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a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society

Lamees Al Ethari

Since I left Iraq in 2006, my work has mainly been concerned with Iraqi narratives of the American invasion of their country and its impact on their lives. My work is in many ways a form of resistance to the stereotypical images of Iraqi experiences of trauma and displacement.

For me personally, the sense of exile established a need for images of home. I began painting works that spoke to that need, thus re-imagining connections to places and people from my life in Iraq. My paintings were filled with images of Iraqi women, symbols and places that I wanted to surround myself with in my own home. They became my form of resistance to being uprooted, displaced and re-identified by immigration.

Dreams of Home

abstract painting of a landscape
24 × 18″ oil and acrylic on canvas


Pronounced with a غ

stumbling from

the back of the tongue

and the top of the throat


like a gentle gurgle

of water flowing from

the Tigris

in silt heavy swirls

that find themselves

lost on the edges of banks.


From the tips of our tongues

we pile the memories

and stack them like the bricks

of homes we left behind,

now filled with solitude.


With our cardamom scented teacups

neatly tucked in dust laden



we sit here,

always looking back


to a city

rooted in centuries,

withstanding conquerors

and battles,

occupied and liberated,


just patient enough to hold us all


with all the colours of our skins,

with all our unbelievable beliefs,

with all our madness and exhilaration


holding us together

in gardens enclosed with gardenia bushes,

around tables of gossip and laughter,

through streets that never sleep,

on a river of candles bound with wishes.

Carrying Baghdad

painting of the lower half of a woman's face
16 × 12″ oil and acrylic on canvas


Lamees Al Ethari is an Iraqi writer and artist who immigrated to Canada with her husband and two boys in 2008. She holds a PhD in English Language and Literature from the University of Waterloo, where she has been teaching academic and creative writing since 2015. Her research focuses on Iraqi North American women’s life narratives of trauma and migration. She has also been a Consulting Editor with The New Quarterly since 2016. Her poetry has been published in The Malpais Review and the anthology Al Mutanabbi Street Starts Here and printed as broadsides. She has two forthcoming works: one in poetry, From the Wounded Banks of the Tigris (Baseline Press, Fall 2018), and the other in prose Waiting for the Rain: A Memoir (Mawenzi House, Spring 2019). She is currently working on her monograph, Resistance and Memory in Iraqi Women’s Life Narratives.

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