled the bowl of cucumber mint yogurt
on the kitchen floor; cried as I cleaned it up.
There was enough left for one person.
There was a lot of crying.
There was a lot of learning.
Like, I am far closer with my brother
eight years younger—because he’s not ashamed to cry—
than I am with my brother two years younger.
Like, apparently, I enjoy the smell of death so much
I didn’t even notice the meat burning.
BUILDING A BOOKCASE
Fingers stroke a naked wall;
softly draw unspoken measurements
of what we’ve long hungered for
A home to house our stories
in languages mastered
by bodies before tongues
Skins touch, the lightest graze
with the heaviest intentions
Feel raw flesh
to find the resting place
of rabbet joints; cut
to make our parts fit
Assemble the unit
affixing one atop the other, and grind
away rough edges
with sandpaper determination
Slide shelves, wet
with glue, to hold weights
one bone at a time
hold, then release
Let dry, and finish
with a stain