Maha Zimmo’s “Rose Water Syrup”

Kenza Saadi reviews Maha Zimmo’s debut poetry collection “rose-water syrup” released on June 1st.

The scents of roses, of rose water, of pomegranate, of bread baking in the clay oven, and of salt in the air by the sea mix in with the ones of metal and burning bullets and blood.

The colors of brown and white, a clash of civilization of sorts, yet with a whiff of understanding – or at least questions – about the ‘other’. The other about whom we know little, yet think we do because we read about them in books and see them on the news.

The brother who lost his way. The sister who lost her way. But as Maha Zimmo so gently asks, what is the way, really? So far from the shores of the Mediterranean – the sea that today is sprinkled with crimson from those desperate for dignity, like scattered pomegranate seeds on an abandoned kitchen table.  

Bond and rupture. The bond of family that we were all taught would always withstand hurt, and yet and yet… The bond of religion that we were all taught would always withstand strife, and yet and yet… Maha uses her hands to offer us the ability to rebuild, not to undo as the rupture is there, but to transform so that we may feel the tenderness of our father, the soothing call to prayer.

Women —omnipresent. Often the only ones left standing, just like the ones who were near the Cross 2000 years ago, in the very same place that inspires Maha’s poetry. Yes, the women who live so much it hurts, who keep quiet when they want to shout, who cry in silence. The very ones who prepare the rosewater syrup.  

Women who try to convey their message to men whose ears seem increasingly closed to reason. The ones who hide the hijab in their hearts, one of a thousand veils that cover our divinity as Rumi has so often pointed out and we have so often failed to listen. Women who know the value of friendship amidst the vulgarity of military occupation and discrimination. The ones who keep the culture alive in their hearts, in the movement of their hands, and in their words, as Maha so poignantly does.

Maha shows us the women who love: love with all their hearts and with their hands, who lift hope and who embrace with immense tenderness. The very ones who in exile help us remember the scents and the colors of our land, so that we may also love with our hearts and hands. Maha is one of them.

As I read, I kept asking myself ‘What is it to be civilized?’ – Maha´s poetry prompted this question in my head. As the world cuts itself into small parcels, each with a defined label, Maha reminds us that we are one. We are woman and man and brown and white, we speak a hundred tongues and play with words, we spray our bodies with rosewater and sprinkle it on our food, we are all of it. All our hearts are filled with pain and love, with the need for forgiveness and the humility to forgive. We may all ask ‘who am I?’ as she does, and as she tells us, there may be no answer. Perhaps that is what being civilized means. And it suits me just fine –  I am one to reject labels.

We are all a combination of lemon and sugar and rose-water. Yes, we are rose water syrup that drips slowly, healing our wounds and the ones of the world. The wounds that are there for all to see, and the ones we carefully hide.

Maha´s poems help us see all of that and more. I felt all my senses come alive as I was reading through her words. It is an incredible sensation. Equally, her poetry rings with a clarity and an innocence that I have seldom seen in this age of so much pretension. Reading Maha´s poetry is a beautiful, even if sometimes heart-wrenching, voyage. Take it.

Maha Zimmo’s poetry collection ‘rose-water syrup’ is released on June 1st and is available for pre-order on Amazon here.